You’re busy and short on time when it comes to getting a healthy meal on the dinner table, not to mention packing tomorrow’s lunch. Sound familiar? Today’s meals at home can be mix of homemade and prepared foods put together with speed. Here are some helpful tips to give you a head start.
Save Time, Prep Ahead
- Use appliances that save time such as a blender, food processor, slow cooker, rice cooker, or pressure cooker
- Keep kitchen scissors handy for snipping fresh herbs, green onions, chopping whole tomatoes in the can, or removing stems and ribs from leafy greens (like chard, kale or collards)
- Clean and prep vegetables when you return from the store
- Buy bags of pre-washed lettuce and ready-to-eat vegetables
- Buy grated cheese or grate extra cheese ahead of time so it is ready when you are
Cook Once, Eat Twice
While you’re at it take a little time and cook something extra for future meals. This approach will help you spend less time in the kitchen.
- Cook enough for two meals- dinner that night and lunch or dinner the next day
- Cook extra servings of lean proteins or beans to use in other recipes later in the week
- Double the amount of pasta, rice or other grains and refrigerate or freeze for later use in salads, soups or casseroles
- While the oven is on, throw in a potato or sweet potato wrapped in foil and bake ahead for another meal
- Steam, sauté or blanch extra vegetables for lunch the next day or to use in salads, soups or side dishes later in the week
- Cut up the whole head of cabbage, even if you only need part of it, and store in a zip bag for later use
- While you’re working on tonight’s meal, cook a quick batch of lentil, split pea or other soup to eat the next night or freeze for later (soup tastes better the next day anyway)
- Prepare enough green salad (without dressing) to last for a couple of days- store in an air-tight container or zip bag in the refrigerator
Transform your leftovers into healthful, satisfying no-fuss lunches. The more often you pack your lunch for school, work or play, the less likely you are to rely on fast food and the better it will taste.
- Pack that extra serving of dinner in a microwavable container for an easy reheat lunch
- Wrap last night’s chili into a warm flour tortilla or stuff it into a baked potato
- Use leftover roasted chicken in tomorrow’s sandwich or combine with cooked grains, frozen veggies and a drizzle of your favorite vinaigrette dressing
- Top salad greens with leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, tofu, beans and vegetables for an easy entrée salad
- Pack soup or chili in a microwavable container to reheat and enjoy the next day
Add Some DASH to Convenience Food
There’s nothing wrong with occasional convenience foods especially when they are transformed into a complete DASH meal at home.
- Buy a rotisserie chicken from the deli and serve with vegetables and whole wheat couscous for a complete meal
- Combine pre-cut or frozen vegetables, cooked pasta, reduced-sodium marinara sauce and grated parmesan cheese for a quick one-pot meal
- If you occasionally use boxed rice or grain mixes, serve with a generous portion of vegetables, lean protein, and use only half of the salt-filled seasoning packet
- Order a pizza with extra vegetables and half the cheese, then serve it up with a big green salad