One major challenge for busy moms is to make healthy foods that kids actually enjoy. Add to that how hard it can be to find time to cook up the healthy stuff, and most mom’s find themselves caving in to quick, convenient food while skimping on truly nutritional eats. In her book I’d Rather Scrub Toilets Than Cook! Gina Van Luven– a health and nutrition counselor– discusses tips to getting in and out of the kitchen quickly, while still preparing healthy, delicious meals. Here are her “top 5” most helpful tips to creating simple, easy, healthy and delicious meals for your family in a matter of minutes.
Before I get into my tips, I want to point out that “fast” food doesn’t have to come from a jar, can or box. Using fresh vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and meat is your best bet for creating a “healthy” meal, and doesn’t take much longer to prepare than jarred, canned or boxed food. Using some of my tips below, you can learn to get in and out of the kitchen quickly, while creating healthy, delicious meals for you family.
1. Keep basic herbs and spices on hand. Herbs and spices, including garlic, provide flavor instead of adding extra fat, sugar or salt. A pinch of salt is fine; however, many canned and jarred sauces often contain excessive sodium (salt). When creating your own dishes at home, be sure to use “sea salt,” which contains more minerals and flavor than table salt. More minerals and flavor means you are likely to use less of it. Experiment with various herbs and spices by first smelling them to get an idea of what flavor they will provide to your food. Then sprinkle some on. You’ll learn quickly how much you can use of each. You can also provide a supply of herbs and spices on your dining table and let each family member choose what he or she likes best.
2. Cut “staple” vegetables all at once. Staple vegetables are ones you use regularly. For me, these are onion and peppers. Depending upon the season, I may add squash, turnip or carrots. I cut them all up at once and place them into glass containers. This makes it easy to just grab a handful and throw it into my meal, versus having to “chop” every time I cook.
3. Learn to measure by sight. Unless you are baking or cooking a gourmet meal, ingredients do not need to be exact. I typically measure liquid for grains or beans; but everything else I do by sight. Practice this technique by measuring out a teaspoon of salt and pouring it into your cupped hand. Study what a teaspoon of salt looks like. Do the same with a tablespoon. For “cups,” try grabbing a handful of dried beans to practice how much you can fit into your hand. It’s much easier to cook this way than measuring everything out.
4. Cook once, eat thrice. Essentially, this means to prepare more than what you need to use for leftovers later. For example, make twice the rice you normally would and then save the remaining for other meals throughout the week. When reheating the rice, try adding some low-sodium broth instead of water for a change in flavor. You could also add some vegetables or Mexican spices to change the flavor. Another example would be to make fish tacos out of leftover fish or fajitas out of leftover beef or chicken. Utilizing leftovers saves a lot of time in the kitchen and often tastes even better the second or third time around.
5. Practice! Making healthy meals quickly takes a bit of practice. Once you learn and apply steps one through five above and find meals that work well for you, it is just a matter of repetition.
For more about healthy living, please visit www.YOUniqueNutrition.com. Author, Gina Van Luven, is a Health and Nutrition Counselor assisting individuals and groups with their health and wellness goals by providing education and guidance using a variety of tools and techniques. For a list of services and press kit, visit www.youniquenutrition.com/press_kit.htm. For more information about her book, visit www.youniquenutrition.com/Cookbook.htm.