To celebrate National Nutrition Month, we would like to encourage healthy eating habits for busy families. One of the hardest things about working full time and being part of a busy family is providing nutritious, good tasting meals that everyone can sit down at the end of the day and eat together. Time is precious to us all, so making meals should not be something that uses a lot of time. Using a slow cooker is a great way to cook food while you’re doing other things. Slow cooker recipes will specify the heat level (low or high) and how many hours to cook the food. Busy families will love the “set it and forget it” convenience that slow cookers bring!
Eating more homemade meals, and less fast food, can ensure that kids get the fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy their growing bodies need. A slow cooker does all the work of cooking for you while you’re at work or busy with the kids, minimizing time spent in the kitchen.
Slow cookers aren’t just for winter chili’s, soups and stews-you can make appetizers, side dishes, fillings for sandwiches and tacos, and even desserts in a slow cooker. A slow cooker gives off very little heat beyond its base, so your kitchen will stay cool when it’s hot outside.
Try these tips to make the most of your slow cooker:
- Prep the ingredients in advance: chop vegetables, soak beans and trim meats on Saturday or Sunday when you have extra time. Be sure to cut pieces all the same size for even cooking, and store prepped ingredients in airtight containers or zip lock bags in the refrigerator for up to three days.
- Make ahead when possible: If your slow cooker has a removable insert, assemble the ingredients the night before and refrigerate the entire insert overnight. Starting with cool ingredients might lengthen the cooking time.
- Reinvent leftovers: Instead of serving the same recipe two nights in a row, turn last night’s dinner into something new. If you make a large roast, serve the leftovers as a filling for quesadillas or sandwiches.
Whenever using a slow cooker, be sure to follow good food safety practices to ensure your food cooks to safe temperatures and to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
For more healthy food ideas go to www.eatright.org.