It’s one of the most common excuses for hitting the drive-thru or heating up a frozen dinner. That’s right - we justify these less healthy choices by claiming that there is simply no time to cook. Or is there?
A drive-thru usually involves waiting in line and may include additional waiting time after ordering. Heating up a frozen meal could take 10 minutes or more to heat up in the microwave. In reality, there are plenty of quick and healthy meals you can make on your own in the same amount of time. Cooking at home gives you the opportunity to make fresh meals packed with the nutrition that you need to manage your weight and your diabetes (if you have it).
Its spring time, so it’s a great time to start fresh and make healthy eating a priority. Let’s start by forgetting the misconception that cooking healthy takes an excessive amount of time. Below we've provided you with several tips to help you save time and stick to a healthier eating plan this season!
Make a plan at the beginning of each week. This may be a good Sunday activity. Use your planner or the family calendar to write down what’s for lunch and dinner each day. If you’re cooking for others too, involve them in this process.
When choosing recipes, it is important to make sure that they contain healthy ingredients and will fit with your meal plan. After you’ve found a recipe that will work, check the prep time. There are lots of diabetes-friendly recipes out there, you just need to find the ones that work with your timeline.
You may be interested in some of our Quick & Easy Cookbooks. These include this month’s featured cookbook, Lickety-Split Diabetic Meals by Zonya Foco. You’ll notice this month’s one-day meal plan includes several recipes from this book, so you can test them out before buying the book!
Also, you don’t need a recipe for everything. There are plenty of meals that take 5 minutes or less to prepare. Be creative. Here are just a few ideas:
The options are endless! Just be sure to keep your kitchen stocked with staples that can be made into a quick meal.
Getting to the store can be half the challenge. But, keeping your pantry and freezer well-stocked with healthy foods is an important step toward cooking at home more often.
We mentioned earlier to have a plan. If you know what you are making for the week, you can make a list of what you need. It will help to go to a grocery store you are familiar with. If you know where things are and you also know exactly what you need to get, you will operate at maximum efficiency.
Having a list to shop from makes everything easier, so we’ve added a link to a grocery list from our One-Day Meal Plan. Check out this new feature.
If your grocery store is a busy one, avoid going at peak hours. Most stores get very crowded around 5pm when people are leaving work or on Sundays during the day. Go when it’s less crowded for shorter lines.
If you live within walking distance of a grocery store, use the walk to get in your daily activity. The walk to and from counts toward the 30 minutes of aerobic activity you should be getting each day. Carrying a couple of grocery bags home with you makes this an even better work out!
Bring someone to help you at the grocery store like an older child or spouse. Split the items on your list between the two of you. This could cut your shopping time in half!
If you are really pressed for time and don’t mind paying for a delivery charge, try a grocery delivery service. You can pick out your groceries online don’t have to worry about finding time to fight the crowds at your local grocer.
Do you have children who need meals on the run between baseball and ballet? Keep a small cooler in your car filled with healthy items. (You can pack the cooler the night before.) Peanut butter sandwiches, reduced fat cheese sticks, baby carrots and sliced veggies, yogurt, and canned fruit are just a few ideas. Having healthy snacks available when you are on the go can help your whole family eat better. Not to mention, you’ll save money by skipping the drive thru!
Slow Cookers (also referred to as Crock Pots) are a time-saving grace. Look for healthy slow cooker recipes that will fit with your meal plan, like our Cranberry Pork Roast Over Noodles. Most slow cooker recipes are as simple as throwing in some chopped fresh or frozen veggies and a lean meat with some sauce, vinegar, or other flavoring. After adding all the ingredients, just turn on the slow cooker and your meal cooks itself while you are gone during the day.
Buy healthy foods that will keep for an extended amount of time. Some good ideas are frozen fruits and vegetables, fruit canned in juice, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, and nuts. These are good to have on-hand when you need a quick way to add some non-starchy veggies, nutritious fruit, or whole grains to your meal.
Buy pre-cut fruits and vegetables. Note that they are usually more expensive than buying whole produce. If you can work them into you’re your budget, buying pre-cut produce eliminates any chopping, slicing, or peeling that a recipe calls for - thus saving time.
When you have leftovers, freeze them. You can save them to heat up for a quick, but still homemade dinner at a later date.
One interesting concept that author Zonya Foco introduces in her cookbook Lickety-Split Diabetic Meals, is Oven. Exercise. Eat. She has a whole section of recipes that take just a few minutes to throw together. Once your prep is done, you can throw these dishes in the oven to cook, and you can use the cooking time to exercise. Think about it – if a dish takes 20 minutes to cook, that’s enough time for a quick walk or calisthenics in your backyard.
So next time you say there’s never enough time to cook, think again. Try some of the solutions above. Something is bound to work for you! Make a plan and get creative in the kitchen!
by Zonya Foco, RD, CHFI, CSP
A diabetes cookbook, easy meal planner, and self-care guide all in one! This book is complete with time-saving tips, and everything from 1-minute meals to slow-cooker recipes.
How to navigate the frozen food aisle - the best and worst microwave dinners revealed!Read More
Pressed for time? Here’s a day of quick and simple meals - perfect for the busiest of schedules.See Meal Plan
Find more videos, on-the-go tips, and other articles to help with meal planning and food preparation.Browse Tips