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101 Healthy Shortcuts plus New Healthy Meal Plan

Posted Jul 01 2012 11:55am

Have you signed up for our newsletter yet ? We try to send some helpful tips once a week, with updates of blog posts and a helpful tip or recipe!  Upon signing up, you get an auto welcome email with 101 Healthy Shortcuts.  One reader asked if we could post the 101 list here so she can print them!  So, here you go!  ( I uploaded a pdf of them here )

Healthy eating doesn’t have to mean "time consuming!" We’ve rounded up our 101 best healthy shortcuts to save you time and still eat right!
1. Stock your pantry with healthy foods! That way you will always have some healthy, go-to foods in a crunch. ( healthy grocery list printable here )
2. Sauté your vegetables. This is a fast way to cook food, without adding very much fat.
3. Plan your meals. The number one reason for families not eating a healthy home cooked meal, is they don’t know ahead of time what they are going to fix. Do it yourself with our meal plan printable , or let us do it for you.
4. Shop with a list! That way you won’t forget items, only to return to the store to finish making dinner.
5. Add familiar favorite toppings to food to increase appeal to toddlers.
6. Knowing what you will make for dinner the day before, will decrease stress and increase your free time!
7. Shred or grate veggies and store in Tupperware to toss into different dishes throughout the week.
8. Wash and cut up produce when you get home from the grocery store so it is ready to eat anytime.
9. Plan snacks at the beginning of the week so you are more likely to give your kids something healthy and not just easy and fast.
10. Keep your pantry stocked with staples to avoid last minute shopping trips.
11. Prep dinner at breakfast. Thaw meat, cut vegetables, or assemble casseroles.
12. Keep a list of snacks inside the pantry door for kids who are always asking what they can eat.
13. Use the microwave to reheat leftovers, cook baked potatoes, or thaw meat. We also use the microwave for steamed veggies and bean dips.
14. List foods that are freezer friendly, and always make double of those. Our list includes muffins, soups, stews, chopped vegetables, fruit, homemade juices, pie crusts, homemade pizzas, and cooked or uncooked casseroles.
15. Broccoli slaw! This quick, pre-washed, pre-chopped bag of veggies is perfect for stir fry’s or salads.
16. Eat leftovers! Make extra of everything for intentional leftovers. Healthy eating doesn’t get much quicker than that!
17. Buy healthy food in bulk. You can truly save money and time by shopping the bulk bins for grains, beans, and nuts.
18. Make ahead snack packs (trail mix). Pre-portion homemade snacks for quick eating and seal them yourself.
19. Pre-fill water bottles to encourage easy drinking. I know many toddlers and babies (like my neighbor) who will pick up any water bottle and start drinking from it if it’s filled up for her!
20. Dry or freeze fresh herbs for cooking. Plant your own herb garden and preserve your harvest with drying or by filling an ice cube tray with water and herbs in each cube.
21. Double cook- Add frozen veggies to pasta water in order to have them both ready at the same time.
22. Store fruits and vegetables appropriately to extend their shelf life. Keep apples away from other fruits as it will speed up their ripening time. Keep your produce in a cool dry place, or in the vegetable crisper drawer in the fridge.
23. Bookmark your favorite recipe sites for quick reference. In any browser, click "bookmark" in the tool bar, and then "bookmark this page". Start a folder just for recipes. (don’t forget to bookmark our recipe page here )
24. Use pinterest to bookmark recipes you will use during the week. Start a board for recipes to try, or your current meal plan. ( Follow us on pinterest to remember where you saw a meal you wanted to fix!
25. Print and store recipes in a planner or binder to take to the grocery store, or use while cooking. Keeping them all in one place save so much time! I love my recipe binder so I don’t have to dig through all my cookbooks to remember where the recipe was I was planning. (Check out the recipe binder download here – free on sign-up)
26. Always make extra marinara sauce and freeze in ice cube tray.
27. While cooking or boiling chicken, add veggies and save the broth by freezing for soups later.
28. Cook large quantities of beans and freeze them in 1 cup portions in a freezer safebag. (my bean cooking video here )
29. Read through an entire recipe before you begin. This will minimize mistakes and save time!
30. Keep a list of last minute recipes- your 10 minutes and under dinner list! ( here is my 10 minute meals list )
31. Invest in a pressure cooker. This appliance will cut your cooking time immensely. Perfect for meats and beans.
32. Invest in a slow cooker- Although cooking time is longer, the general instructions are: dump and go!
33. Purchase a rotisserie chicken while you are at the store. Shred it when you get home. Use some for dinner that night, some for lunch, and freeze the rest in portions for a quick meal.
34. Meat departments often sell pre assembled meat and vegetable kabobs. These are delicious, fresh, and done for you.
35. Stock, and I mean stock up on frozen vegetables! This has saved me so many trips to the grocery store. We always have a vegetable ready to be added to dinner, even if it’s been a week since shopping day.
36. Add frozen vegetable mixes to your freezer stash. These are perfect for stir fry’s and casseroles.
37. Shop the salad bar! The vegetables are washed and chopped for you!
38. Buy garlic already minced in a jar. Perfect if you use this heart healthy herb in your cooking.
39. Make and store homemade mixes such as pancake mix , muffin mix , and general baking mixes. You can write the recipe right on the air tight container, and never run out of these items that don’t need to be purchased commercially.
40. Make and store homemade spice mixes such as ranch seasoning, pumpkin pie spice, or taco seasoning.
41. Look for pre-shredded cheese! I was surprised to find out that I can buy mozzarella cheese pre-shredded cheaper than I could buy it in a block. This is perfect, because I generally only use mozzarella shredded!
42. Organize your kitchen! Don’t waste time looking for things. Make sure they are always put away in a place that you will naturally use them.
43. Keep your pantry and cupboards clean. How many times have you thought you were out of bread crumbs, only to find them buried in the back of your pantry? Keep it clean, and you will know what ingredients you have.
44. Quick clean up tip: Spray your measuring cups and spoons with cooking spray- especially before measuring items that are sticky, like honey.
45. Wash your blender by adding water and reblending. No need to scrub if you do this right away.
46. Grate ginger and store it in the freezer. Ginger will last for several months if stored properly.
47. Kitchen scissors are a great tool for quick cutting. Use scissors instead of a knife for chopping herbs, trimming dough, opening packages, cutting pasta, a pile of grapes, or even homemade pizza.
48. A sharp knife is the essential cooking tool that will save you a load of time. Dull knives take twice as long, and use 10 times more muscle power to cut through vegetables and raw meats.
49. Grate food like cheese, ginger, or zest into a bowl or bag. Grating onto the counter is messy, and generally you lose a portion of your ingredients that stick to the counter.
50. Flexible cutting boards are great for chopping and dumping. Pick up the entire cutting board and funnel your veggies into a pot or funnel the scraps into the garbage.
51. Double cook-Whenever you are boiling pasta, throw a bag of frozen vegetables in the pot. By the time your pasta is finished, your vegetables will be cooked as well.
52. Need bread crumbs in a pinch . Toast a piece of bread, or keep some out to dry, and use your grater or food processor to make your own bread crumbs. Instant bread crumbs, no shopping required.
53. Store whole wheat flour in the freezer. It will retain it’s freshness and nutrients longer than stored in your pantry.
54. Quick and healthy meals can be made with as few as 1-3 ingredients! The longer the recipe, the longer it will take. Look for short ones.
55. Line slow cookers or roasting pans with freezer bags or foil for easier and faster clean up.
56. Freeze celery! It’s true. Before your celery starts to soften and go bad, wrap it in foil and store it in the freezer. Chop it and store for casseroles or creamy salads.
57. Lasagna in a jiffy- You don’t need to buy special lasagna noodles to avoid pre-cooking them. I’ve been using uncooked lasagna noodles in my convenient 20 years. They cook with your dish perfectly every time.
58. Try vinegar or baking soda in the cooking water for hard boiled eggs. The peels will be removed a hundred times easier than cooking in water alone.
59. No need to prepare fancy snacks for your kids. Nuts, veggies, and dried fruit are convenient as well as delicious! ( dry your own fruit to save money and avoid the sugar!)
60. When using your hands for cooking, like bread dough or pies, spray your hands with cooking spray to avoid being stuck to your food.
61. Add beans like chick peas to anything! Your kids can’t tell they are there-and they are high in fiber and protein (Reader Christine)
62. I sneak peas into everything and grind up spinach and tell them it’s basil(Reader, Jennifer L)
63. Boiling a bird? Add veggies, then strain the broth and store it in the freezer!
64. Melon ballers are good for scooping out more than just melons. We use it often for scooping muffin dough into the muffin pan, or even scooping seeds out of a tomato.
65. Make extra veggies today so you can use it in soup for tomorrow (via twitter @eatsmartrd)
66. Nancy adds Benefiber and powdered protein to all muffin, quick breads, pancakes and sometimes cookies. (reader, Nancy T)
67. Reader submitted: My step daughter wont eat veggies. so i always make pasta sauce and grate a heap of veggies finely she doesn’t even notice they are even in there (reader, Nicole A)
68. Make extra waffles and freeze them in a freezer safe bag. Separate the waffles with wax paper. These are easy to cook by putting them in the toaster on busy mornings. No need to buy commercial freezer waffles!
69. Marinade chicken in a vacuum bag. The marinade will infuse more quickly than soaking your meat in a dish.
70. Double up on the pasta you are boiling for a meal. Reserve 1-4 cups of cooked pasta for a cold pasta salad the next day for lunch. Add veggies and Italian dressing for a delicious meal.
71. Plant a garden! This may not be a shortcut at first, but when you just need one tomato, it’s so much easier and healthier to get it from your own backyard, or hanging planter!
72. Bananas going bad? Throw them in the freezer -peel and all. When you are ready for a breakfast smoothie, take out of freezer and then peel it.
73. Quick sack lunches. Help your kids be independent by leaving the school lunch prep to them. From kindergarten and up, they are capable of making their own lunch and your mornings just got a little easier! Keep a list in the pantry of available foods for their lunches they can pick from to keep it healthy. (check out our list here , Plus more lunch packing here .)
74. Replace applesauce for oil in any recipe (Reader, Jennifer C)
75. Pour extra stock into a muffin tin and freeze. Once frozen, pop out and store in a freezer safe bag. (via Martha Stewart )
76. Use an egg slicer to slice soft fruits and berries! Perfectly cut fruit in one touch. (Via Martha Stewart )
77. Freeze ground meat portions in a snap. First, fill a freezer safe bag with your ground meat and seal. Second, using a chop stick, press indentions through the entire bag until you have a tic tac toe board. Lay flat and freeze. This way you can take one section out at a time, without having to defrost the entire brick. ( Real Simple )
78. Pre-assemble smoothie kits. Take 1 cup of fruit and add 1 cup of orange juice. Add anything else you like to add to smoothies including spinach, flax seeds, or even broccoli. Store in portions that will fit in your blender and freeze.
79. I add chia seeds to everything – toast, cereal, fruit salad, dinner…(reader browning)
80. You don’t need fancy equipment if you like to add pureed veggies to different dishes. Just purchase baby food! Most vegetable baby food is pure- pureed veggies diluted with a little water. Keep these in your pantry to add to spaghetti sauces, casseroles, or dinner pies.
81. Teach your kids to cook, starting with breakfast. My son was 5 when he started making scrambled eggs. He’s been burned a few times, but I’m always close by (wink). Another thing they can do themselves is cook their own oatmeal- easy in a rice cooker !) It’s more work to teach them, but in the long run, a real time saver!
82. When purchasing broth, look for the cardboard containers with a re-sealing cap! Store it in the fridge. Add broth to meals, without using a whole can, or wasting broth.
83. Re-purpose pineapple juice when you eat canned pineapple. Pour the juice into a freezer bag, muffin tin, popsicle molds, dump it on fruit salad to keep it from browning or pour into an ice cube tray and keep in the freezer for for smoothies or marinades.
84. I add a whole food based protein type powder to LOTS Of stuff, I sneak veggies into everything and I cook lots of hamburger and shredded chicken and then freeze. (Reader Ann P)
85. Once a week salad: Chop your greens and store in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Every night, scoop out a bowl full of greens, and top with different salad fixings.
86. Arrange your shopping list by aisle and type of food. Categorize dairy together, meats together, grains, baking ingredients etc. This will speed up your shopping time so you won’t have to double back for something you forgot.
87. Boil eggs once a week and store in the fridge with a special marking. Hard boiled eggs are a perfect snack in a pinch for hungry kids.
88. Take a cooking class, or watch cooking videos! Learning the basics of cooking is essential to feeding your family healthy, and you will often learn small tips and secrets to make cooking easier and faster.
89. My 3 year old is boycotting veggies, but DEVOURS "green smoothies"! He LOVES them-and any other kind of smoothie for that matter. In the green ones, I pack LOTS (like handfuls) of spinach, add a frozen (or overripe) banana, sometimes apple, and water and/or oj. Orange ones obviously are carrots, and in the am he has a strawberry smoothie-frozen strawberries, banana, and almond milk-YUM (Reader Tina R)
90. Begin a food storage. Stocking up on food is important during emergencies, unemployment and other crisis to keep your family fed, without having to go shopping. We keep buckets that seal or #10 cans of dried beans, wheat kernels, rolled oats, and pasta noodles. Websites such as everydayfoodstorage.net can help you with recipes designed to use your food storage.
91. If you are using a cast iron skillet (which you really should!!) keep it seasoned to avoid food sticking to the pan. cooking is faster because you don’t have to scrape the pan continuously, and cleanup is much faster!
92. Choose a good vitamin. While it’s ideal for your kids to get all their nutrients from food, sometimes it’s not always possible. Choose a good multi-vitamin as a backup to ensure they are getting what they need. ( a short list on what to look for in a vitamin )
93. Wash and soak your rice in water until you are ready to cook it. That way it’s prepped ahead for when you are ready to cook it, plus the rice is fluffier and tastes better!
94. Memorize quick conversions for quick cooking, such as 3 teaspoons is the same as a tablespoon. Get our list here.
95. Learn to sprout! This easy activity takes 10 seconds a day, and you can enjoy the sprouts anytime.
96. Keep a chart with quick substitution ideas to avoid a shopping trip or a call to the neighbor.
97. Add rice to your salt shaker to avoid clumping.
98. If your fruit is starting to turn, puree it and pour into popsicle molds!
99. Mashed Potatoes for dinner? Peel and chop before you clean up breakfast, and store in a bowl of water in the fridge during the day. At dinnertime, dump the entire contents of the boil into your pot to boil.
100. Add a few drops of oil to boiling pasta water to keep the pasta from clumping together.
101. Remember to smile in the kitchen and make food fun! Meals are easier and faster when everyone is happy!

 

WHEW! Did you get through all of those? Are you ready to implement any of them?

Here are the meals we are making this week!  Download our free printable to write them in and put them on your fridge:

  Breakfast Lunch Snack Dinner
Monday Stuffed French Toast with Fresh Apricot Syrup Grilled PB & J Sandwich Carrot and Celery Sticks Watermelon Pop Stars Grilled Chicken Tostadas Cantaloupe
Tuesday Baked Omelet& Orange Juice Spinach Parmesan Linguine Pasta& Apple Slices Pretzels and Hummus Spaghetti with Meat Sauce&Green Salad
Wednesday Orange Apricot Oatmeal Fruit and Veggie Firework Pasta Salad Stars and Stripes Crunchy Cottage Cheese n’ Berries Patriotic Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Strawberry BBQ SauceSkillet White Beans;

Star Spangled Trifle

Thursday Cantaloupe Banana Smoothie Pulled Pork Wrap (with leftover pork) Watermelon Cubes Apricot Salsa with Cinnamon Chips Sweet Potato Gnocchi&Herbed Green Beans
Friday Sweet Potato and Zucchini-Cakes Red Potato Salad with Pitas Cantaloupe Slices and String Cheese Firecracker Grilled Salmon&Roasted Broccoli and Rice

 

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