Healthy Meals in a Snap

As a Personal Chef, I like to cook from scratch whenever possible. As a busy professional, I can tell you that cooking from scratch isn’t always possible. Let’s face it, cooking everything yourself takes time, and for many of us, time is in short supply!

There are some shortcuts that you can take in the kitchen, though. These are healthy alternatives. Now, let me be clear – I’m not saying that you shouldn’t cook from scratch whenever you can. Cooking everything yourself gives you total control over what you and your family eat. But, spending hours in the kitchen each day just isn’t reality for most people.

So, how can you get (most, if not all of) the benefits of healthy cooking without cooking everything yourself? Luckily for us, in many cases there are great, healthy alternatives to fresh foods. And, they are readily available in most parts of the country.

Some of the options below may be a bit more expensive than the “make-it-yourself” alternatives, but that’s a tradeoff. How much is your time worth? How much do you enjoy cooking? For me, I love to cook and I enjoy spending time preparing all the ingredients when I can. But, when I can’t, it’s nice to know there are shortcuts.

One word of caution with all of these alternatives: Make sure to read the label before you buy. Many manufacturers add sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or other chemicals or additives. Be sure to select a brand that contains just the ingredients you’re looking for and nothing else.

Here are my favorite healthy shortcuts for creating great meals without all the work:

Canned, diced tomatoes. Any chef (or Italian mother) will tell you that, to make a good tomato sauce, you have to cook fresh tomatoes and spices over a low heat for hours. That may have been true a few years ago, but there are great alternatives available today. Starting with canned, diced tomatoes can really shorten prep time. Add spices, garlic, and meat or chopped veggies to create a great pasta sauce. Add water or chicken stock, spices, meat and veggies to create a healthy soup.

Chicken and Vegetable Broths. Like tomatoes, any chef will tell you that you should make your own broth by cooking chicken or vegetables and spices over a low heat for hours. But today you can buy healthy chicken or vegetable broth in cans or resealable boxes. It’s just as good as making it yourself and it adds great flavor to soups, stews, or sautés.

Canned Beans. Beans pack a big nutritional punch and they can be added to so many dishes. But, they’re not always available, and it’s unusual to have a wide variety of fresh ones available. You can used dried beans, but they require you to soak them for hours prior to use. With canned beans, you can simply open the can and add them to soups, sauces, or just about any meal.

Frozen Veggies. These can be used as a side dish or added to other recipes. And, as we have previously written, frozen veggies can actually be healthier than fresh ones. I keep a variety of veggies in my freezer so I have what I need for just about any recipe. One exception: If I’m going to add vegetables to a salad, I always use fresh vegetables. They are crisper and add a nice crunch.

There you have it – my favorite healthy shortcuts. Cooking healthy meals doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. With these shortcuts, almost anyone can cook healthy meals in a snap!

Remember, healthy choices each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?
You may also want to read: The Freezer Can Be Your Friend, Less Housework Equals Weight Gain, The Super Health Benefits of Soup

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