I know how you feel. You want to feed your family healthy, made-from-scratch meals, but it takes way too long. Ain’t nobody got time for ‘dat.
Seriously, I’m lazy when it comes to spending time in the kitchen. There are just too many other things to do! But I still care about my family’s health. I want them to eat more real food and less random stuff from a box.
In years gone by, cooking was an art. Many times, a person’s day would revolve around meal preparation and presentation. This quote from one of my favorite movies, Kate and Leopold, speaks of food’s importance in a by-gone era:
Where I come from, the meal is the result of reflection and study. Menus are prepared in advance and timed to perfection. It is said that without the culinary arts, the crudeness of reality would be unbearable. – Leopold (Hugh Jackman)
Of course, most of our schedules today make this kind of detailed preparation impossible. That being said, you do not have to sacrifice quality or nutrition to save time + effort. You just need the right tools, planning, and a little ingenuity!
Top Kitchen Hacks for Healthy Eating
In the past few years, I’ve streamlined my kitchen routine a lot. I’ve discovered some really helpful ideas and tools to help me get more done in less time. Below, you’ll find the 10 top kitchen hacks that I use on a regular basis to make healthy eating easy.
1. Cook in batches
Cooking in batches is one of my favorite ways to save time and work. If you’re already dragging out all your ingredients to make something, why not multiply the recipe and make double, triple, or quadruple? It takes basically the same amount of time and cleanup, but you’re getting more out of the deal.
Some of my favorite recipes for batch cooking include baked goods like pancakes, cookies and cornbread. Baked goods generally get eaten really quickly, and they also freeze well so you can pull them out at a later date.
Related post: Quick Pancakes in the Blender
If you’re making a casserole, make two and freeze one. (You could even give this away to someone who is sick or struggling – what a huge blessing)! Making an extra large pot of chili is easy, and freezes beautifully for another night. Spaghetti sauce is great for this as well. Pretty much anything can be frozen! Another thing I love to do is make a huge pot of brown rice, then divide it up into small bags and freeze. These are super easy to pull out and use as a side dish or in soups, casseroles, stir fry, etc.
The next time you’re cooking or baking, think: “How can I multiply this recipe and save some for later?” If you get into the habit of doing this, you’ll quickly find your kitchen work load getting lighter!
2. Invest in helpful tools
Having the right tools makes all the difference in a kitchen that runs efficiently. You don’t need all of the latest gadgets, you just need the tools you use regularly to be good quality.
One of our favorite healthy eating tools is our chest freezer which sits in our garage. Buying one is a bit of an investment up-front, but it will save you so much time and money in the long run. We love to stock up on items like organic meat or frozen fruit when it’s on sale and store our batch cooking items for later use.
Our crock pot is probably our most well-used kitchen appliance. We use this a couple of times a week (see more on this in #3). It eliminates so much time spent standing over a hot stove.
We also use our electric kettle constantly. We got hooked on using electric kettles while living in Scotland. They are so helpful! In Scotland, they boiled lightning fast because their voltage is 220, while its only 110 in the US (half the speed). We’ve had some pretty slow boiling kettles here. But, even in the USA, this specific brand of kettle boils water quickly – plus, it’s glass instead of plastic. Boil water in a flash for cooking pasta, rice, eggs, etc. Or just use it for making quick cups of tea and coffee.
Another really well-used tool is our blender, which we use to make tons of smoothies, salsa, and even pancake batter. Our Berkey water filtration system has been incredible to provide the best tasting, cleanest water we’ve ever tried. And our griddle is really nice for batch cooking pancakes and other items. Since I’m not crazy about cooking with Teflon, I really enjoy using this ceramic griddle.
Related post: Best Ever Homemade Salsa
Some smaller tools can be really helpful too. A garlic press is a must for me (less time peeling/mincing). I’ve tried different kinds, but none compare to the Pampered Chef garlic press – it just works the best and it’s easy to clean. A wood and glass cutting board are also nice to have, plus and good quality chopping and paring knives (Rada cutlery is the best).
Making sure you have the right tools will make your cooking faster, easier, and healthier.
3. Crockpot your meat
Recently, I figured out an amazing hack for cooking ground beef from frozen in the crock pot (read the full method here). It has saved me so much time and cleanup!
For chicken, you can throw in a whole bag of frozen chicken breasts with a cup of water, fresh garlic, sage, and salt. Cook on low all afternoon and shred up – this is delicious in any meal you can think of (pastas, casseroles, etc).
I really like this crock pot with the easy dial that’s not programmable. I’m a simple kind of gal. But some people prefer this kind of slow cooker with a built-in timer. Cooking meat doesn’t have to be yucky or time consuming when you use your crock pot to it’s full potential.
4. Soak Grains/Legumes
One of the most neglected sources of nutrition these days is properly prepared grains and legumes. Due to the low carb fad, many people have cut out these powerhouse sources of energy, b vitamins and magnesium. Add them back into your diet for awesome benefits!
These items are super easy and quick to cook when you soak them overnight. Soaking unlocks the nutrients and makes digestion easier. To soak properly, cover your grain (oats, brown rice, etc.) in water leaving approximately one inch of water at the top. The next day, drain and rinse. Then add more water and cook for the proper amount of time.
Some of my favorite things to soak include brown rice, black and pinto beans, and oatmeal for quick porridge in the mornings. This peanut butter overnight oats recipe sounds divine – a fast, easy, healthy breakfast.
5. Pre-chop veggies
One thing I’ve loved doing lately is chopping a bunch of onions and keeping them in a freezer bag. Then, when it’s time to cook, I can just throw a handful of onions into whatever I’m making. Plus, it means I can limit my onion cry to once a month 😉
You could use this same method with other types of vegetables as well – squashes, carrots, broccoli etc. The possibilities are endless. Also, you can buy lots of different kinds of pre-chopped veggies (including onions) in the freezer section, which eliminates even more work.
6. Fruit galore
Keeping lots of fruit on hand is one of the easiest ways to improve your diet. It’s so easy to grab and go for instant vitamins and energy! One great time saver is to wash all your fruit in a sink full of vinegar water or a dash of castile soap when you get home from the store. Put on a towel to drain, and then put it in the fridge or fruit bowl. It’s clean and ready to eat any time!
I like to keep frozen berries on hand for smoothies. When bananas are ripe but you can’t eat them all, one great tip is to peel and break them in half, then stick in the freezer. Frozen bananas add the perfect texture and sweetness to any type of smoothie. I also like to buy ripe bananas on clearance and store them in the freezer.
7. Quick nutrition boosters
Nutrition boosters are like magic sprinkles of health. What are they? The dynamic trio: wheat germ, flax seeds, and chia seeds. Every home should have these on hand! Adding a sprinkle of any of these will greatly increase the nutrition of your food.
Wheat germ is wonderful. It’s packed with b vitamins and has a very mild flavor – I love this kind. Wheat germ can be added it to oatmeal, smoothies, or sprinkled on toast. Flax seeds are a great source of omega 3’s, minerals, and antioxidants. These are great added to baked goods and smoothies.
Chia seeds are perhaps the most versatile of all. These can be added as “sprinkles” to virtually any food to make it healthier. Keep chia seeds on hand for your picky eaters! They have no taste, but contain lots of healthy omega 3 and 6, plus calcium and other minerals. I like to grind mine up in a coffee grinder (you can also buy them pre-ground). Keep the ground chia in a small jar on your table, and add it to your food like salt. You can also soak chia seeds in water, which turns it into a gel. This gel can replace eggs in baked goods in a pinch.
My mother-in-law, who introduced me to chia, is hilarious. She is known for carrying chia wherever she goes and sprinkling it on fast food, pizza, and donuts – saying, “Now it’s a virtual health food!” Adding nutrition boosting “sprinkles” is an awesome hack that can really make your food more nutrient-dense.
8. Automatic breakfast
One of the smartest hacks for eating healthy is to “automate” your breakfast. I don’t know about you, but for me, breakfast is the one meal I don’t want to have to think about. I just want to throw it together and go. If you make the same nutritious breakfast every day, you’ll be eating healthy on autopilot!
One of the best ways to do this is to have a healthy smoothie every morning. Check out this awesome infographic from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen for building the perfect smoothie.
Smoothies are the best answer for picky eaters – it’s so easy to hide greens and those “nutrition booster sprinkles” we talked about. I like to add this kind of collagen powder – it’s anti-inflammatory and a great source of protein. With the smoothie, I also like to serve a complex carbohydrate like porridge or multigrain toast. This will provide you with sustained energy all morning long – it’s what our family eats 90% of our mornings.
If you experience a healthy break from your long night’s fast, it will make a huge impact on your health. It means that 1/3 of all your food is extremely nutrient-dense. That’s nothing to balk at!
Related post: Healthy Green Smoothie
9. Healthy snack bin
We got this small bin from the dollar store (here’s a similar one), and it’s perfect for keeping healthy snacks handy when you’re peckish. Snack time is one of the easiest times to grab unhealthy processed food, so planning ahead is key. Instead of reaching for those chips, fill your bin with fresh fruit, raisins, string cheese, nuts, or healthy granola bars. Last week we found Kashi snack bars for $1 a box at a local discount store, so we stocked up! The snack bin has also made life easier for this mama. I keep it in the bottom shelf of the fridge, so the kids can easily grab what they need on their own – and I know it’s something healthy.
10. Paper plates
This might sound like a strange healthy eating hack, but hear me out. Paper plates actually make it possible for us to eat at home more often. Why? When I’m less overwhelmed with dishes, I’m more likely to cook meals from scratch instead of heading to a restaurant. Yes, they cost a bit extra, but the time and money saved from eating at home is not to be overrated! If you’re worried about the impact on the environment, did you know you can get plates made from wheat straw fiber and sugarcane? Yes, really. Who knew using paper plates could make such a big difference to healthy eating?
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Well, there you have it – the 10 top kitchen hacks for heathy eating. When you incorporate a few of these tips into your routine, you’ll be well on your way to a more efficient + healthy lifestyle.
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Do you have any other healthy eating hacks for me to learn? Comment below!