Make healthier easier |  Farm progress

Make healthier easier | Farm progress

We can blame the pandemic, but with more time at home in 2020 and 2021, there has been an increase in baking, cooking and food. Now that we’ve entered 2022, it’s time to start thinking about ways we can make healthier eating easier. Is there a recipe, gadget, or habit you can adopt that can help you on this journey?

We have many excuses and I have some ideas:

I have no time Would an Instant Pot or Deep Fryer Help? Would a vegetable chopper help prepare onions or peppers for use in recipes later?

I am too tired. When we are tired we think that it is best to lie down, but in reality it is to take a walk or exercise to regain strength.

Eating healthy costs too much. So is being in the hospital for an illness. Shop the sales and plan your menu with what’s on sale. Buy fruits and vegetables in season or buy them frozen.

I like all unhealthy food. Try substitutions in your favorite recipes. Use plain Greek yogurt for sour cream, switch to a vinaigrette, have a salad with your pizza for less pizza, add veggies to your favorite foods. Put spinach on pizza or a tortilla, try fruit for dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth, or add black beans to your salsa or chili.

My kids don’t eat healthy foods. Our job as parents is to introduce healthy foods over and over again (without alternatives). Over time, when your kids see you eating healthy, they will too.

I also discovered five ways to facilitate a healthier diet:

1. Plan ahead. Take a prep for the day or night and meals, or use a calendar to see what you will have in the next few days. Where we go wrong is trying to make dinner at 5 in the afternoon. That’s when we have fast food or they bring us a pizza or we go out to eat. When we eat out, we relinquish control over the amount of sodium or butter in our food and generally don’t get any fruits or vegetables (and no, French fries don’t count as vegetables).

2. Prepare the food. You can prepare for healthy eating success by preparing the ingredients for the week’s meals ahead of time. On the weekend, spend a few hours cooking your meats and preparing your vegetables and other ingredients for the next week. Cook a chicken in the slow cooker, remove the meat from the bone, and you can plan chicken noodle soup, chicken quesadillas, white chili chicken, or even chicken to use in a salad. Make a meatloaf ahead of time, and when it’s dinner time, take it out of the freezer or refrigerator and add a couple of veggies and dinner is ready.

3. Cook slowly in bulk. When I use my slow cooker, I try to think of several meals that can be made with one effort. Buy a chuck roast and you can use half for Italian meat in the slow cooker. Save the other half for vegetable soup. Make chili in the morning. Repurpose leftovers in chili mac over whole wheat noodles. Spaghetti sauce and meatballs can be cooked all day in the slow cooker and can be served over spaghetti or zucchini noodles; then make a meatball sandwich the next day. If it’s too much in a week, freeze the extra and heat it up on a busy night. The best way to save money is to eat what you have already bought or have in your freezer.

4. Chop more easily. The vegetable chopper is a quick way to cut onions, peppers and other vegetables into perfect size cubes. Me daughter sent me one from amazonand I use it all the time. Makes dicing veggies easy.

5. Make health accessible. For snacks, make fruits and vegetables the most accessible. If they are useful, we will eat them. Wash the apples, grapes, and pears and place them in a bowl on the kitchen counter. Chop up the celery, carrots, and bell peppers and store them in a clear container in the refrigerator, and you’ll be more likely to find a healthy snack. And it’s easier to make a salad for lunch when all the veggies are washed and cut, ready to go. The same goes for strawberries and blueberries already washed and cut.

Here’s a recipe for my stir-fry, ready in minutes. You can chop veggies on the weekend, or even easier, use frozen stir-fry veggies.

Chicken stir fry

2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, thinly sliced
3 cups vegetables: asparagus, green and red bell peppers, green onions, zucchini, or frozen stir fry mix
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
2 cups cooked brown rice (Minute brown rice works)
3 tablespoons store-bought Stir-Fry sauce

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or skillet until very hot. Add the minced garlic and minced ginger. Cook for one minute. Add the chicken and sauté until it changes color. Remove from the wok and reserve. Add 1 more tablespoon of oil to the wok. Add the vegetables and sauté for two minutes. Add the chicken to the wok with vegetables. Add the Stir-Fry sauce and cook, stirring constantly to mix with the chicken and vegetables. Serve over brown rice. For 4 people.

Note: If you prefer to make a homemade sauce for sautéing, mix together 2 tablespoons of reduced sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar or sherry, and 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Mix well.

Fargo Ware is a Registered Dietitian at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. Send recipe ideas to The opinions of this author are not necessarily those of Farm Progress / Informa.

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