Today’s fast-paced lifestyle requires much thought and time for good eating choices. There are days when time is so limited that the unhealthier choices of foods are very easy to make. Fast food choices often enter the equation and our mouths due to lack of time to prepare a healthy meal.
There are many alternatives to the fast food dilemma. The first alternative begins with thoughtful meal planning. Planning meals for the week can help take some of the stress away from choosing healthy food. Choose a convenient time to begin planning daily menus. This includes healthy lunches that can be made and packed to take to school and work.
You may begin by planning meal by meal or by planning breakfasts first, then lunches, and finally dinners. Healthy snacks can also be planned. After planning each meal, make a grocery list of the items that are needed for the week’s menus. When you go to shop for the groceries, stick to your list without purchasing any impulse items. Avoid processed foods as they contain more unhealthy fats, preservatives, and calories.
Each meal planned should contain the essentials of the 5 basic food groups: Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, Milk, Lean Meat and/or Beans. For a 2000 calorie daily diet each day the USDA recommends 6 oz of grains; 2 1/2 cups of vegetables; 2 cups of fruit; 3 cups milk and milk products; and 5 1/2 oz lean meats and beans. Eating 3 ounces of whole grains is also recommended. Keeping appropriate levels of protein in your diet gives your body energy. In addition to meat and beans choices of nuts, tofu, and eggs contain great sources of protein. Avoiding fruit juices is best as they can contain added sugars and are not as healthy as eating fresh or frozen fruit.
It is also important to plan for healthy snacks. Nuts, seeds, and dried fruits can be a healthy snack choice. Another healthy snack choice is a piece of fruit, a slice or two of tomato, and a slice of cheese. One more example would be to eat some fresh raw vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Avoiding added sugars in food and drinks is extremely important to a healthy diet. Choose food and drinks that are low in sugar to help maintain health. Remember to exercise at least 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week. If you would like to lose weight increasing exercise to 60 minutes a day can help burn extra calories, as well as help make your body stronger.
When choosing to eat sweet food always do it in moderation. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats such as margarine, butter, oil, and shortening when possible. Also, try to keep your sodium content low. All of these will help prevent future heart disease from clogged arteries. A little of these in your diet is okay, just remember the key is minimal intake.
Once you have planned meals and snacks for the week and groceries have been purchased, you may want to take some time to prepare food ahead to freeze for the week’s meals. This will save time on the days that are hectic. Then all you will need to do is reheat your portions.
There are kitchen appliances that can make meal preparation much more simple and healthy. One appliance is the trusty crock pot. For suppers, you may choose to place your meals into the crock pot in the morning on low so it will be ready when you arrive home. Today’s crock pots have advanced greatly and are much more advanced. Digital crock pots have timers that will change the temperature heat setting to warm on a timer you choose. This allows your meal to remain ready to eat without burning it if you happen to be running late getting home. There are also crock pots that are wifi-enabled to simplify life even more by allowing you to choose the settings for temperature while away from home using a smartphone.
Another great appliance for fast and healthy meal preparation is an electric digital pressure cooker. Whole meals can be placed into the cooker just as you would a crock pot. The difference is the electric pressure cooker takes about a quarter of the time a crock pot takes to cook. For example, place 4 chicken breasts, 1 cup of water, a 1/2 cup of low-calorie italian dressing, an 1/8 teaspoon pepper, 8 small new potatoes, 2 cups of broccoli, and 2 cups of cauliflower into the pressure cooker. Set the temperature according to the appliance directions and you will have a tasty, healthy meal in approximately 40 minutes.
A convection microwave oven is a great appliance to have for fast baking. Not only are they quicker than standard power microwaves ovens, they give a healthier choices for food preparation. A convection counter-top oven (also known as a convection toaster oven) is an excellent choice for baking, especially if you do not have a convection microwave oven, or a convection oven and range.
The next item that is a fabulous must-have appliance is the oil-free fryer. It uses little to no oil using air convection to “fry” the foods you place within it quickly. It gives you a crisp coating with a healthy fried taste. The major difference with this appliance is the use of no oil or very little oil when a recipe would normally call for a lot of oil. When a recipe does call for oil, it is important to coat the food you are going to cook evenly prior to placing it in the basket to cook. Adding oil directly to the main pan or pouring it over the food in the fryer basket or container can actually cause the fryer to malfunction or cause a fire. The product is amazing and will satisfy the craving for the crunch of fried food in a healthy manner. Fried chicken is even possible and deliciously crunchy with the convection fryer.
Finally, there is the convection oven range top option for healthy cooking. It can be purchased with a flat ceramic range top or a gas range top. There are also professional convection oven versions that have gas range tops with a grill. Again the convection oven will give you evenly cooked, healthier food, as an alternative to pan frying. Whatever appliance you choose, you can be sure that you will be doing your body a favor by learning to cook in a healthy fashion. Happy Healthier Eating with Digital and Convection Technology!