Using your slow cooker for cooking is a real time saver when it comes to preparing a hearty meal for your family. Set the temperature and it completely cooks for you. You can go to work or run your errands instead of watching over a simmering pot. Although your slow cooker is the ultimate in convenience, often times you’ll see recipes that use too many prepacked ingredients. Yes, it will make the meal faster and easier. However, you don’t have to sacrifice eating healthy for quick meal preparation. Here are a few ideas for ingredients to add, and some to eliminate, in order to keep your slow cooker cooking as healthy as possible:
Kick up the flavor with herbs and spices instead of prepackaged flavor packs full of sodium. Either snip a few fresh herbs or sprinkle in some dried herbs to boost the flavor of your slow cooker creation. Dried herbs are a good choice because they stand up well to the long cooking. If you use fresh herbs it’s normally best to wait for the last half hour or so to add them to the pot. Mix and match a variety of herbs and seasonings like black pepper, garlic, and onion, to give your slow cooker meal layers of flavor without using preservative, additive and sodium packed ready mixes.
Use fresh meats and vegetables rather than canned or other prepackaged food. With a little prep work, you can have a slow cooker meal that is nutritious and delicious without relying on processed ingredients. You can control the amount of salt and completely remove the preservatives from your family meals by using fresh meats, vegetables, and even fruit. If you’re used to canned and frozen food, this may taste a little different than you are used to. But, it won’t be long before you learn the pleasures of digging into a meal that is closer to what your grandparents used to enjoy. Real textures and flavors instead of bland, salty flavors.
Lean meats, when cooked in the oven, can dry out. You have to be watchful, perhaps basting with drippings or butter to keep the meat moist. This is not only tedious, but covering meat in butter to keep it juicy defeats the purpose of eating lean meat for your health. The slow cooker’s unique cooking method keeps the moisture in the meat, recycling the juices over and over with the lid’s condensation. Surround some skinless chicken breasts with fresh cut veggies and a sprinkle of herbs, put on the lid, and you’ll have the juiciest lean chicken possible. Add a cup of water to the mixture and you’ve now added some incredible chicken broth to your ingredients.
The ‘Cream Of’ soups are often a staple of slow cooker recipes. You’ll find many dishes call for cream of mushroom, chicken, or celery soup to make a dish thick and creamy. Canned soups are often loaded with additives you can’t pronounce and don’t want to feed your family. These chemical additives are avoidable when you learn a few simple methods to whip up an alternative for the creamy base. A quick whisk of flour, butter or oil, and milk or broth in a saucepan will produce the same ingredient without the additives.
Believe me I know this dilemma for just the weight loss and additivie issue. I’m additive sensative, BUT I’m allergic to dairy. So these quick recipes were ok for my family, but it meant I still couldn’t eat it 🙁 I love these creamy recipes! Alternatives had to be created around giving them the usual.
Most serious cooks know that salted butter is another thing you can do without. Unsalted butter is the best way to go, giving you the creamy flavor while still allowing you to control what goes into your pot. Using unsalted butter keeps your food from sticking better than salted butter and also keeps your sodium content at your discretion, not the food manufacturer’s.
Processed canned foods; vegetables, fruit, and meat, can be over-processed and may contain extra ingredients that just don’t do well in the slow cooker. This leads to disaster, both in terms of nutrition and texture. In order to get the healthiest meal possible in your slow cooker, ban food items that have been processed and canned in oil, sugary syrups or, even worse, artificial additives to keep the colors bright. There is no room for these kinds of foods in your healthy slow cooker cooking.
Start Cooking Healthy Today
Controlling what goes into a meal is key to healthy slow cooker cooking. You have the ability to keep the flavors high and the artificial preservatives low just by choosing the right ingredients. Once you get used to cooking with healthy ingredients, you’ll find there is not much of a difference in time or trouble between a stew made with fresh wholesome ingredients, and stew made by opening cans and other packages and dumping it all in the slow cooker. The difference really boils down to sodium and so many of us are on a sodium restriction that this is a high priority. Cook natural for better health.
Use fresh ingredients and leave out the processed foods to make the most of your slow cooker meals. Slow cooking was designed for fresh food; picture your grandparents patiently stirring a pot full of fresh ingredients to feed the family a healthy meal. Follow their lead to bring back the joys of your grandparent’s time around the dinner table. It really works to use this mentality. Or possibly, you may need to bring in your great-grandparents because yes, I’ll admit I”m getting to that age lol
It’s why I’m working hard to pass so much info on. I understand that so many didn’t grow up with the slow cooker meals going each week, the fresh bread baking and the cookies in the jar. I’m hoping to pass on that era in an easier to handle format.
Never worry about what's for dinner again. I've got you covered with the meal plans in the Once a Week Cooking Club. Cook once, eat all week.
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