What if you could optimize your time in the kitchen and streamline your way to healthy eating? Think: easy-prep kitchen hacks, shopping shortcuts, and smart cooking strategies that not only make the process more efficient, but also elevate the nutritional value of your meals. If this sounds like what you’ve been looking for, you’ve come to the right place! With our healthy cooking tips, learn how to overcome your roadblocks to healthy eating and make cooking at home a breeze.
Break Down Barriers to Healthy Eating With These 11 Healthy Cooking Tips
As consumers seek ways to simplify healthy cooking at home, expect to see an emphasis on culinary convenience in the year ahead.
#1 Stock Your Fridge & Freezer
Create a foundation for quick, healthy cooking by stocking your fridge and freezer with healthy cooking essentials like fresh produce, lean proteins, frozen veggies, and dairy alternatives. Think of it as having your own healthy grocery store at home, ensuring you have the key components for balanced, delicious, and quick-to-assemble meals.
#2 Stick to the Staples
Rather than prep meals, consider batch-cooking staple ingredients like grains, proteins, and veggies. Not only will you save time and simplify your cooking routine, but you’ll also be able to create various easy-prep meals from the same ingredients! Store individually so you can put meals together as you please. Here are some great options to prep and keep on hand:
- Grains and Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, rice
- Veggies: Sweet potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli
- Proteins: Chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, ground turkey
#3 Clean As You Go
If you’ve spent time in the kitchen, you know how easy it is to make a mess. And a cluttered space can lead to a cluttered mind! So, when cooking or meal-prepping, try to clean as you go — trust us, it will make your time in the kitchen much easier. Rather than pile dirty dishes in the sink, wash them right away. When you finish using ingredients in your recipe, place them back in the cabinet.
#4 Double the Recipe, Not the Effort
“Cook once, eat twice” is a great motto to live by! When preparing meals, consider doubling or tripling the recipe and freezing the extras. This way, you’ll have a stash of homemade, healthy options that can be easily reheated on days when cooking seems like a daunting task — without dedicating extra time to meal prep.
#5 Portion Your Leftovers
Speaking of leftovers, dividing larger batches into individual portions before refrigerating or freezing not only makes for quicker cooking when reheating, but also encourages mindful portion control. Use ice cube trays to store soups and sauces, wrap and freeze burritos in parchment paper, or use silicone storage bags to freeze portions of stir-fries, pasta, or tray dinners.
#6 Dedicate 30 Minutes For Produce Prep Every Week
After your grocery haul, make a point to carve out 30 minutes each week to wash, chop, and portion fresh produce. Wash berries and slice carrots or celery into sticks for snacks, chop veggies for quick stir-fries, or portion greens for salad prep. This small time investment pays off in a big way by encouraging healthier snacking and cooking choices throughout the week!
#7 Have Your “Mise En Place”
Embrace the “mise en place” method — a culinary philosophy that involves prepping and organizing all your ingredients before you start cooking, an approach that ensures a smooth, efficient, and stress-free kitchen experience.
#8 Reorganize Your Fridge
A simple fridge revamp is a strategic strategy to promote healthier food choices. By keeping nutritious options front and center — like fresh jarred berries, chia pudding cups, or homemade hummus — you’re more likely to reach for wholesome options when you open the door!
#9 Become a Mindful Grocery Shopper
Plan your grocery trips with a clear list of healthy ingredients. Stick to the perimeter of the store, where fresh produce, lean proteins, and whole grains are usually located. Avoiding the center aisles (i.e. the tempting aisles filled with processed snacks) can contribute to healthier choices! And when shopping for packaged foods, remember to always read the ingredient labels.
#10 Make Smart Substitutions
Don’t be afraid to call on healthier ingredient swaps! No matter if you’re missing the ingredient or simply looking for a better-for-you alternative, you can easily experiment with different options without sacrificing taste. Swap refined grains for whole grains or gluten-free alternatives, opt for natural sugar sources as sweeteners, and skip the dairy for a plant-based option.
#11 Get Tech Savvy with FitOn
Embrace technology with apps like FitOn, granting you easy access to healthy recipes, meal plans, and educational information. Not only will you eliminate obstacles to healthy eating by simplifying the process of planning and prepping, but you’ll also be provided with personalized, insights that cater to your specific health goals.
Plus, 27 Healthy Cooking Hacks That Will Save You Time In The Kitchen
#1 Make a Bulk Overnight Oats Dry Mix
While overnight oats are an easy-prep meal in and of itself, you can save even more time by batch-prepping the dry ingredients into a base mixture. Then simply store in an airtight jar until ready to use. Once you’re ready to prep your oats, all you have to do is add ½ cup of the oat mixture into a mason jar along with 1 cup of liquid and any optional add-ins! Then, place in the fridge overnight.
To make the dry overnight oat base, you’ll need:
- 4 cups rolled oats
- 4 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 tbsp ground flax
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 cup chopped nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, or pecans), optional
- 1 cup seeds (such as pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds), optional
Step #1: Combine all the ingredients in a sealable jar, stirring well until separated. Store in the cabinet until ready to use.
Step #2: When ready to prep, add ½ cup of the dry mixture to a mason jar with 1 cup of liquid and any optional flavorings or add-ins of choice (such as yogurt, protein powder, fruit, nut butter, etc). Mix well and cover with an airtight lid.
Step #3: Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight. Enjoy!
#2 Prep Individual Snack Packs
To support your healthy eating journey and stay ahead of your cravings, make sure to always have healthy, ready-to-eat snacks on hand. Not only will it reduce barriers to healthy eating (by making it easier to resist less healthy snack options), but by prepping and portioning your bags, it will save you time in the kitchen in the long run.
Here are some ideas:
- Prep a bulk healthy trail mix made with nuts, seeds, and superfoods like cacao nibs and goji berries. Portion it into snack packs and save the rest for later.
- Make homemade hummus cups with fresh veggies by pre-cutting veggies and portioning hummus into a to-go container or bento box
- Stock up on single-serve healthy store-bought snacks (like Greek yogurt or baked oat bars) and store them together in the fridge for easy snacking
#3 Ditch Deep Frying for Air Frying
Swap your deep fryer for an air fryer. You’ll still get the same crispy texture and flavor, with significantly less oil and calories. Plus, it cuts cooking time in half (or more) — win-win!
#4 Swap Bread Crumbs for Baking Powder & Spices
Speaking of all things crispy, try coating your veggies or protein in baking powder and spices rather than traditional breadcrumbs. It’s a great way to achieve the crispy texture you crave in a lighter, low-carb, and even gluten-free way.
#5 Pre-Cook Your Eggs
Make a batch of hard-boiled eggs in advance and keep them in the fridge for quick protein-rich snacks or meal toppers.
#6 Utilize Sheet Pan Dinners for Easy Cleanup Meals
Line your baking tray with parchment paper, add your veggies and protein of choice, season to your liking, and bake until golden and crispy. Once baked, simply toss the parchment paper — no mess or cleanup! Perfect for dinner, and even breakfast.
#7 Cook in Foil or Parchment Paper Packets
Not making an entire sheet pan dinner? Cook fish, veggies, or chicken in parchment paper or foil packets for easy cleanup and minimal prep.
#8 Store Fresh Herbs in Water To Prevent them From Wilting
To prevent your fresh herbs from wilting, store the stems in a jar or glass of water, like you would a bouquet of flowers. This simple kitchen trick ensures that your herbs stay fresh and flavorful for much longer!
#9 Place a Damp Towel over Greens to Keep them Crisp
Keep your greens and salad blends (like spinach and arugula) fresh by placing a paper towel over the top layer before storing. It will preserve their texture and ensure they stay crisp and fresh for an extended period of time.
#10 Prep & Store Veggie Sticks for Snacking
For water-rich veggies like celery and carrots, save time and maintain their crunch by pre-chopping them and submerging them in water. This convenient trick keeps them fresh and makes for simple healthy snacking.
#11 Utilize Spaghetti Squash As a Healthier Pasta Alternative
Though a delicious and healthy alternative, spiralizing vegetables into pasta — such as zucchini or carrots — requires extra prep and effort. However, cooking spaghetti squash is a breeze! Simply roast or microwave it, and you’ll have a nutritious, low-carb, fiber-rich base for your favorite pasta dishes and Italian-inspired meals.
#12 Pre-Chop And Freeze Fresh Garlic & Whole Roots
For a time-saving flavor boost, pre-chop (or mince) fresh garlic and whole roots like turmeric and ginger. Keep frozen for convenient and nutrient-rich flavor additions.
#13 Store Herb & Olive Oil Ice Cubes
Blend fresh herbs (like rosemary, thyme, and basil) with extra virgin olive oil, then pour into ice cube molds and freeze. You’ll have a convenient, polyphenol-rich source of flavor and healthy fats, whenever needed.
#14 Set-and-Forget With Your Slow Cooker
Use a slow cooker for seamless, hands-off cooking. It’s as easy as throwing in ingredients in the morning, and returning to a ready-to-eat meal at the end of the day. Great for long days or busy weeknights, when you have little time to spare.
#15 Make Easy-Prep Pancakes
Make sheet-pan pancakes by pouring pancake batter onto a baking sheet. Simply toss in the oven for another effortless, hands-off breakfast! If you’d rather enjoy pancakes in their traditional cake form, prep your batter in advance and freeze into pre-portioned silicone molds. When ready to cook, it’s as easy as heating your pancake cubes on the stove!
#16 Utilize Mugs for Minute Meals
Mug muffins for the win! From hearty oat bakes to fluffy omelets, call on mug muffins for busy mornings. Utilize your microwave for speedy sweet or savory meals that come together in minutes!
#17 Meal Prep Frozen Smoothie Packs
Smoothies are already easy, but this cooking hack will make them even easier. Simply pre-portion your smoothie ingredients in freezer-friendly bags, and store them in advance for quick blending! By prepping all your ingredients (including fruits, veggies, fiber, and healthy fats) in individual packs, you’ll save time and ensure you always have something healthy on hand. When ready to enjoy, simply add the contents of your pack to your blender along with your liquid base of choice.
#18 Use The Whole Chicken
Save money, minimize waste, and support your health by purchasing a whole chicken and utilizing every part. From the breasts to the bones, you can create a variety of easy-prep dishes while extracting maximum flavor and nutritional benefits. Use the chicken thighs in homemade soups, shred the chicken breast for sandwiches or salads, and save the bones to make a nutrient-rich homemade bone broth — all from one purchase!
#19 Create DIY Jarred Soup Mixes
Simplify your meal prep by creating DIY jarred soup mixes. Layering dry ingredients like beans, lentils, spices, and dehydrated veggies in jars not only saves time but also ensures quick, flavorful soups whenever you’re ready to cook. Just add water or broth, simmer, and enjoy a homemade, nutritious bowl of soup without the hassle of prepping or gathering ingredients each time! Plus, they make for cute and thoughtful homemade gifts.
#20 Cook Your Grains in Bone Broth
Rather than cooking grains (like rice or quinoa) in water or stock, utilize bone broth as your liquid base. Not only will you amplify the protein content of any dish, but you’ll also enhance the taste.
#21 Freeze Your Scraps
Instead of tossing veggie peels or ends and discarding leftover chicken or beef bones, start stockpiling your scraps in a large freezer-safe bag! Think: onion and celery bottoms, carrot peels, parsley stems, chicken drumsticks, beef bones, and more. Once you’ve accumulated enough (i.e. your scrap bag is full), transform your remnants into a rich and flavorful homemade broth. Simmer in a pot of water, adding any fresh ingredients as you desire!
#22 Embrace One-Pot Meals
Whether it’s a hearty soup, a stir-fry, or a casserole, one-pot dishes minimize cleanup and maximize flavor while incorporating a variety of nutritious ingredients.
#23 Upgrade Your Ice Cubes
Skip the sugar and elevate the flavor of your beverages in an all-natural way by upgrading your ice cubes. It’s as simple as combining herbs, citrus slices, or fruit chunks with water and freezing them into ice cube trays — a refreshing addition to water, or mocktails!
#24 Turn Rolled Oats Into DIY Flour
Making homemade oat flour is as simple as blending up your rolled oats — a kitchen hack that saves the day if you run out of flour mid-recipe, allows for easy customization, and offers an effortless way to go gluten-free. Whether for baking or thickening sauces, this healthy kitchen hack will be your go-to solution for creating simple, nutritious recipes.
#25 Go Heavy-Handed With Herbs and Spices
Global flavors are a top 2024 food trend, meaning there’s no better time to embrace cooking with herbs and spices! From hot peppers to anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and ginger, you can elevate the flavor profile of any dish without relying on excessive amounts of salt or sugar.
#26 Get Acquainted With Cooking Appliances & Kitchen Gadgets
Invest in time-saving kitchen cooking appliances like food processors, spiralizers, mandolines, and immersion blenders. Whether you’re cutting down kitchen time with an air fryer or slow cooker or making prep earlier with a veggie grater, having the right tools at your disposal can make all the difference in the kitchen.
#27 Opt For Less Expensive Cuts Of Meat
Opt for budget-friendly options like chuck roast, brisket, or chicken thighs. These cuts, although less expensive, can be incredibly flavorful when cooked low and slow — perfect for hearty stews or tender shredded dishes! A simple (and tasty) way to make healthy cooking more accessible and affordable, yet delicious and nutritious as ever.
And Last But Not Least, Enjoy the Process!
The number one healthy cooking hack? Have fun in the kitchen! Whether it’s turning on your favorite music or podcast while cooking, involving your kids or family in the process, or trying new recipes, remember to enjoy your journey in the kitchen. By having fun and making small, manageable adjustments to your lifestyle, you’re more likely to stay consistent and cultivate a positive relationship with cooking.