Do you open the fridge when it’s time to eat and just stare?
Do you have all the aspirations of creating sumptuous, healthy meals but freeze when it’s time to do so?
This is a problem that faces many people: They can’t cook.
The desire to take on a new healthy lifestyle hits a roadblock the moment you step into the kitchen. Where do you start? What ingredients should you use, and how do you combine them the right way?
It can seem so complicated that it’s easy to turn to the packaged meal or have something delivered.
We all can’t be Gordon Ramsay, but there are some simple ways to eat healthy without being a Michelin-starred chef. And one of those ways is with a crock pot or slow cooker.
The Secret to the Kitchen: One-Pot Meals
One-pot meals are about making things as easy as possible by throwing everything into one pot.
Meals like soups, chilis, and stews are the perfect “one-pot” solutions. You don’t have to worry about multiple pots and pans, burners, and ovens. Everything is tossed in and cooked at the same time.
One-pot meals are the perfect “dump and go” option.
There is no wrong way to do them and you can easily adjust them each time to find what you love best.
This is where the slow cooker comes into play. It can become your best friend in the kitchen to save you time, money, and keep your nutrition on track.
How Do You Use a Slow Cooker to Eat Well?
Some people call slow cookers “crock pots,” but that’s just a brand name of a slow cooker. It’s the same way we say Kleenex when describing any facial tissue.
A slow cooker is any round or oval cooking pot with a fitted lid. They are often made of porcelain or ceramic. Then, it’s surrounded by a metal housing and comes with a glass lid.
An electrical outlet is attached to the “pot” which is just a simple heating reservoir. The settings are also simple: high, medium, and low.
The contents of the pot are at atmospheric temperature and cook at a specific setting. This cooking process is “low and slow” and will take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours.
The benefit of cooking at a low heat is it may preserve more of a food’s nutrients. High-temperature cooking can cause foods to lose their nutritional value and also risk burning.
When you cook at a more gentle temperature, you get more of the nutrition from your foods. Steaming and poaching are also gentle ways of cooking that preserve more nutrients.
An enormous benefit of a slow cooker — if you’re a meat-eater — is it results in more tender meats. This makes them easier to digest and absorb.
The other big thing for your health is when you use a slow cooker, you use real whole foods. Again, the more you can keep your foods as natural as possible, the better your health will be.
The other big component of a slow cooker meal is using broth or stock. Whether it’s beef, chicken, fish, or vegetable stock, you also get the health benefits that come with it. Real bone broth may help with things like:
- Promoting strong bones
- Promoting good digestion
- Can help heal the gut
- Inhibits infection
- Reduce joint pain and inflammation
- Contains glycine and proline which your body uses to make its own collagen
Making your own stock is also easy and cheap and is a vastly superior option to the commercial varieties you find in stores.
Eat Healthy and Save Money at the Same Time
The money-saving aspect of using a slow cooker is one of the big appeals.
If you consume meat, using one will save you a lot. A slow cooker works best when you use those cheaper, tougher cuts of meats.
Because of the slow cooking process, those once tough meat cuts now become super tender.
With meat, here are a few examples of what to look for to get the most bang for your buck:
- chuck steak/roast (works great for stews)
- pork shoulder
- beef short ribs
- lamb shank
- flank steak
- top rump
Basically, if you see “rump,” “chuck,” or “shank,” it means it’s a cheap cut, but will work brilliantly in the slow cooker. Chicken works really well, too.
Other typical ingredients are also cheap. Again, there're no restrictions on what to use, but good choices often include:
- potatoes (regular and sweet)
- carrots, zucchini, peppers
- onion and garlic
- herbs and spices such as rosemary, thyme, paprika, parsley, etc
- tomato paste, red wine, and even a bit of flour to give the base of the meals more body and richness
How Do You Put All This Together?
There are so many slow cooker recipes out there that you’re guaranteed to find something you like. But just tossing some things together can help you get a grasp on what works and what you like.
A slow cooker meal can be put together in the morning, and dinner is ready when you walk in the door. And meals like these cost pennies to make.
There are also so many websites and YouTube channels that provide recipes for whatever ingredients you have on hand.
You can make everything from vegan chilis to hearty winter stews. There are even options like chicken risotto if you’re feeling fancy.
A great thing about these one-pot meals is that everything in them is a whole food. The meats come out incredibly tender and the meals just feel nourishing.
There are no additives, artificial flavors, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
Wrapping it Up
How often do you look at everything you have in your fridge or pantry and have no idea what to do with them?
Or, does the prospect of having to make a meal when you get home have you turning into the nearest drive-through?
The kitchen can be a daunting place. But as any big-time chef will tell you: simple is best. Food doesn’t need to be complicated and great ingredients will speak for themselves.
The lack of cooking ability trips up so many people in their pursuit of getting healthy. Cooking doesn’t have to be hard, but it’s best to start simple.
The great thing with one-pot meals — like you would make in a slow cooker — is they encourage you to expand your culinary abilities.
Once you learn how certain flavors work together, you’ll have more confidence to put together other dishes.
But in the meantime, the slow cooker is the perfect “set it and forget it” style of cooking that can give your health a boost and keep your wallet happy in the process.