A large part of eating healthy includes cooking, and for many people, whipping up a plate of quinoa and vegetables doesn't exactly come second nature to them. Preparing nutritious food can be challenging for people, but luckily there are a variety of tips that can make healthy cooking easier. Making something other than pasta or a frozen pizza doesn't have to be a culinary disaster if you're armed with the right advice.
Knowing how to make good foods for yourself can encourage you to eat healthier overall. A study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition found that people who cook at home often eat healthier than people who don't cook as frequently, or ever at all.
"The common misbelief is that cooking a healthy meal is too time-consuming, complex and expensive, and unfortunately, this hesitation can cause us to order something quick and greasy or to stick with meals that come in a box or can," says certified health coach Isadora Baum over email. "However, cooking healthy recipes can actually be pretty simple, fast and delicious."
If you're looking to begin playing around in the kitchen and eat more vitamins, nutrients, and clean foods, consider these seven ways to make healthy cooking easier.
1. Meal Prep
"Spend some time — doesn't have to be much — on meal prep," says certified health coach Robyn Lanci over email. "Make a dozen egg muffins on Sunday to last you for the week, prepare a large salad and break it up into individual portions and store them in mason jars, etc."
2. Roast Your Veggies
Preparing vegetables can seem daunting, but roasting them is an easy and healthy way to prepare a large batch of your favorite produce. "Roasting vegetables is a great way to get a lot of fiber with lots of rich, caramelized flavor, and it's so easy," says Justine Kelly, the executive chef of Sun Basket, over email. "Toss chopped vegetables in olive oil and a pinch of salt. Line a pan with parchment paper and roast at 425 for 15 to30 minutes, depending on the vegetable."
3. Follow The Rule Of 4
"Aim for half a plate of veggies, a quarter plate lean protein, a quarter plate whole grain carbohydrates, and a drizzle of plant-based fat at every meal (a la healthy plate model)," says Edwina Clark, MS, RD, APD (Aus) and Head of Nutrition and Wellness at Yummly over email. "Keep a variety of easy-to-prepare choices from each food group on hand. Frozen veggies, parboiled rice, whole grain bread/pasta, canned beans, eggs, raw nuts, and extra-virgin olive oil are quick and versatile go-to options for busy days."
4. Experiment With Spices
Keep a variety of spices and herbs in your cabinet to help spruce up dishes the healthy way. "Spices and herbs enhance flavor and act as a great substitute for sugary garnishes and sauces," says Baum. "They can take a basic staple, such as chicken, and create a variety of healthy, flavorful dishes to please the palate."
5. Use Convenience Wisely
"Just because you're cooking healthy doesn't mean you have to spend hours in the kitchen," says Amy Swartz, the RD at meal delivery company Munchery over email. "There's no shame in microwaveable or boil-in-a-bag whole grain pouches (brown rice, quinoa, etc.) or no-added-salt canned beans."
6. Embrace Leftovers
Not every meal has to be made from scratch every time. "Reusing ingredients from previous dishes is a great way to save money, time, and energy," says Baum. "Use leftover chicken from last night's chicken noodle soup for a light, chicken salad sandwich for lunch the next day."
7. Focus On Foods You Like
"If you're interested in healthy cooking, nothing will stop your momentum faster than food that doesn't appeal to you," says Swartz. "Don't feel pressure to eat the latest trendy health food if it makes your stomach turn. Experiment with different foods to find new ones you love, but really if you just don't like kale, it's OK. It doesn't mean you can't have a healthy diet!"
The more you cook with healthy foods, the easier it will become, and you can always browse Pinterest and Instagram for healthy ideas and inspiration.
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