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Food in a Flash Cooking Shortcuts

Focused on Health - April 2011

by Adelina Espat

cookingDon’t let a busy schedule keep you from cooking a healthy meal for your family.

After all, eating a low-fat, plant-based diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, is one of the best ways to reduce your family's risks of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Yes, it’s tempting to stop by the drive-through on your way home from work. But, take-out food is usually lower in cancer-fighting nutrients and higher in price. Plus, it tends to be higher in calories and fat, which can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight.

So, make healthy, home-cooked food your new “fast food” option. We’ve got some easy tips to help cut down on your meal preparation and cooking time.   

Cut down your prep time 

Save time by stocking up on these healthy store goods.      

  • Frozen stir-fry vegetables: Keep your favorite in the freezer when you need a quick side dish or want to jazzgrocery shopping up a sauce, soup, pasta or rice dish.
  • Sliced vegetables: Buy pre-sliced veggies, or take the cheaper route and make your own. Before you need them, clean and chop bunches of fresh vegetables at one time. Then, refrigerate them in small bags.
  • Steamer bag vegetables: Steamer bags are a popular feature in the freezer aisle. Most already come seasoned, and they make a healthy, quick side dish.
  • Pre-cooked brown rice: You can buy brown rice, which offers more cancer-fighting fiber and nutrients than white rice, in microwavable bags. They come in perfect serving sizes to help with portion control, and take about 90 seconds to cook. Or, make a pot of brown rice on the weekend, and put it in the refrigerator to use later. When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle water on top of the rice before reheating it. This will keep it from getting dry.

Always be prepared by keeping your pantry stocked with cancer-fighting goods. Use our cancer prevention grocery list at your next trip to the store.

Make your own “frozen foods”

Use weekend time to prepare a few healthy dishes that can be frozen and then reheated.

Pack  your meals with cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables that freeze well. For example, veggies with high water content, like lettuce, celery and cabbage, don’t freeze well. Use starchy vegetables, like pumpkin, peas and chickpeas because they change very little when defrosted.

You also can “blanch” green veggies like asparagus, snap peas and green beans. Top chefs use this trick to release thecooking stove chlorophyll in veggies, making them greener. And, it helps preserve green veggies during freezing.

Here’s how you blanch: Boil a pot of water. Dip your green veggies in the boiling water for about one minute. Then, immediately put them in an ice bath before bagging and freezing.

Once your food is in the freezer, use these tips to keep them fresh:

  • Check the temperature of your freezer; 0°F or below is best for freezing food.
  • Wrap food in plastic wrap, foil, freezer paper or freezer bags, and seal well.
  • Freeze chili, soup or stews. Leave room at the top of the container because food expands as it freezes.
  • Label foods with the name and date prepared. Reheat the oldest food first.
  • Place frozen food in the refrigerator the night before you plan to reheat.

Keep in mind that the seasoning you add to food will intensify during its freezer time. So, leave out the salt, pepper and spices until you’re ready to serve.

You’re in charge!

The best part about home-cooked meals is the fact that you really can have it your way! Add as little or as much spice as you like. And you can include all your own favorite ingredients!

By cooking meals at home, you’re keeping your family healthy by helping them maintain a healthy weight and providing them lots of cancer-fighting vitamins and nutrients.

So, put on your chef hat, and make dinner time a home-based affair.

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center