4 Tips for Finding Time for Healthy Cooking

A wok holds a stir-fry with vegetables
A stir-fry full of vegetables (Image credit: Stir-Fry photo via Shutterstock)

Life is all about tradeoffs, right? We only have so much time in a day, so if we add something to the daily routine, something else has to fall off.

Unfortunately, it seems TV time just isn't the part of the routine that's going to suffer. We probably could have guessed this one, but a recent Ohio State University study shows us most of us are only willing to spend up to an hour a day total on food prep and exercise. If we need more time for one, the other will be cut short.

Researchers examined data from the American Time Use Survey and found that men and women, regardless of relationship status, were likely to cut exercise time in order to spend more time on food prep. Why not cut the TV time, folks?

Well, I guess we should focus on the positive: People are spending time on their health, if only an hour. And according to a PLoS One study published last month, we may not need more than 12 minutes of exercise weekly to increase our aerobic capacity anyway.

So there's no need to stress. But there's also no need to cut exercise time in order to prepare healthy meals.

Here are some of my best tips for fast-prepping of healthy meals.

  1. Use a slow cooker. I started using a slow cooker about 10 years ago, and now I can't live without one. In the morning, I'll just brown some lean meat, and toss it in the slow cooker with veggies and seasonings, and I have a complete meal ready for me when I come home from work.
  2. Buy precut veggies. The precut vegetables at the store tend to be a little more expensive, but think of the time you'll save. Instead of cutting up broccoli, cauliflower and red peppers for that stir fry, just open a bag and pour them in. The pre-minced garlic that comes in a jar is also a huge time saver.
  3. Make seasoning packets in advance. If you have a go-to recipe that requires a lot of different seasonings, mix them in advance, when you have a little extra free time. You can put it in a sealed bag or spice jar and label it with the recipe name. Bam! Pot roast seasoning at your fingertips at all times.
  4. Stock the freezer with frozen vegetables. What happens when the kale has turned, and you don't have a backup side dish? No need to skip a beat. Open up the freezer and grab some frozen veggies for steaming. It's simple, fast and healthy.

Healthy Bites appears weekly on LiveScience. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!

Deborah Enos
Deborah Enos, CN, also known as "The One-Minute Wellness Coach," is The Health Coach for busy, working people. She pares her good-health messages down to simple and fast bullet points that can impact lives in 60 seconds or less. Deborah serves as a board member of the American Heart Association.  In addition to writing the Healthy Bites column for Live Science, Deborah is a regular on FOX Business News, NBC and ABC, and is a frequent contributor to The Costco Connection, Parade Magazine, Self Magazine, Good Housekeeping and USA Today. Deborah is also The One Minute Wellness Coach for The Doctors TV Show.