There is nothing like returning home after a long day to a slow-cooked meal that’s ready to savor or waking up to a warm, ready-to-eat breakfast. Ahh yes, your BFF, the slow cooker…doing the work for you while you’re usually doing, well, other work. That said, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure that all that ready-to-go awesomeness that your slow cooker provides is also nutritious. Here are a few pitfalls to avoid to ensure that it is.
Too Much Sugar
Seeking the perfect glaze on meats or a balanced blend of sweet and savory may lead to adding sugary juices or sometimes even jams to achieve the taste and texture you’re looking for. However, an unintended consequence may be a high sugar dish. Avoid this trap by reviewing the recipe and considering if the amount of sugar it calls for can be reduced. Additionally, turn to cornstarch to coat meats and create the result your seeking.
Missing Whole Grains
When your whole meal is coming from the slow cooker, you need the slow cooker to provide all the nutrition you need including whole grains. Substitute whole wheat pasta for white flour or embrace whole grains in place of rice to check this box.
Naturally, the slow cooker doesn’t allow for fats to be drained, which means that unless you are cooking and draining meats before adding to the slow cooker, that fat will be included in your recipe. Avoid extra calories and unhealthy fat by seeking leaner meats, recognizing that in the case of chicken, for example, this may mean reducing cooking time to ensure that meats aren’t dried out.
Creamy soups and sauces warm you on a chilly day. However, they also usually provide a significant amount of saturated fat and calories. Try alternatives to this unhealthy trap by reducing the amount of cream or adding pureed beans instead of cream. You can also puree a portion of the soup or sauce (and then add it back) to thicken it the dish without needing any other “thickening” ingredients.
When recipes call for bottled marinades or salty selections, the result will be a dish that is high in sodium (even if it doesn’t taste salty). Whenever possible, choose lower-sodium ingredients and keep in mind the power of dried and fresh herbs for bringing sodium-free flavor to your slow cooker.