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Cooking in the Holiday Rush

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Guest blogger Cristin Dillon-Jones: When was the last time you ate a home-cooked meal? It seems like life is one big rush from the end of November through the first of the year, so here are a few tips to help you make healthy meals quickly during the holidays.

woman cooking

Make a list and shop once a week: If the food is in the house, you'll be much more likely to cook it rather than buy take-out. Your list should always include the staples like cereal, fruit, bread, and milk as well as some healthy snacks like whole grain crackers, yogurt, reduced fat cheese sticks, and nuts. Write down five simple dinner ideas too.

Stay Simple with the Meals: Now is not the best time to test out new elaborate recipes. Stick with those you know or a basic meat, starch & veggie combo. Try to include fish at least once a week and try a vegetarian meal as well, since these are not only healthy, but also often quicker to prepare.

Avoid Extra Work: Save time by choosing frozen vegetables (which are washed and cut) or pre-cut fresh veggies. At many stores you can find marinated meats or pre-cooked meats (like rotisserie chicken and Perdue Short Cuts). Shrimp can be purchased de-shelled or even fully cooked. Using shredded cheese, jarred tomato sauce, soup in a can (ideally reduced sodium), egg beaters and grocery store salad bars will all help to save a few minutes of cooking & clean up time.

Look for "Quick Cooking" Alternatives: You can get all the health benefits of brown rice in 5-minute Boil-a-Bag so when you don't have 45 minutes to simmer, choose that. Many veggies now come in microwave steam bags for an express cook time. Oatmeal can be made in three short minutes if you microwave it. Fresh pasta cooks in half the time dried does.

Minimize Clean Up: Now is a great time to use a slow cooker because you put it on in the morning and forget about it until dinner, plus there is just one thing to clean at the end. Another great option is an electric wok or skillet where you can make a quick, easy stir-fry using just that one appliance. Non-stick tinfoil or cooking spray (like Pam) can save a big mess on cookie sheets and broiling pans. One pot meals like soup or stew are another excellent choice!

Visit registered dietician Cristin Dillon-Jones' blog at

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