Healthy slow cooking

You can use the slow cooker within the frame of a healthy diet.

Make the right ingredient choices and the result is healthy slow cooking.

Join the healthy slow cooking movement

Crock pot cooking can be a real time saver when it comes to preparing a hearty meal for your family. Set the temperature and it basically cooks for you. You can go out and run your errands instead of watching over a simmering pot. Although your crock pot is the ultimate in convenience, oftentimes you'll see recipes that use too many prepacked ingredients, purported to make the meal faster and easier. However, you don't have to sacrifice eating healthy for quick meal preparation. Here are a few ideas for ingredients to add, and some to eliminate, in order to keep your crock pot cooking as healthy as possible:

Add this

Kick up the flavor with herbs and spices instead of prepackaged flavorings. Either snip a few fresh herbs or sprinkle in some dried herbs to boost the flavor of your crock pot creation. Dried herbs are a good choice because they stand up well to the long cooking. If you use fresh herbs it's normally best to wait for the last half hour or so to add them to the crock pot. Mix and match a variety of herbs and seasonings like black pepper, garlic, and onion, to give your crock pot meal layers of flavor without using preservative and additive packed ready mixes.

Use fresh meats and vegetables rather than canned or other prepackaged food. With a little prep work, you can have a crock pot meal that is nutritious and delicious without relying on processed ingredients. You can control the amount of salt and completely remove the preservatives from your family meals by using fresh meats, vegetables, and even fruit. If you're used to canned and frozen food, this may taste a little different than you are used to. But, it won't be long before you learn the pleasures of digging into a meal that's closer to what your grandparents used to enjoy.

Lean meats, when cooked in the oven, can dry out. You have to be watchful, perhaps basting with drippings or butter to keep the meat moist. This is not only tedious, but covering meat in butter to keep it juicy defeats the purpose of eating lean meat for your health. The crock pot's unique cooking method keeps the moisture in the meat, recycling the juices over and over with the lid's condensation. Surround some skinless chicken breasts with fresh cut veggies and a sprinkle of herbs, put on the lid, and you'll have the juiciest lean chicken possible.

Eliminate that

The 'Cream Of' soups are often a staple of crock pot recipes. You'll find many crock pot dishes call for cream of mushroom, chicken, or celery soup to make a dish thick and creamy. Canned soups are often loaded with additives you can't pronounce and don't want to feed your family. These chemical additives are avoidable when you learn a few simple methods to whip up an alternative for the creamy base. A quick whisk of flour, butter or oil, and milk or broth in a saucepan will produce the same ingredient without the additives.

Most serious cooks know that salted butter is another thing you can do without. Unsalted butter is the best way to go, giving you the creamy flavor while still allowing you to control what goes into your crock pot. Using unsalted butter keeps your food from sticking better than salted butter and also keeps your sodium content at your discretion, not the food manufacturer's.

Processed canned foods; vegetables, fruit, and meat, can be over-processed and may contain extra ingredients that just don't do well in the crock pot. This leads to disaster, both in terms of nutrition and texture. In order to get the healthiest meal possible in your crock pot, ban food items that have been processed and canned in oil, sugary syrups or, even worse, artificial additives to keep the colors bright. There is no room for these kinds of foods in your healthy crock pot cooking.

Start cooking healthy today

Controlling what goes into a meal is key to healthy crock pot cooking. You have the ability to keep the flavors high and the artificial preservatives low just by choosing the right ingredients. Once you get used to cooking with healthy ingredients, you'll find there is not much of a difference in time or trouble between a stew made with fresh wholesome ingredients, and stew made by opening cans and other packages and dumping it all in the crock pot.

Use fresh ingredients and leave out the processed foods to make the most of your crock pot meals. Slow cooking was designed for fresh food; picture your grandparents patiently stirring a pot full of fresh ingredients to feed the family a healthy meal. Follow their lead to bring back the joys of your grandparent's time around the dinner table.