Meal prep tools to help you cook and eat better
If you find that you’re spending more time in the kitchen attempting to create meals and snacks that are healthier for you than years past, you’re among friends. According to the Food Industry Association, consumer health and well-being rose to the top of the list of important eating factors for consumers with only taste, price and convenience ranking above it.
Surveys have also found that 35% of consumers state that they’re not only eating healthier now than before the pandemic, but this healthy eating approach is also here to stay. Thank goodness we have found at least one upside to this long pandemic.
To help improve your culinary wizardry in the kitchen without attending a fancy schmancy cooking class, I reached out to my registered dietitian nutritionist colleagues for go-to meal prep tools that help them effortlessly create healthy foods in a snap. Let’s start with my favorite.
My veggie chopper is older than my kids. As an RDN, I’m a loud ambassador for eating more produce. But truth be told, I dislike chopping veggies almost as much as flossing my teeth, which I disgruntledly do at least daily.
This handy, dandy tool allows me to place the raw veggie on a guillotine-like surface, press the top down and watch the pieces dislodge into the collecting container under the blade. Presto: uniform pieces of veggies prepped in a nano second.
Amy Gorin, a plant-based RDN in Stamford, Connecticut, also shares my disdain for slicing and dicing, so she uses her kitchen scissors to snip her clean, leafy greens such as kale, spinach and lettuce, as well as herbs, such as chives, parsley and cilantro, instead of chopping.
She enjoys this tool so much that she has a couple of pairs of kitchen scissors on hand so that a clean pair is always ready-to-snip.
As a kitchen standard, a grater helps spread a dusting of flavor from hard cheeses, such as Parmigiano Reggiano and Asiago, over pasta, soups and salads, without overloading the foods with tons of fat and sodium.
“Grated cheese adds umami to the dish so there is no need for salt to season and also provides macro and micronutrients, such as protein and calcium, to the dish,” says Leslie Bonci, a sports dietitian for the Kansas City Chiefs and owner of Active Eating Advice.
Measuring spoons and cups
When it comes to healthy eating, keeping your portions in check is key. This is why measuring spoons and cups are a kitchen staple for Liz Weiss, a registered dietitian nutritionist in the Boston area. She’s the author of five cookbooks and host of Liz’s Healthy Table.
“It’s hard to eyeball amounts,” says Weiss. “A tablespoon of oil called for in a recipe could easily become two or three times that amount if you pour from the bottle to the pan without measuring first. Measuring cups and spoons take the guesswork out of everyday cooking and eating. You’ll never have to estimate again.”
While it’s currently recommended that we all eat at least two fish meals weekly, especially fatty fish such as salmon, most Americans are eating less than half as much.
Abbie Gellman, a NYC-based chef and registered dietitian, recommends investing in a fish spatula as motivation. Why? Because the metal spatula is engineered to be longer and thinner than a typical spatula so that it will easily slip under the delicate fish fillets without tearing the fish. You’ll feel like a professional seafood connoisseur.
“It is also a great multipurpose tool. In addition to fish, I use it for everything from pancakes to burgers,” states Gellman.
“Believe it or not coffee grinders can do more than just grind coffee beans,” says Keri Gans, NYC-based RDN, author of “The Small Change Diet” and podcast host of The Keri Report. She uses it to grind oats and flax seeds to produce a “flour,” which she uses as a breading for chicken cutlets and white fish, such as flounder and filet of sole.
“By replacing standard breading with oats and flax seeds, I up the nutrition of my meal, by getting more fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, all of which are heart-healthy,” says Gans.
Another lover of produce is Sylvia Klinger, a registered dietitian and owner of Hispanic Food Communications, a nutrition communications and culinary consulting company based in the Chicago area.
She also recommends that you prep once and eat twice. She makes extra produce slices and freezes them in containers to use in another meal. Dislike slicing tomatoes? This tool is calling out your name.
A food thermometer
That’s why Toby Amidor, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of “The Family Immunity Cookbook,” doesn’t take chances when cooking.
“I place the tip of the thermometer (top 1-2 inches) into the thickest part of the piece of meat, poultry or fish to ensure that it reaches its minimal internal cooking temperature that is safe to eat,” states Amidor. “For poultry, this is 165 degrees F; for beef, pork veal and lamb, this is 160 degrees F; and for fish, 145 degrees F.”
This inexpensive tool can help keep you and your guests healthy and prevent an unplanned visit to the nearest medical clinic.
A beverage infuser
Americans, on average, are consuming 17 teaspoons of added sugars daily, with the biggest culprit being soda. To enjoy a sweetness-enhanced, bubbly beverage without added sugars, Rosanne Rust, Florida-based nutrition communicator and cookbook author, suggests that you invest in a water pitcher with a built-in infuser.
“You simply add slices or chunks of fruit such as peaches, berries or oranges into the infuser cylinder. Then fill the pitcher with sparkling water and refrigerate it for over an hour,” says Rust. “The infuser allows the flavor of the fruit to seep into the water but keeps the fruit out of your drink. If you don’t want a sweet beverage, try basil, mint or sliced cucumbers.”
9 kitchen tools you need for healthy eating:
— Vegetable chopper.
— Kitchen scissors.
— Measuring spoons and cups.
— Fish spatula.
— Coffee grinder.
— Food thermometer.
— Beverage infuser.
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