Dr. Ryan’s Stay Home For Dinner Summer Challenge!

vegetables-variety

One easy way to drop excess calories from my diet (and improve emotional wellbeing by spending time with family or friends) is to make meals at home. Logically when I know what I’m putting into my food I can better control what I eat.

One doesn’t have to be a gourmet chef to make healthy food (that tastes great!) at home.   Sometimes simpler is better, and learning new things can be fun! Eating three or four meals a week made at home with my family also provides some bonding time to ask, “how was your day,” keeps my mind young by teaching me new things, and provides some much needed stress relief.

One idea that I love is a summer salad bar (with an option for soup later)! Grab some of your favorite salad ingredients from the produce aisle, and spend about 20 minutes on a weekend night prepping them for a “build your own salad” bar. Cut carrots, celery, onion, cucumber, and tomato into dice size (small enough to eat in one bite with a little chewing). Or, buy cherry tomatoes and pre-diced veggies to cut time. Tear up lettuce (there are any number of varieties in the store, experiment!)

I always make it a rule that if I want to cheese on my salad I have to buy a block and grate the amount I want myself; this makes my effort deliberate and controls the amount I use; additionally it saves on wasted cheese that molds too fast in my small household. Small (1 ounce, or the size of a 9 volt battery) of cheese makes a healthy satisfying snack a few times a week too. And I get to try new varieties (most of which I can’t pronounce.)

If I want croutons, gotta make those myself, too! Take the heel of bread (you know, that bit no one wants?) and rub it with a clove of garlic, then cut it into medium size cubes. No garlic handy? No problem; just cut into cubes first, lay out on a baking sheet and spray generously with nonstick cooking spray. Then sprinkle with garlic salt or onion powder/salt or Italian seasoning/salt. Pop in the oven at 275F for about 45 (check to make sure not burning).

Lastly, either grab some precut precooked chicken breast strips from the freezer section, or make your own by cooking in a pan with a little olive oil and salt/pepper; if your feeling adventurous sprinkle almost fully cooked chicken breasts with some prepackaged taco seasoning, then cut into strips or diced. These can be tossed on top to add protein to your salad bar.

The good news is I can make three or four (varied) salad dinners by giving up an hour or so of prep time on a weekend night. This stuff is also pretty easy to pack up for lunch at work.

BONUS TIP***

Cut veggies starting to wilt? No worries; throw them in a zippered freezer bag into the freezer and save them up to make broth (stock). Same with chicken bones or cooked skin removed from chicken (you know that rotisserie kind that makes an easy and healthy instant dinner from the grocery store?) Once you have two cups or so of leftover veggies/herbs, throw them and any frozen leftover chicken scraps in a pot with a quart of water, some salt and pepper, and simmer about 20 minutes to make a healthy broth that can be frozen to make soup in the future.

Feeling like a chef now?

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