March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Turning on your stove is not a requirement for delicious, healthy meals at home. Whether it is the last days of summer or you are awaiting the first days of spring, Angela Lemond, RDN, CSP, LD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recommends using a few key kitchen gadgets to save time and keep things cool in the kitchen.
"A panini or sandwich press is a great way to get a hot and healthy meal on the table fast," says Lemond. "Use a rice cooker to cook multiple servings of rice, quinoa or millet that can be used throughout the week as a side dish or thrown into a salad for added texture." Other helpful tools include a microwave — which can be used to prepare vegetables such as potatoes, broccoli and carrots — and a slow cooker, which gives off very little heat.
Lemond also suggests using precooked ingredients, such as rotisserie chicken, canned beans (first, drain and rinse the beans to reduce sodium by 41 percent) and tomatoes, and canned chicken and tuna to create quick meals in minutes. Also, hold on to leftovers. "When leftovers build up in the fridge [and are still safe to eat], have a MyPlate night and let the kids choose whatever they want as long as they have all the components of a MyPlate setup."
Try these five kid-pleasing meals without using your stove.
Mexican Black Bean Salad
Mix up a Mexican meatless meal by tossing canned (drained and rinsed) black beans with fresh corn, a tomato, bell pepper and red onion. Add avocado, jicama or diced mango for more adventurous eaters. Toss with lime juice and olive oil, and serve over crunchy romaine lettuce with whole-grain tortilla chips.
Slow Cooker Double-Duty Roast
Prepare your favorite beef or pork roast in a slow cooker, and serve half for dinner. Reserve the remaining roast to use as a filling for tacos or sandwiches later in the week. Try shredded pork tacos with salsa made with fresh pineapple, red bell pepper, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice. Toss shredded beef with barbecue sauce, and serve on toasted whole-grain hamburger buns with a fresh green salad or crunchy coleslaw.
Chicken Salad Sliders
Registered dietitians Liz Weiss and Janice Bissex recommend this kid-tested chicken salad for hot evenings. "Mix together chopped rotisserie chicken, toasted chopped pecans or walnuts, quartered seedless grapes, light mayonnaise, chopped tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve on whole-grain slider buns, dinner rolls or in pita pockets."
Turkey and Apple Waffle Sandwiches
Replace bread with whole-grain frozen waffles for a new spin on sandwich night. Prepare the waffles according to the package directions using a toaster. Combine light mayonnaise, maple syrup and Dijon mustard, and spread over the waffles. Layer with deli turkey, sliced Granny Smith apple and spring mix salad greens.
Microwave Stuffed Potatoes
Use a microwave for easy stuffed potatoes. Prick medium russet or sweet potatoes with a fork and microwave on high power for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Split the potatoes and scoop out some of the flesh. Add your favorite seasoning to the scooped out potato flesh, and spoon back into the potato shells. Try topping baked potatoes with guacamole, chopped tomato and cilantro, or stuff sweet potatoes with broccoli, walnuts and dried cranberries.