Nutrition Hack: Super-Hack Dinner

Darria Long Gillespie, MD MBA

Eating at home is associated with lower weight and a better diet (so your waist stays lean and your wallet fat). Plus, children who eat home-cooked meals more frequently have a healthier weight, and those who are involved in the cooking process consume more vegetables.

Preparing a meal from scratch at home may sound daunting, but here’s the secret: It rarely has to be entirely from scratch. You needn’t slave all day over a hot stove (my grandmother used the phrase, and it sounds dramatic). With a combination of leftovers (or what I call the dinner miracle that keeps on giving) and other tips, preparing a meal at home takes only about ten minutes longer than takeout.

  • If you’re not cooking enough protein for leftovers, you’re not cooking enough. Particularly when it comes to protein (which tends to be the most time-consuming portion of the meal), my philosophy is “cook once, eat twice.” Roast two chickens for dinner tonight, then shred the remainders tomorrow for soup or pasta. Have fajitas tonight and use the leftover meat for chili tomorrow. (Sauté olive oil, garlic, and chili powder with a little tomato paste, tomatoes, beans, onions, corn, and beef broth and a bay leaf. Once your veggies are cooked, add the beef until hot.) Broil salmon tonight and add the leftovers to a veggie stir-fry tomorrow.
  • Don’t have time to cook rice? Packets are now available for brown rice, quinoa, and other grains and can be heated in the microwave for 90 seconds. Just pour them in a glass bowl to heat.
  • Double your veggies. Whatever vegetable you’re cooking tonight, double your recipe. Use leftovers for the next day’s lunch as a salad or sandwich topping or repurpose it as a side for the next night’s dinner. Steamed veggies one night can easily be tossed into a stir-fry, pasta, or soup the next night.
  • Ask your grocery meat department to prep the meat. Whatever you’re cooking, ask the meat department to cut the meat into the correct size that you’ll need to cook (i.e., have them chop the chicken into stir-fry size, or the salmon or pork into kebab size), so that you won’t have to chop. Don’t be shy; the guy behind the meat counter at your grocery store can do this while you do the rest of your shopping. That simple request saves you time and raw meat handling (not to mention cleanup).

Want more hacks? Check out bestselling new release Mom Hacks, today! Also, follow Dr. Darria on Instagram or Facebook for more great tips.

Darria Long Gillespie, MD MBA
Dr. Darria Long is a Yale- and Harvard-trained emergency physician, author of bestselling book Mom Hacks (Hachette), a TV host and expert on HLN, CNN, The Dr. Oz Show, and other networks, and TED speaker. A mom of two herself, Dr. Darria has become the national "make-life-better-for-women doctor”, taking the best of science to make being healthy easy, enjoyable - and entirely doable. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine. She received her MBA from Harvard Business School and residency training from Yale School of Medicine.

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