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Batch Cooking 101

It’s a new school year, a new beginning, filled with promises to ourselves about healthy snacks, breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The question is, “How do we get these healthy routines to stick in our uber-crazy, fast-paced world?”

In the article “One Dietitian’s Secret Weapon for Healthy Eating,” the article’s author discusses one of my favorite and most effective ways to make healthy eating easy…Batch Cooking.

Like many of you, I balance a career, three busy children and household management, while remaining committed to a healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition and plenty of physical activity. The reality of many busy parents is: by the time the kids are home from school or after-school activities, 6:00 rolls around and we open our refrigerators praying for the healthy meal we imagined all day to magically pop up from the shelves. When we realize that fantasy is unlikely, we desperately try to pull together a balanced meal, that often falls short.

Batch cooking was life changing for me and my family. It does require a good chunk of time (for me – on a weekend) and organization, but the pay-off is well worth it in time and effort saved all week long.

My personal batch favorites include:

• Healthy muffins – make two dozen and freeze. Pair with some fruit and yogurt in the morning for a quick breakfast!
• Soup – I make a giant chicken/beef soup every two weeks. One week we have chicken soup with a salad that includes chicken from the soup and other veggies; another week I convert the leftover soup into a hearty vegetable soup/minestrone and serve with rice pasta; and we have chicken salad in sandwiches or solo with veggies for lunch for a few days.
• Beans – make a large batch, and you have easy add-ins for soup, pasta with beans, as a bean salad with olive oil and lemon and herbs (lunch or dinner side). I prefer dried beans if I have the time…they’re so economical and tasty!
• Salad dressing – I am so much more likely to throw a salad together when I have dressing pre-made and ready in the refrigerator. It can be as simple as olive oil and your favorite vinegar with spices.
• Grains – a big batch of brown rice, quinoa or another whole grain (ex., farro, barley) can make a great foundation for a healthy dinner or lunch. Keep in the refrigerator or store half of the batch in the freezer.
• Greens – I always buy a few heads of a favorite green, like broccoli rabe, spinach or broccoli. I cook and store them in the refrigerator and use them as necessary for lunch add-ins (with a grain), for dinner (brown rice pasta with broccoli), or as an add-in with eggs cooked to my liking.

Read through the article “One Dietitian’s Secret Weapon for Healthy Eating,” for even more Batch Cooking ideas, including smoothies, snacks, and pre-cut veggies. Once you start, your healthy meals will pop out of the refrigerator as you once thought only happened in dreams.

Also – be sure to check the recipes on our website, www.fan4kids.org, for easy, healthy recipes you can add to your Batch Cooking day.