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Prepare Healthy Meals in a Snap

Make out a weekly menu. Planning and organizing is key to a successful meal plan.

TEXARKANA, Ark. –

Do you spend time each week planning meals, grocery shopping, putting food away, cooking, and then cleaning up after the meal? How many nights are you tempted to order a pizza or drive through a fast food place but know you really need to prepare a hot, heart-healthy meal?

What would you say if you were handed an all-you-need-to-know guide to low-fat, low-calorie, fabulous family favorite meals, from oven or skillet to table in 60 minutes or less? By following these easy steps, you can prepare healthy meals in a snap.  

Keep your pantry well-stocked with fat-free soup broth (chicken, beef, oriental and/or vegetable), non-fat dry milk or evaporated skim milk, flavorful sauces (teriyaki, barbecue, sweet and sour) fat-free salad dressings, fat-free pasta, couscous, minute rice, applesauce and canned fruits packed in light syrup or in it’s own juices. Stick with quick-cooking choices for healthy meals in a hurry.

Fill up your spice rack. Quick meals don’t mean bland and boring. Keep on hand onion powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, oregano, pepper, dry mustard, cinnamon, chili powder and any other spices you love.

Stock your freezer with skinless chicken breasts, chicken tenders, ground turkey and/or beef substitutes, vegetable medleys for Japanese and Chinese food, soup, fruits and berries.

A must-have-on-hand extra is a variety of whole, sliced, or shredded fat-free cheese such as cheddar, swiss, mozzarella, parmesan and American.

Go for timesaving packaged, frozen or canned vegetables and fruit. They might cost a little more, but if you can afford it, you might enjoy the time saved. Toss into soups, salads, stir-fry dishes, casseroles, and more.

Follow your grocery list and don’t be steered off track. Try to shop at the same supermarket and become familiar with the layout. Don’t fall prey to the end-of-the-aisle specials.

Make out a weekly menu. Read through recipes, defrost and prepare food ahead of time when possible. Take advantage of your microwave if you do not have time to defrost, but you must cook it immediately after defrosting in the microwave.

Don’t be afraid to use leftovers. Add flavor to leftover Chinese food and rice with extra frozen vegetables and sliced chicken for a meal in less than 15 minutes.

Sauté vegetable and meats in broth or water instead of butter or margarine. You’ll not only get added flavor; you’ll get less fat and calories.

With a little bit of planning and savvy shopping, you can cook healthy, heart-smart meals at home with little time. Not only will your bank account thank you, so will your waistline and health.

For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at cdue@uaex.edu, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.

Try this heart-healthy recipe for Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken with only 235 calories and 6 total fat grams. It’s sure to become a favorite.

Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken

Vegetable oil spray, butter-flavored or original

4 cups wheat-flake or corn-flake cereal, lightly crushed

1 clove garlic, crushed, or one half teaspoon bottled minced garlic (optional)

1 teaspoon ground ginger, or to taste

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

Freshly ground pepper to taste

12 pieces of chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), skinned, all visible fat removed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil spray; set aside. Place cereal in a pie pan or on a piece of foil. Stir in garlic; set aside.

Combine ginger, paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle seasonings on both sides of each piece.

Roll chicken in cereal crumbs to coat. Spray chicken lightly on all sides with vegetable oil spray. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown and tender. Timing will vary according to the thickness of the chicken pieces. Serves 6.

By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609
cdue@uaex.edu

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