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Why You Need To Start Using A Slow Cooker

Why You Need To Start Using A Slow Cooker

You may know what you should be eating to be healthy and why you need to eat it but what trips most people up is how do you put it all together? Like a Rubix cube to Kim Kardashian, the kitchen is something that throws most people off.

Cooking is a skill that definitely takes some time to master but there’s a secret shortcut that can help you make meals easier, faster and, just like me, cheaper than ever. It’s called the slow cooker or crock pot and I’ll show you the benefits that come from it.

What Is A Slow Cooker?

Slow cookers are often called crock pots, which are actually a brand name that has been associated with slow cookers the same way Kleenex is with facial tissue. A slow cooker is a lidded round or oval cooking pot usually made of ceramic or porcelain and surrounded by a metal housing and has a glass top. It has an electric outlet to it that the pot or “crock” is cooking container and heat reservoir that usually has a low, medium and high setting. With the selected temperature the crock’s contents are at atmospheric pressure and the cooking process is slow and gentle that can take anywhere from 4-8 hours

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Benefits Of Cooking At Low Heat

Food that is cooked at too high a temperature is prone to losing a majority of its nutrients and the potential for burning can cause a host of problems as well. High temperature cooking such as frying and barbecuing can create harmful chemicals in the foods that can lead to certain types of cancers. Meat, in particular, can develop polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines that can change your DNA and also cause cancer.

Cooking at a more gentle temperature is not only more beneficial for the nutrients in the food but for your overall health. Slow cooking, along with steaming and poaching, are the most ideal ways to cook food.

Using A Slow Cooker To Save Money

Since I tend to lose all my money betting on March Madness a slow cooker can be your best friend to keep costs down. Since the cooking process is gradual even tough cuts of “undesirable” meat can turn into a super tender dish. These tougher cuts of meat also tend to be the cheapest so opt for:

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  • Pork belly
  • Pork hawk or shank
  • Pork shoulder
  • Flank steak
  • Skirt or hanger steak
  • Brisket
  • Top rump
  • Chuck and blade
  • Oxtail
  • Lamb shank
  • Lamb neck and shoulder

When you combine these cuts with vegetables and potatoes you are looking at meals that work out to only a few dollars that provide a good amount of portions.

How A Slow Cooker Improves Your Nutrition & Health

You already have the health benefits of cooking at a lower temperature but also the more tender the meat the easier it is to digest and absorb. The best slow cooker meals are usually traditional and tend to contain real whole foods. The sooner you can get these real foods into your diet the better your health will be. After you have your choice of meat the next main ingredient in a slow cooker recipe is usually some form of broth or stock. Bone broth or stock have some tremendous health benefits including:

  • Heals your gut and promotes good digestion
  • Inhibits infection (the reason everyone turns to chicken soup when sick)
  • Reduces joint pain and inflammation
  • Promotes strong bones
  • Promotes healthy hair and nails

Now when you start adding in vegetables, tomatoes, garlic, potato or sweet potatoes, onion and lots of herbs you are getting one of the best meals you can eat. You get a great combination of protein, soluble fiber, antioxidants and micronutrients all in one shot.

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How To Put This All Together

This is where it gets really easy, there’s really no wrong way to combine different ingredients like I listed above but here’s a good go to recipe to get you started:

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of beef chuck cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound small potatoes halved
  • 3 medium carrots cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme and 1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves

Directions:

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  1. Toss the beef with paprika, salt and pepper and coat in flour shaking off excess. Heat oil on medium-high heat in a skillet and cook until all sides are brown, around 3 minutes. Put the beef, potatoes, carrots and onions into slow cooker pot and stir together.
  2. Heat some more oil in a skillet on medium heat, stir in tomato paste for one minute, and wine and flour and whisk together. Add in beef broth and thyme and whisk together until thick or for around 4 minutes making a gravy.
  3. Pour the gravy into the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. Season with salt and pepper, stir in parsley and can be served in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of paprika.
  4. Feel like a hero

Wrapping It Up

A slow cooker is easy, fast and cheap, just like me. You can get them anywhere and they can really help you in the kitchen while at the same time improving your nutrition. Like I mentioned before if you’re looking to save money on food costs this little beauty will be your best friend. If you want to learn more about nutrition, the foods you should look to include in your diet and some more recipes you can get my Healthy Eating Starter Kit as a free download to get you up and running!

Featured photo credit: Janine via flickr.com

More by this author

Jamie Logie

Jamie is a personal trainer and health coach with a degree in Kinesiology and Food and Nutrition.

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Last Updated on December 13, 2018

12 Practical Tips To Stay Fit For Christmas

12 Practical Tips To Stay Fit For Christmas

Christmas is approaching fast, and lots of people not only tend to ruin their usual diets, but they also gain a few extra pounds. Based on studies, the majority of people tend to gain additional weight during the holiday season that starts at the Thanksgiving Day and ends with the New Year celebrations. Excessive eating is claimed to be the main cause for the additional weight gain, but it is also due to lack of physical activity and exercise.

A lot of individuals out there tend to set aside their fitness routines during the holidays since they believe that they do not have enough time to perform their workouts. And because they feel guilty after the holiday season, most of the gyms and fitness centers are packed with fresh members. Always bear in mind that you can still enjoy the holidays and stay fit at the same time. If you want to stay fit during the holiday season, especially during Christmas and the New Year’s Eve, here are some useful tips that might help you:

1. Eat Before Heading Out

First, it is best that you eat something before heading out to visits, trips or family dinners. By doing so, you will no longer be tempted to eat a lot or overindulge yourself since you have already eaten. Skipping on meals is not a good idea either, because you will only be forced to eat more later.

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2. Select The Treats

Make sure to select the treats that you eat in a wise manner. You should choose something that you can only enjoy during the holiday season and not something that is readily available all the time.

3. Avoid Skipping Meals

Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast! Even though it can be tempting to skip on certain meals, believing that it will make up for the treats you consumed in the previous day, don’t do it because it will only lead to counterproductive results.

4. Drink With Moderation

It is best to regulate your drinking since alcohol, coke or other juices will only add more calories to the ones you already eaten!

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5. Be Active

You should still perform your fitness routine whenever possible and if you can’t do that, simply walk more, park your car some distance away from the store or just use the stairs!

6. Get Out Of The House

Make the holidays a family affair and plan outdoor activities where everyone is involved. Even a snowball fight in the backyard will burn a lot of calories and will keep the children entertained.

7. Don’t Skip Your Strength Workouts

Always remember to perform your strength training in order to maintain that muscle mass you worked hard to get. You might be tempted to use lightweights and just do some cardio, but you can burn just as many calories by lifting weights. And with all of those extra stakes you had on the holiday meals, you might even gain some extra muscle. And this is much better than gaining some extra fat.

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8. Set Realistic Goals

You should set realistic exercise objectives. Aim for at least half an hour per day and you will be very happy when you will achieve that. If you plan one hour or more and not achieve it, you will only end up disappointed.

9. Enjoy Yourself

Also make sure to set realistic diet plans! Trying to restrain yourself totally from some foods will only make you eat more. Feel free to enjoy the treats that you really love, but in small portions.

10. Drink A Lot Of Water

This can satiate your appetite as well as keep you hydrated at all times. And it will also prevent a possible hangover if you overdo it with alcohol.

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11. Eat Less And More Often

Distribute your meals evenly throughout the day, and do not eat everything at once.  Instead of having 2 enormous meals, have 5 small ones.  Eat your dinner earlier and have a nice walk before going to bed.

12. Prioritize Your Workouts

Try to do them early in the morning while everyone else is still sleeping. This way you will also avoid remarks like “Oh, come on! It’s Christmas…”

So there you go! Twelve simple tips that will help you avoid gaining weight during the winter holidays, but will also allow you to enjoy yourself and have a great time with your loved ones.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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