Meet My Best Friend, the Crockpot

— Written By and last updated by Patricia Burch

What are the most common excuses for not eating healthy? “It’s too expensive”, “I don’t feel like it”, and, my favorite, “I don’t have enough time.” The last excuse has been one I have struggled with the last few months. I commute from Wilmington, so traveling to and from work every day leaves me with only a few hours before it’s time to go to bed and start over again. In order to live by what I preach, I had to think of new ways to still eat healthy without having to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

This led me to my faithful friend, the crockpot. A crockpot, also known as a slow cooker, is a relatively inexpensive kitchen appliance that plugs into the wall. It typically has three settings: warm, low, and high. Crockpots are great because they can be used for many recipes, can make a large amount of food at one time, and do not have to be watched as a pot on the stove would. This allows consumers to put their food in the crockpot in the morning, set it to low, and when they come home they have a delicious meal already prepared.

Crockpot meals can range from a variety of foods. Soups and chilies are some of my favorite recipes to cook in the crockpot. They can serve as a quick one-dish meal that provides many of the food groups like grains, protein, and vegetable. Meats can also be easily prepared in the crockpot. Chicken, pork, and beef come out tender and perfect for an assortment of dishes. Add them to tacos, sandwiches, or enjoy on their own with a quick and easy side.

Another crockpot meal option many people forget about are breakfast foods. Oatmeal can be prepared the night before and put into the crockpot for a quick breakfast. Add berries, apples, or other fruits with some cinnamon and a little maple syrup for a delicious and healthy breakfast. Grits can also be prepared and bacon, sausage, or ground beef can be added for a heartier meal.

Crockpot recipes can be found online, in cookbooks, and even magazines. Here is one of my favorite recipes from North Dakota State University Extension Service:

Slow Cooker Taco Soup:

1 lb. lean or extra lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 (16-oz.) can chili beans, with liquid
1 (15-oz.) can kidney beans, with liquid
1 (15-oz.) can whole-kernel corn, with liquid (opt for low or no salt added)
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce (low-sodium)
2 cups water
2 (14.5-oz.) cans peeled diced tomatoes (low-sodium)
1 (4-oz.) can diced green chili peppers
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix (low-sodium)

In a medium skillet, cook the ground meat until browned over medium heat. Drain. Add all ingredients in a crockpot. Mix to blend and cook on low setting for eight hours.

Makes 10 servings. Each serving has 220 calories, 3 grams (g) of fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, and 500 mg sodium (depending on meat and no salt/low sodium foods used).