A new Facebook group Crock Pot Girls just launched two weeks ago, but already has nearly a million followers and fans. A million.
I think it is safe to say that the masses have spoken: They love slow cooker recipes.
And who can blame them. Especially as the Chicago summer winds down and the fall harvest is just ahead, the thought of an easy, hearty, at-home meal sounds pretty nice to our team at Well Community.
However, we all agree that slow-cooked meals are often pretty heavy, and many recipes call for a lot of oil, fats from meat and condensed soups as bases.
So we asked Jenny Maloney (formerly Jenny Schwartz), a registered dietitian at Galter LifeCenter and a new mom, for her advice on how fans of slow cooking can stick to a healthy diet.
“Often when we think of slow cooker recipes, we think of stews and meat-heavy dishes, but the nice thing about slow cookers is that you can really use them for anything, including really healthy — often vegetarian — meals.”
She explained that the slow cooking process really brings out the flavor of food, and that the no-fuss nature of slow cooker makes it easy to combine everything in your meal, including lean proteins, carbohydrates, fiber-packed veggies and herbs and spices.
“All those nutrients meld together to give you a new taste that may not have been there if they were separate,” Maloney said. “It’s a great way to sneak in healthy ingredients.”
She added that slow cookers are also a great way to try new vegetables that you might not know how to cook, use produce that may be over-ripening on your counter or in the fridge, and subtly incorporate vegetables that might not be your favorite in to your regular dishes.
When it comes to choosing a healthy recipe for your slow cooker, Maloney recommends focusing on vegetables as your main ingredients and picking dishes that include beans, hearty leafy greens (like spinach, swiss chard and kale) and coconut water.
“When a recipe calls for canned condensed soup, condiments or heavy broth as a base, try choosing low-sodium varieties — or better yet, see if you can get creative and substitute with low-fat milks or just water, and let the proteins and spices add the flavor.”
One of her favorite go-to dishes at home is coconut-rice, made in either a rice-cooker or the slow cooker.
“Coconut water and recipes that use it are just packed with nutrients, potassium, calcium and electrolytes without the fat in milk, so I try to use it whenever I can in slow-cooked meals,” Maloney said, adding that the rice pairs perfectly with a slower cooker chicken curry.
She also recommended a few of her favorite slow cooker recipes from the Web:
Judging from these healthy recipes, I don’t see this slow cooker trend going away anytime soon.