By: Jodie Shield, RD
If you can’t’ stand the heat . . . get out of the kitchen. But your family’s hungry, so what do you do? The following tips will help you get dinner on the table without breaking a sweat.
Maximize food groups. Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate (www.choosemyplate.gov) to plan your dinner menus. Incorporate as many foods as possible from the vegetable, fruit and whole grain groups – at least 75% of your plate. Many of these nutrient-packed foods require little or no cooking. To round out your menu, include a few items from the dairy group (low-fat or fat-free) and the protein group – lean meat, poultry fish and beans.
Minimize cooking time. The rule of thumb for cooking in hot weather is the less heat you use, the better. During the dog days of summer, take a vacation from baking and broiling, because they generate the most heat and will make your kitchen feel like an oven. Try cooking those burgers and marinated chicken breasts on an outdoor grill instead. Stir-frying pork strips or sea scallops in a wok is a quick way to prepare dinner without heating up the kitchen. And remember, microwaving is another quick way to cook that will help keep your kitchen cool.
Think convenience. Shop for items that are precooked, such as deli-roasted chicken or casseroles and pre-washed and peeled vegetables. A ready-to-eat salad in a bag topped with vegetables from your garden, tuna, and grated reduced-fat cheese is a meal in itself. Although convenience foods do cost a little more, you’ll save precious time.
Cook when it’s cool. Take advantage of the cooler weather or cooler parts of the day like early morning by making an extra pan of lasagna or loaf of banana bread and stash in it in your freezer.
When the thermometer soars, summer dining can be a breeze. Simply plan ahead and follow these beat-the-heat cooking tips and a healthy family meal is only minutes away.