My 3-Step Plan to Cook Faster and Smarter

Close up of woman hands mixing food in cooking pan.
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When we’re busy or overworked, it can be tempting to push a healthy meal right off the priority list. Fortunately, it doesn’t take tons of time to put something delicious and nutritious together. But, it does take a little planning. Here are three time-saving, health-boosting tips I share with my patients and clients.

Prepare Some Foods in Advance

Many of my patients prepare several full meals over the weekends to eat on busy weeknights. Others – including me – prepare just a few recipes or ingredients ahead for use later in the week.

Hard-boiled Eggs
Perfect for a snack, a grab-and-go breakfast or a quick protein source for lunch.

This all-vegetable, tomato-based cold soup is a summertime favorite. I toss garden-fresh veggies, seasonings and 100-percent vegetable juice into my blender. Within minutes, I have several cups of low-calorie, nutrient-dense deliciousness that lasts for days. We eat it for snacks, lunch or dinner.

Roasted Vegetables
Cut, toss with oil, season and spread onto a pan. Cut similar vegetables in uniform sizes with quicker-cooking vegetables in larger pieces to ensure even cooking. Be sure not to crowd the pan, or you’ll end up steaming instead of roasting your veggies. Roast at 400 to 450°F. Stir or toss half way through cooking. Heat and eat whenever you need an extra vegetable, or toss into salads, sandwiches and omelets. Need a little inspiration? Try roasting cauliflower with thyme and garlic; butternut squash with sage; green beans with fresh tarragon; or asparagus with a sprinkle of lemon zest (added after cooking).

Chopped Veggies
Do you have a few free minutes at a random part of the week? Use that time to wash and chop veggies and keep them in separate containers. Use this already prepped produce for snacks, salads, casseroles, pasta sauce, soups … whatever!

Plan for Leftovers

I’m frequently home late on Thursday evenings. I still manage to get a home-cooked meal on the table because I plan my leftovers carefully. For example, I’ll prepare a stew on Monday with enough to eat again on Thursday. On Tuesday, I’ll prepare an extra batch of roasted vegetables. On Wednesday, I’ll make a double batch of quinoa. So you know what we’re eating on Thursday? Leftover stew served over leftover quinoa with roasted veggies. With the time I’ve saved, I even can toss together a fresh fruit salad.

Be Clever with Appliances

I have many beloved time-saving tools and appliances, from herb scissors to nonstick baking mats to an immersion blender. But a rice cooker and a digital scale are my favorites.

I use my rice cooker for much more than rice. It cooks wheat berries, quinoa, steel cut oats, barley and more. What I really love is that I can turn it on and walk away to do other chores. When the grain is fully cooked, the rice cooker turns itself off and keeps the contents warm.

A digital food scale saves me from having to wash multiple measuring cups. Instead of using several cups to serve up a proper portion, I simply put my bowl or plate onto the scale and scoop my cottage cheese, berries, yogurt, cereal or whatever until the scale signals the amount I want in grams or ounces. Then, I “zero” the scale and add the second food. Then I “zero” it again and add the third food (and so forth). Now, I have nothing to wash except my dish and utensils.

There are so many ways to save time and effort in the kitchen. It really comes down to being creative and planning ahead. If you have a favorite trick, I’d love to hear it!

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Jill Weisenberger
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, is a writer, nutrition consultant and speaker with a private practice in Newport News, VA, and is the author of four books, including the bestselling Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week and her newest title, Prediabetes: A Complete Guide. Follow her on social media and learn more at