With the growing popularity of television shows like Iron Chef, Chopped, and Masterchef Junior, cooking has become more of spectator sport than a daily occurrence. In fact, staying out of the kitchen is practically the new normal in America. According to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report, we spend less time cooking than any other Western country. Are you really that surprised?
Luckily for our waistlines, the time spent behind the stove—or lack thereof—may have less of a negative impact on our weight than previously thought. As it turns out, it’s totally possible to slim down without firing up the stove, using the oven, or giving up your take-out vice.
Cleanse Your Cabinets
Before we even discuss how to whip up a healthy meal sans stove, let’s chat about your cabinets and refrigerator. Are they currently filled with foods like processed crackers, lunch meats, and cereal? If you’re nodding your head ‘yes,’ toss them out–stat–and stock your kitchen with healthy ready-to-eat options like pre-cut vegetables, fruits, nuts and yogurt. This nutritious makeover makes the healthy choice not just the easy choice, but the only one, explains Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Claudia Zapata, MS, RDN.
Drink Your Nutrients
Does your utter hatred of washing, chopping and peeling produce send you running to the closest juicery to get your morning smoothie fix? If so, you could be doing your waistline a major disservice. Believe it or not, some smoothies from popular juice bars have more sugar than three Dunkin’ Donuts jelly donuts! The no-cook solution to this diet blunder can be found in your blender: Combine 1 ½ cups of no-sugar added, sliced frozen fruit like Dole Sliced Strawberries and blueberries with a scoop of plant-based protein powder and a cup of unsweetened almond milk. Bend for 30 seconds or until smooth and enjoy as a quick, filling breakfast on the go.
Prep Food While You Sleep
Overnight oats is another no-cook breakfast option you’re sure to love. To whip it up all you have to do is fill a mason jar or Tupperware container with oatmeal, toppings, add-ins like nuts and a liquid like milk or water. Then you throw the mixture into the refrigerator overnight. While you’re sleeping, the flavors fuse together so all you have to do is scarf it down next morning—no cooking required! There are numerous delicious variations to this morning dish.
Switch to Open Faced Sandwiches
Be honest with yourself now, how often do you eat sandwiches? If it’s more often than you’d like to admit, don’t be ashamed—it’s a go-to meal for many culinary-challenged folks. Aid your slim down efforts by opting for whole-grain bread over white and preparing it “open-faced” style—the fancy name for kicking the top piece of bread to the curb. Doing so keeps about 70 to 90 calories off your plate. If losing some bread leaves your tummy rumbling, beef up your meal by munching on a cup of baby carrots or sugar snap peas. These pop-in-your mouth veggies are loaded with fiber and water, which can help aid satiety and weight loss efforts.
There’s no need to head to the kitchen to fix yourself a fancy snack when there are so many ready-to-eat healthy options out there. We love the idea of pairing a piece of fruit like an apple, banana or pear with an individual squeeze pack of nut butter. The salty-sweet combo makes for a delicious protein-rich snack that requires you to do little more than put knife to fruit.
Keep Microwave Meal Starters on Hand
Stock your kitchen with semi-prepared foods that you can easily jazz up and zap in the microwave. Our go to meal? No-Cook Grilled Chicken with Herb-Infused Vegetables and Paprika Sweet Potatoes. Here’s how to make it: Place a few tablespoons of water in a heatproof bowl, top with your favorite cut raw veggies and snap on the lid. Microwave on high for 3 minutes or until desired tenderness is achieved. Remove from the dish, add to your dinner plate and dress with dried herbs and a light drizzle of olive oil. Next, add some healthy carbs to your plate. Using a sharp knife, make a few slits into a small sweet potato. Wrap the spud in a paper towel and zap in the microwave on high for 4 minutes, or until desired tenderness is achieved. Cut it down the center and top with olive oil, paprika and pepper. Next into the microwave is Applegate Naturals Natural Grilled Chicken Breast Strip. Warm up three ounces and add it to your dinner plate. The finished product will include a winning combination of protein, complex carbohydrates, veggies and healthy fats.
Freeze Yourself Slim
When hunger strikes and you’re strapped for time, a frozen meal may be the only way to go. But if you’re looking to slim down, proceed with caution. Many of today’s frozen entrees are loaded with blood-boiling levels of salt, fat and scary chemicals like propylene glycol—a solvent found in antifreeze. Keep healthy picks like Kashi Thin Crust Pizza Margherita (260 calories, 9 g fat, 630 mg sodium, 4 g fiber) and Evol Cilantro Lime Chicken Burritos (320 calories, 7 g fat, 450 mg sodium, 4g fiber) on hand so you’ll always have a waist-friendly dinner ready to go—no matter how rushed you may be.
Chew More Consciously
We know you love your weeknight sitcoms, but it’s important you enjoy your meals sitting at your kitchen table—not in front of the television. Why? Carolyn Brown, MS RD of Foodtrainers explains that not only do the commercials for unhealthy food and drink increase our craving for junk, but because TV is so distracting, it also makes it harder to notice how full we’re becoming until we’ve scarfed down too much. Science agrees with Brown: A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that paying attention while eating can aid weight loss efforts, while distracted eating can lead to a long-term increase in food consumption.
Skip the Cozy Booth in the Back
If the thought of cooking makes you hyperventilate, chances are good you eat at restaurants quite often. But even if you have every intention to make healthy food choices, researchers have discovered that where you sit can subconsciously influence what ends up on your plate. In fact, Cornell University researchers have found that diners seated farthest from the front door tend to eat fewer salads and are 73 percent more likely to order a sweet treat for dessert. The takeaway: Next time the hostess gives you your pick of tables, opt for one closest to the front.
Make a Special Request
If you rarely use your kitchen, you may get take-out from time to time. While ordering out may have a bad rap for being high-cal, there are a number of special requests and substitutions you can ask for that will slash hundred, even thousands—yes, we said thousands— of calories from your order.
Eat Dessert from a Mug
Although one of our earlier tips instructed you to throw out your junk food, that doesn’t mean all sweet treats are off limits. In fact, too much diet deprivation can make sweets look all the more tempting and lead to diet-derailing binges down the road. Indulge while keeping portions and calories in check by whipping up single-serve microwave cake. Don’t worry, absolutely no culinary skills are required. You just throw a bunch of ingredients into a mug, mix it up and zap it in the microwave.
Close the Kitchen at Night
Limiting when you eat is just as important as what you eat. According to a recent Cell Metabolism study, mice that engaged in “time-restricted feeding”—eating only during a 9-12 hour period of activity and abstaining from food for the 12-hour sedentary, overnight period—showed signs of reversing the progression of metabolic disease and type 2 diabetes. In fact, the experiment showed that eating under a time-restricted feeding schedule effectively stymied weight gain even when used with high-calorie, high-fructose and high-fat diets. Better yet, it was found to still be effective even when the time-restricted feeding was disrupted on the weekends. In other words, stay away from the pantry from 8pm to 8am.