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Summer can be a controversial season. While some people wait all year for these warm months to arrive and revel in the summer activities they love most, others dread seeing temperatures spike and resort to moving as little as possible in an effort to stay cool. No matter which side you lay on, you still have to find ways to eat during the summer. Even the most avid summer-lovers can’t deny that cooking a big, healthy meal becomes a much harder task in the sweltering summer.
Luckily, there are ways you can achieve healthy summer cooking without overheating your kitchen. Let’s take a look at effective strategies to make sure that you can eat healthy — rather than relying on takeout — while also creating meals that you can easily transport for your summer travels and that don’t take over your kitchen.
Cook Without Heat
This is perhaps the most obvious tip for healthy summer cooking that doesn’t overheat your kitchen. There are plenty of ways to cook a filling, healthy meal that don’t involve heat. Step away from your stovetop and refrain from turning the oven on for your summer meals this year. Instead, look at all of the seasonal produce available and figure out how you can make tasty meals with that that don’t require any cooking. To find the best produce in your area, check out your local farmer’s market. Alternatively, you could grow your own veggies in a garden if you have the outdoor space.
What exactly can you make without using heat? There are plenty of healthy summer cooking options! One of the most obvious is a salad. You can prepare salads with plenty of vegetables such as spinach, bell peppers, and mushrooms. Not only do these veggies go well in a salad, but they can also boost your immune system. If you take care to strengthen your immune system now, you may be able to better fight off the cold or flu in the colder months when those viruses start circulating. Although it is important to get flu treatment as soon as possible when you come down with the infection, you may be able to prevent catching it at all by eating nutritious and vitamin-rich foods throughout the year. Other no-heat meals you can easily cook during the summer and pack with healthy foods include chilled soups and fresh, raw dishes.
Lighten Up Your Regular Dishes
Many families may not have a problem with cooking during the summer. Whether you just don’t mind your kitchen getting a little toasty or you recently invested in a high-quality air conditioning system that keeps your whole house cool, you may still be willing to turn up the heat to cook your favorite meals during the summer. However, what you may want to avoid is consuming heavy meals. If you tend to participate in summer activities like biking or swimming, it can feel like heavy meals are weighing you down and you’ll just be uncomfortable as a result of what you ate rather than rejuvenated.
When you cook during the summer, try preparing lighter versions of your usual dishes. A simple way to do this is to use less of the starches you would usually use. You could use thinner versions of the pasta you would usually use, such as angel hair or orzo. To still ensure that the meal is filling, add a lot of veggies. You could even use veggies to completely replace starches, such as making rice out of cauliflower and noodles out of julienned zucchini. As starches can react with your saliva to turn into sugars and harm your dental health, you may also be able to save on a trip to the dentist by cutting back on the amount of starches you eat. You can follow this same guideline when making sandwiches by creating open-faced sandwiches with plenty of crunchy, fresh vegetables rather than using a lot of bread.
Use Countertop Appliances to Cook
You probably have quite a few appliances sitting on top of your counters or tucked away into your kitchen cupboards that tend to spend more time gathering dust than cooking food. The summer is the perfect time to dust them off and put them to use for healthy summer cooking. This is because countertop appliances generate and emit less heat than your oven.
Start with breaking out your pressure cooker. You can use this appliance to cook grains and beans and can do so while you’re out of the house at work or enjoying the summer sun. While you’re going about your day, your pressure cooker will do the work of cooking your meal without heating up your kitchen. When you get home, your dinner will be ready and waiting for you. There are plenty of slow cooker recipes out there waiting to be used, all you have to do is search for them online and find the ones that fit best with your tastes and preferences.
A blender is another great countertop appliance and it can make more than just juices and smoothies. This handy device is especially handy for making chilled soups that make a great meal on a hot day. You can even use your microwave for healthy summer cooking. While many people associate microwaves with heating up frozen meals that lack nutritious value, you can cook meals with fresh ingredients in a microwave. Simply look up some microwave meal recipes that give you nutrients without heating up your kitchen. By using these appliances instead of your stove and oven, you’ll also reduce your risk of getting burned and needing to seek medical care. Burns are an all-too-common side effect of cooking and serious ones require medical treatment at an urgent care or emergency room.
Cook in Batches
If you’re going to heat up your kitchen by cooking with your oven or stove, you might as well make double or triple portions so that you can have prepared food for the rest of the week. This method will allow you to cook just once in a week and still give you healthy summer cooking to enjoy. You could either store what you’re not eating in containers in your fridge or divide up your portions and put some in the freezer for later. If you have a freezer in the garage, storing pre-cooked meals during the summer can be a great use for this appliance. Just be sure that you can easily close up your garage and that you contact a garage door repair service if you’re having issues closing the doors. You’ll want to make sure that you keep your garage as cool as possible so that your freezer doesn’t have to work overtime. If the garage door stays open, you let a lot of heat into the space.
You can make large portions and store leftovers for almost any type of food, from roasted vegetables in a tasty sauce to a pasta complete with asparagus and peas. As you prepare these batches, it’s a good idea to think about meals that you can eat cold and don’t have to heat up again. Not only will this prevent your kitchen from getting warm again, but you can easily transport these types of meals on summer trips. If you’re traveling across the country in a used RV with your family for a fun summer vacation, you can pack these pre-made meals for the road. You can easily store the meals in the fridge of the RV and then crack them open when you need to eat.
Batch-cooked meals also tend to do well when you go on picnics or other day trips during the summer. All you need to do is pack a hard cooler with ice and the food you want to bring. The insulation of the cooler will keep the food chilled and then you’ll be able to enjoy the food as if it were fresh. This is a great way to enjoy healthy summer cooking rather than relying on easy-to-open junk food when you have a picnic.
Keep Everything Simple
You don’t have to whip up fancy, complicated meals for healthy summer cooking. Some of the healthiest foods are the simplest ones. Not only will simplifying your meals keep you from running your oven and stove and heating up your kitchen, but it will give you more time to do the activities you love during the summer, even if that’s just sitting outside in the sunshine reading a book.
When you go grocery shopping, you can simplify the work you have to do at home by buying pre-cooked meats or tofu and pre-sliced vegetables and fruit. These items will cost a bit more for the preparation that goes into them, but the price can be worth it if you don’t want to work up a sweat in the kitchen.
If you decide that you don’t want to pay extra for prepared foods, trying doing the proper prep work as soon as you get home from the store. Peel, slice, dice, and chop all of your items at one time to get it all done and then keep them refrigerated in storage bags or containers. If you’re washing off produce, just be sure that you have a trustworthy source of water that will properly clean fruits and vegetables. The plumbing in some homes, especially those in rural areas, connects to well water, which may not be safe to wash produce with. Be sure that you know that you’re safely washing your produce and that you call a plumbing professional if you need to make any adjustments to your water source.
By preparing your groceries as soon as you get home from the store, you’ll have a much simpler time when you’re ready to eat. Half of the work will already be done when it’s time to cook. You’ll also be more likely to snack on healthy fruits and vegetables if they’re already prepared. Cutting up apple slices, for instance, is a great way to encourage your kids to snack on nutritious fruit rather than chips and cookies. As apples can help clean teeth after eating sugary and sticky foods, this strategy can also help ensure that your child has good dental health the next time they visit their pediatric dentist. Celery and carrots also do a similar job in teeth cleaning, so having those prepared for your little one is a good idea as well.
Try to keep your cooking simple by making one-pot meals. Some of the tastiest one-pot meals are risotto and mac and cheese. These types of meals allow for easy cooking and easy clean-up. Add in plenty of veggies and try to go easy on the sauces. Not only do sauces often require a separate pot, but tomato-based ones can hurt your teeth whitening efforts and aren’t good for your dental health. Skipping a hearty tomato sauce will also help keep your meal fresh and light.
Healthy summer cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the simpler it is the healthier it can be. Before you resort to ordering pizza for the third week in a row, consider how you can plan ahead for healthy summer cooking that doesn’t heat up your kitchen. With some careful thought and planning, you can create meals that you and your family love to eat without breaking a sweat this summer.