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1 year ago
Healthy Meals You Can Whip Up with a Slow Cooker

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When you think slow cooker, we're guessing that tailgates, creamy stew, and all the indulgent pasta recipes on your Pinterest boards probably come to mind. But it's actually possible to throw together a healthy, hearty, low-cal meal with the same appliance that brings you mac 'n' cheese. The best part: While your slow cooker is doing its thing, making you a healthy, weight-loss friendly meal, you can actually make it to the gym and burn extra calories. Swoon.

So what are these magical pounds-dropping foods perfect for your slow cooker? Keep clicking to see all of the deliciousness.

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Oatmeal

Why: Oatmeal contains whole grains and healthy carbs, which keep you satiated and prevent that ravenous feeling that leads to overeating, says Natalie Rizzo, R.D., a New York City nutritionist. In fact, a study published in the journal Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism found that after eating oatmeal for breakfast, participants ate 30-to 50-percent less at lunch.

How: Combine oats and water in your slow cooker, cook on low overnight, and actually make it to your a.m. cycling class on time. 

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Spaghetti Squash

Why: Spaghetti squash is a great substitute for high-cal pasta. A one-cup serving only contains 42 calories and is uber filling due to its fiber content, says Josh Axe, a Nashville-based nutritionist.

How: Create a spaghetti squash dinner for one by poking holes in it and putting the entire thing in your slow cooker with one cup of water. Cook on high for two-and-a-half hours, or until the squash is soft. Once cooled, cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, use a fork to scrape out the spaghetti-ish strands, and strain the faux pasta to drain the excess moisture—and voila!

RELATED: 7 Reasons Fall Is A Great Time to Jumpstart Your Weight Loss Goals

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Lentils

Why: Lentils are high in fiber, which keeps you fuller longer and helps carry waste and excess fat out of the body, says Axe. And with 18 grams in every one-cup serving, lentils are an excellent source of plant-based protein. Getting a healthy dose of that nutrient will enable you to build new muscle and squash junk food cravings by keeping your blood sugar stable, he says.

How: Place one part lentils and two parts water in your slow cooker, add your preferred spices, and cook on low for four to six hours, or until the lentils are soft. 

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Mixed Veggies

Why: Cruciferous veggies like kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are low in calories and have lots of fiber, which make them awesome for reaching your goal weight, says Axe. Meanwhile, leafy greens, like Swiss chard, spinach, and collard greens, are loaded with nutrients, like iron, which keep your muscles functioning properly and boost your fat-burning power.  

How: In a mixing bowl, drizzle your veggies in one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with your favorite spices. Toss them around to evenly to coat, then throw them in the slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for four hours.

RELATED: 7 Foods That Boost Weight Loss AND Improve Your Workout

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Fatty Fish

Why: Fish is a protein-rich option that's also low in calories, says Jessica Cording, R.D., a dietitian at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Plus, eating fattier fish, like salmon, tuna, and trout, will keep you satiated longer.

How: To make a delish salmon dish in your slow cooker, cut filets into pieces the size of a deck of cards and lightly season them. Top each piece with a slice of lemon before individually wrapping them in foil. Add just enough water to the bottom of your slow cooker so that your fish is not submerged, and cook on low for two to three hours.

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Shredded Chicken

Why: As a quick and easy lean protein source, shredded chicken is kind of a big deal. In addition to keeping you full and crushing cravings, you can literally add chicken to almost any healthy dish, like salads, soups, and stir fry, says Natalie Rizzo, R.D., a New York City nutritionist.

How: To slow cook your quick chicken, put one pound of chicken breast and 1/4 cup chicken broth in your slow cooker (that amount should make at least three meals), and set on low heat for four to eight hours. Once it's done, it's perfect for shredding up with a fork, says Rizzo. Your Sunday meal prep just got way easier.

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Veggie Soup

Why: Ok, so, maybe this is an obvious slow-cooker food, but what might not be so "no-duh" about this weight loss-boosting meal is how freaking easy it is.

How: Just throw in a ton of raw vegetables, dried beans, broth, and spices and let them simmer on low heat for 6 to 8 hours—and bam—you've got a meal that can help you drop pounds. Broth-based vegetable soups are a great option while you're trying to slim down because they're low in calories and very filling, says Rizzo. Plus, people tend to eat soup slowly, which can keep you from mindlessly overeating.

RELATED: 6 Weight-Loss Foods Everyone Should Eat

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"Baked" Apples

Why: This recipe is the perfect way to get your fill of the comfort food you crave without the crazy calories and sugar, says Alison Massey, an R.D., at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. And who doesn't love having their place smell like pie?

How: To make this healthy dessert, core and slice five medium apples, and place them in your slow cooker with 1/2 cup of water and sweet-tasting spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg, for drool-worthy flavor. Cook on low for four to six hours, or until they reach your desired texture. By keeping the skin on, you'll get extra-filling fiber and totally satisfy your sweet tooth. 

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