Students make healthy meals with slow cookers

Ari Davis
Kylee Marshall makes her dinner in a slow cooker to keep up with her demanding student schedule. (Ari Davis)

Busy students may push aside the idea of preparing meals, but using a slow cooker can create an easy routine for students to make sure they have a healthy meal on the table, according to BYU dietetics student Molli Fowler.

Using chicken is a cheap and healthy way to get necessary protein in all meals, according to Fowler. She said chicken can be used with almost any meal.

“Using chicken or any kind of meat you want makes it really easy to make a well-rounded meal,” Fowler said. “No matter what, it always comes out good. So when I plan my meals, I try to incorporate something I can shape the meal around which makes it easier putting together dinner when I get home.”

BYU family life student Kylee Marshall said she finds slow cooker meals to be the best way to make food as a busy college student. She said being prepared for the week with meals helps with the stress of cooking and eating healthy.

Marshall said an easy go-to recipe is chicken breasts with any sauce like salsa, orange chicken sauce or even teriyaki sauce. She said after the chicken is finished, all that needs to be done is a side of vegetables, and an entire meal is prepared.

BYU Dietetics Department intern Rachel Chaffetz said there are plenty of vegetarian meals that can also be made with a slow cooker if students can’t or don’t want to purchase meat. She said vegetarian meals, although meatless, are still healthy and less expensive.

“Vegetarian meals are usually brimming with vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains,” Chaffetz said. “For example, a (slow cooker) vegetarian chili recipe contains beans for protein and fiber, vegetables for vitamins and minerals, and can be paired with brown rice for a very filling and very cheap dinner.”

Planning out slow cooker meals in advance can help students organize their day better and give structure to dinner after a day at school and work, according to Chaffetz.

“Students, or any other human with a busy schedule, can benefit from using a (slow cooker) because meals can be prepared in the morning or even the night before, left in the (slow cooker) all day and are ready to eat the minute the student returns home,” Chaffetz said.

Fowler said she depends on her slow cooker meals to help with her schedule, especially as a student who tries to maintain healthy, balanced meals.

“I can throw in all the ingredients in the morning, turn it on low and then when I come home from school, all I have to do is stir it up and make some rice, pasta or veggies to go with it,” Fowler said. “College students don’t have two to three hours or even an hour to make dinner. The beauty of the (slow cooker) is that with a little bit of preparation in the morning, you can come home to a delicious meal that is ready to eat.”

Marshall said she recommends students prepare their food for the slow cooker beforehand to make the process easier.

“I like to prep beforehand during the week,” Marshall said. “I chop up vegetables or anything else I want, and when I come home, I just throw it in the (slow cooker) for the last 30 minutes and it’s ready to go.”

Chaffetz said if students cook in a slow cooker at home, they are likely going to make a healthier meal than if they were to go out to eat somewhere. 

“Students should try to find recipes that follow the Choose My Plate guidelines,” Chaffetz said. “Half of the dish is composed of vegetables, a quarter is composed of lean proteins and a quarter is composed of whole grains.”

Having a smaller slow cooker will help with correct portion sizes when cooking for one or two people, according to Marshall.

“Portions don’t have to be big for one person, so having a smaller (slow cooker) is great for controlling those portions,” Marshall said. “It also cooks things a little faster too, especially if you’re in a hurry, which is always a plus.”

Fowler said most of her recipes come from Pinterest, and she recommends any student wanting to cook with a slow cooker start there first.

“There are a bunch of recipes on Pinterest or other places online to try,” Fowler said. “There is a (slow cooker) recipe for almost every food.”

The kitchen can be a bit intimidating at times, but Marshall said slow cookers help with the fear of cooking.

“Don’t be scared of using the (slow cooker),” Marshall said. “Just look up some recipes on Pinterest. No one can ever go wrong with those recipes. (Slow cooker) recipes are foolproof and they are perfect even if you don’t know how to cook.”

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