The crockpot is a simple, delicious way to make preparing healthy food easier than ever before. Often praised for its ability to help you create "set it and forget it" meals, the crockpot isn’t just a timesaver when it comes to preparing dinner for your family. It can help you make work lunches, too. Check out these five reasons to embrace this convenient kitchen appliance and bring healthy, fun lunches to the office every day of the week.
1. Make Pulled Pork/Chicken/Beef
Perhaps nothing is better to make in a crockpot than pork which can then be shredded with two forks to make pulled pork sandwiches. The crockpot uses low, slow heat to make any kind of meat or poultry tasty. Whether you’re making beef, pork or chicken, prep your ingredients in the morning and put the slow cooker on before you leave for work, and you will be rewarded with a delicious dinner when you get home. Make more than the recipe says – doubling or even tripling it is a good idea – and you have lunch for a few days.
- Forget the obvious sandwich and make a pulled pork/beef/chicken taco. Grab two corn or whole-wheat tortillas to get some whole grains, and top with lettuce and red pepper.
- Make a quinoa salad with your leftover crockpot meat, and add some vegetables for extra nutrition.
- Fill a container with meat, brown rice and beans for a healthy take on Mexican.
2. Get Warm with Chili
Chili is perhaps the simplest meal to make in a crockpot as no precooking of ingredients is necessary at all. Whether you’re into turkey or beef chili, all you have to do is put the ground meat, beans, can of tomatoes, and spices into the crockpot, and let it cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours. Take chili to work, either plain or with a variety of toppings (avocado, green onions, and chopped tomato are good, healthy options – add some cheese if you want a splurge and hit of calcium), and pack an extra container full of brown rice or quinoa if you want to serve your chili over carbohydrates. You can make your chili in the crockpot overnight while you sleep and wake up to enough for several days of work lunches, or you can cook it on high for four hours around dinnertime, chill it in the fridge, and then take it to work with you the next morning.
3. Think Outside the (Crockpot) Box
So much more than just meat or chili can be made in a crockpot. You can make grains and even oatmeal. It couldn’t be easier to make whole grains this way: just put your choice (whether it’s quinoa, barley, etc.) into the crockpot with half a cup of your choice of liquid (either plain water or chicken broth for some extra flavor). Feel free to finish the grains off with salt, pepper and lemon when you’re ready to pack your lunch. The good news is that quinoa is a complete protein, meaning that it has every necessary amino acid, so you can enjoy it for lunch with anything you want, whether it’s a hot lunch with your choice of beans, or cold with some roasted zucchini and eggplant.
4. Tomato, Tomato
Tomatoes are a key ingredient for the slow cooker because the acid breaks down and becomes sweet, much like when you’re standing over the stove making a pasta sauce. Make tomato soup or even meat sauce in your crockpot, and you can bring a hot lunch to work to look forward to when you’re spending all morning sending emails, writing up proposals or contributing to meetings. You can go with the traditional tomato soup and grilled cheese combo, making it healthier by toasting low fat cheese on a piece of whole grain bread in your office kitchen, or you can slurp up a bowl of pasta and meat sauce, changing up the typical white pasta for whole-wheat or even gluten-free brands made of corn, quinoa or brown rice.
5. Get Creative
You can cook almost anything in the crockpot. If you’re feeling ambitious, get creative and think up an original recipe on a weeknight when you have some extra time after you eat dinner. The only thing to keep in mind is that quickly searing your protein will contribute to more flavor later on. Start with a lean protein, like chicken breast or pork tenderloin, and add some liquid, seasonings and vegetables. Cook your creation on high for four hours and you have a new, interesting lunch to look forward to.
See also: How to Make Cheap Healthy Lunches
You have to eat lunch every day, of course, so it should be as healthy, easy and, of course, interesting and delicious as possible. Use these easy ideas and make your work lunches in your crockpot. It’s as efficient as can be and will ensure that you never go without a healthy lunch, enabling you to look forward to it all morning long and to be able to focus and perform at your optimal level for the duration of the afternoon.