Slow Cooking Your Way To An Easy And Healthy Meal

February 6, 2013

Slow Cooking Your Way To An Easy And Healthy Meal

by Cassie I. Truran, RD

Does this sound like a familiar situation? It’s 5:05 pm, there is a sea of brake lights in front of you and your stomach is trying to remind you, with grumbling noises, that it’s hungry. You rack your brain trying to come up with what to prepare for dinner, and though you know it’s not the healthiest option, it’s simply easiest to make the familiar trip through the drive through. Even if you had something to make at home it would take too long to prepare because you are now starving. At this point you are in a common place where failure to plan ahead results in rash food choices.

By spending a few extra minutes in the morning preparing for dinner, you can avoid making poor food choices. Dig out and dust off your slow cooker and get ready for some easy, delicious meals.

Slow cookers can be used day or night. Since foods are cooked slowly over a long period of time, meats and vegetables become extremely tender, increasing food tolerability following weight loss surgery. In addition, family members who have not had surgery will also enjoy the versatility of the dishes that you can prepare using a slow cooker.

The four “S's”of slow cookers:


Slow cookers come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Typical capacity ranges from two cups to seven quarts. Most have removable bowls and an outer casing. Having the removable bowl makes clean up just as quick as the preparation. Most slow cookers have two to three setting options ranging from low to high to auto.


There are a number of online cookbooks that offer slow cooker recipes. Some have as few as three ingredients, where as others are more of a gourmet style. It is important that you add ingredients in a particular order. The first layer should be vegetables, followed by proteins, then any optional herbs/spices or foods, finally top with liquids. (See table for ideas on creating your own recipe.)


Make sure to trim excess fat off of meats and poultry before placing them in the slow cooker. To increase the tolerability of your meal, cut your proteins and vegetables into small dime-sized pieces. Doing this will help with the cooking process as well as make it easier for you to tolerate. You can speed up the cooking process by sautéing the vegetables and meats in a little bit of olive oil prior to placing them in the slow cooker.


Slow cookers need moisture to generate steam which facilitates cooking. The slow cooker pot generally works best when it is ½ to ¾ of the way full. Make sure you put enough liquid in to reach that capacity. It is best to leave the slow cooker alone during the cooking process. Opening the lid and stirring the ingredients will actually delay the cooking process. Once you put the lid on, place it on low for as few as 6 or as long as 10 hours.

Here are some examples of the many food items that you could place in your slow cooker, be creative and feel free to try new ideas and combinations.  

Bottom layer: Vegetables

Middle layer:


Top layer:



 (food items, add with first layer, herbs/spices add with top layer)

Onions (try red, white or green), celery, carrots, squash Beef, lamb or pork  (make sure you purchase lean meats, 95% or leaner) Broth or stock -vegetable, chicken, or beef Dried Herbs (parsley, tarragon, basil, onion powder, garlic powder, all purpose seasoning)
Potatoes (try small red potatoes for added flavor), peas, corn Any form of poultry, chicken breasts, ground turkey (sauté ground turkey first to brown it)  Salsa or low sugar barbeque sauce Cooked brown rice, cooked whole wheat pasta, cooked whole grain risotto (add the last hour)
Mushrooms (use button or baby portabellas) Fish- cooked skinless salmon, canned tuna, shrimp, shallots Low fat canned creamed soups- cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, etc. Salt and Pepper
Broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes Canned beans drained Tomato puree Citrus fruits, apples, dried apricots

*Measurements of each food item will vary depending on the size of your slow cooker as well as the number of servings you are making.

Print this page, choose at least one ingredient from each layer, and create your own recipe below:

1st layer________________________


2nd layer________________________


3rd layer________________________


4th layer________________________


Example Recipe:

1st layer: Sautéed carrots, onions, and celery

2nd layer: Raw boneless, skinless chicken breast’s

3rd layer: 1 can tomato puree plus chicken stock to fill ½ - ¾ of the slow cooker

4th layer: salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Check internal temperature of chicken to make sure it reaches at least 165° F.

Taking the time to prepare one of these delicious slow cooker meals to enjoy at the end of your day not only can be a tasty meal for the whole family, but it can save your pocketbook and waist-line from any high priced, unhealthy, so-called value meal. Enjoy!

Cassie I. Truran, RD, has been the lead dietitian at Scottsdale Bariatric Center for the past five years and has participated as faculty for several national allied health educational bariatric seminars. She can be reached at [email protected].

-Feature photo courtesy of sarae.