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6 Heart-Healthy Dinner Time Savers

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Written by Andrea Ho, a registered dietitian with the Schulich Heart Program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Going back to the school and work routine after the summer holidays can be both exciting and exhausting. Dinner can easily become an afterthought during this busy transition time, but it's important to keep your energy up! Skip the drive-thru and try these heart-healthy tips to speed up your weeknight dinner prep time:

#1 Take the guesswork out of dinner

Don't wait until the last minute to think of what to make for dinner. Plan a few meals ahead of time on the weekend and stock up on the ingredients you need so that you don't have to make an after-school or after-work grocery run. Looking for healthy recipes? Check out nutritious meal ideas from Eat Right Ontario.

#2 Wash and chop ahead of time

Save yourself some time and energy during the week by washing and cutting vegetables ahead of time so that they are ready to use for cooking. Portion out your meat or seafood and store it in the freezer in freezer-safe containers. The day before you want to cook, put the meat or seafood in the fridge to defrost overnight. You can also marinate the ingredients in its freezer-safe container, which means one less dish to wash!

#3 Buy ready-to-use ingredients

No time in advance to prepare? Pre-cut vegetables, canned legumes (e.g. kidney beans, chickpeas), and pre-cut raw meat are just a few examples of ready-to-use ingredients that can come in handy when you're on a time crunch. Avoid the ingredients that have been pre-seasoned or pre-marinated though -- you can do this at home in no time, and you'll have more control over the amount of salt and seasoning.

#4 Stock up on the staples

Keep your fridge, pantry and freezer stocked with versatile and long-lasting ingredients. Carrots, onions, and celery can be kept in the fridge for a long time, and frozen vegetables are a good staple to keep on hand when you don't have time to wash or chop vegetables. Canned no-salt-added tomatoes, canned beans, low-sodium broth, low-sodium pasta sauce, and whole grain or whole wheat pasta can be kept in the pantry and used for a quick soup, stew, or pasta. With some of these staple items, you can make a hearty and healthy vegetable bean soup in just 30 minutes!

#5 Double your recipe

Make extra portions when you're cooking so that you can enjoy delicious leftovers for a few extra meals (and conserve energy by not having to cook every day).

#6 Use a slow cooker

Coming home to a meal that is already cooked and ready to eat means less stress and a more enjoyable dinner time -- so, let a slow cooker do the work for you! Prepare the ingredients the night before, add them to the slow cooker in the morning before leaving home, and follow the recipe. You'll have a nice hot meal waiting for you when you get home.

Find more healthy eating tips & recipes from our nutrition experts at health.sunnybrook.ca

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