7 Healthy Meal Tips for National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month, a time to celebrate healthy eating. And what better way to do so than with tips to make healthy cooking easier. So I asked some of my dietitian colleagues for their best tips (No. 4 saves me so much time during the week!) to make nutritious cooking a no-brainer:

Buy precut produce. “Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra money by buying fruits and veggies precleaned and chopped ahead of time,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It. “Although you pay a little more money, it’s better than buying a full head of cauliflower, and then throwing it away because you didn’t feel like preparing it.”

Freeze your herbs. “We buy several pieces of fresh turmeric and ginger, peel and grate them, and freeze them in storage containers,” say Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CFT, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CFT, coauthors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “This way, they don’t go bad—and whenever we need some, we let it defrost for a couple minutes and grab a pinch.”

Cook quickie sides. “One of the things I do a lot is use microwaveable side dishes, usually whole-grain combinations,” says Maria Kinirons, RDN, director of science and nutrition at Weight Watchers International. “I’ll combine a package with about 2 to 3 cups of chopped frozen or precut fresh vegetables and some precooked grilled chicken I picked up from the deli or refrigerator section of my supermarket for really quick, tasty, and filling meals. This is good for two servings or more.”

Hard-boil eggs in advance. “I tend to buy an extra carton of eggs just for hard-boiling when I shop,” says Hope Paul, RD, certified diabetes educator coach for Weight Watchers International. “I’ll cook the whole carton when I get home from the store and stick it in the fridge so I always have that to grab.”

Get dinner started in the morning. “If you’re tight on time and need a healthy meal, a slow cooker can be your best friend,” says Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, nutrition communications expert at Shaw’s Simple Swaps. “Throw in a few chicken breasts with a large can of diced tomatoes and taco seasoning, and set the cooker to low. Run along with your day and by the time you’re ready for dinner, you’ve got slow-cooked chicken tacos ready for the entire family.”

Keep a supply of zest on hand. “Lemon zest is such a flavorful add-in to so many dishes,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, owner of NutritionStarringYOU.com. “I always keep lemon slices in a container in the fridge to add to hot water or use in recipes. The trick is zesting [the lemon] before slicing it and putting aside this powerful flavor enhancer to use later. Lemon zest adds zing to yogurt, cottage cheese, salad dressings, pasta dishes, and so much more.”

Prep some quick muffin-tin snacks. “Muffin tins are excellent for portion control, such as individual zucchini breads,” says Maggie Moon, MS, RDN, author of The MIND Diet. “Same goes for ramekins—I like making one-egg breakfasts with cut-up veggies and Sriracha. I’ll microwave them for 45 to 60 seconds.”

What are your thoughts on this topic? What are your best ways to make healthy cooking faster and easier?