Diet

Healthy one-pot meals: Four key ingredients

One-pot meals like soups and stews are easy to make, require less clean-up, and hit the spot on a cool day. Make yours healthy with these four essential ingredients

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There’s just something so great about getting cozy with a warm bowl of soup or stew during the cooler days of fall and winter. The best part is how easy it is to make these one-pot meals yourself — in fact, it is easier than preparing your average dinner at home, which usually involves preparing multiple recipes to get a balanced meal.

In order for your one-pot meal to cover all of your nutritional needs, you will need to include a few key ingredients. Make sure your meals have one choice from each of these four categories:

1. Vegetables

Onions, carrots, and celery provide a great base for soup or stew by giving your water some flavour. Next, you can add in seasonal vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, fennel, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. You can get really crazy here! Use as many vegetables as you’d like to include.

2. Legumes

These are best when cooked from scratch. Legumes like beans and lentils add a low-fat source of iron, fibre, and protein to your meal. Choose from chickpeas, black beans, white beans, lentils, yellow split peas, kidney beans, mung beans, or black-eyed peas.

3. Herbs and spices

Make sure to have some basics on hand, including cumin, parsley, sage, oregano, garlic, ginger, rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram, turmeric. Check out my list of six essentials herbs and spices for healthy cooking.

4. Whole grains

Using barley, oats, quinoa, brown rice, or millet can add a dose of complex carbohydrates, texture, and substance to your pot. Whole grains up your dish’s fibre content as well.

There you have it — a well-rounded one-pot meal! These dishes make for a convenient and easy approach to dinnertime in the fall and winter months. You can make a large batch and take portions out as you need them throughout the week, or even warm some up and put it into a stainless steel thermos for you or your kids to take on the go for lunches. You can also freeze portions in glass containers and store them for a snowy day when you don’t feel like cooking or going anywhere.

Why not benefit from cooking some of your own meals at home? You get to be creative, you know what goes into it, it’s convenient, and you know it’s going to be delicious! You can start with this healthy recipe for minestrone soup, featuring seasonal chard and butternut squash, and check out a month’s worth of one-pot recipes here.

New-age minestrone

Ingredients:
1 Spanish onion, cut into large dice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1½ teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4-6 cups filtered water or stock
1 bay leaf
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into medium dice (or roast half squash in oven on 350F for 45 minutes, peel flesh away from skin, and place in pot)
1 sweet potato, cut into large dice
3 ribs celery, cut into large dice
1 large or 2 small zucchini, cut into small chunks
1 bunch of chard, cut into bit-sized pieces
1 cup kidney beans (optional), soaked and cooked
½ cup elbow brown rice noodles (optional), cooked

Procedure:
1. In a small pot, sweat onion in oil with salt until soft.

2. Add oregano and sweat a few more minutes.

3. Add water and bay leaf.

4. Add vegetables in order given (squash, sweet potatoes, celery, zucchini).

5. Turn up heat until water bubbles, then lower and simmer covered for 40-45 minutes.

6. Stir vegetables until squash falls apart.

7. Add in chopped chard.

8. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

9. Stir a few more times and serve.

For a smoother texture, simmer the squash separately until soft (in 1-2 cups of water), and puree in a food processor. Add squash to the soup for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.