Photo: Olga Kriger via 123RF

Like many busy women, the last thing you want to do is prepare dinner when you get home from work or school pickups. It’s tempting to order takeout or reheat leftovers when everyone is hungry and tired. Adding simple, healthy options to your weekly meal plan means your family will get ample nutrition without the hassle. Using a slow cooker is one of the best ways to reduce stress from preparing healthy meals. Set aside 10 minutes in the morning to add the ingredients to your slow cooker, then turn on low heat. The meal will cook while you’re away from the house during the day, and you’ll return to the irresistible aroma of a home-cooked dinner.

If you’d like to master this easy dinner option, here are a few tips.

1.       Meal-prep on the weekends and freeze all ingredients together in a bag. When you’re ready to cook, dump everything into the pot. Dinner prep in less than five minutes is definitely a win.

2.       Add ingredients like pasta and rice towards the end of cooking, so they don’t get mushy. If you don’t have time for this step, choose a recipe without these components.

3.       Invest in a remote-controlled slow cooker that you can operate from afar! You can adjust the temperature for a perfectly-cooked dish at the right time.

4.       Over time, you’ll learn how to turn almost any recipe into a slow cooker meal. Until then, here are the best healthy recipes to get started.

Greek-Style Stuffed Peppers

This meal is easy to make with any protein you have on hand. Kids love eating the peppers because they’re edible bowls instead of bland vegetables. Prepping the filling for these peppers ahead of time is a good idea, especially because it freezes so well. Experiment with different spices once you’re comfortable with the basic recipe.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tacos

You don’t have to skip Taco Tuesday just because you’re busy! Use the slow cooker to make deliciously moist chicken that’s easy to shred when you get home from work. Cooking low and slow all day infuses your chicken with flavor. Serve with corn tortillas and an array of toppings!

Meatball, Sweet Potato, Kale Soup

A slow cooker is your best pal when making delectable soups and stews. Cooking the ingredients together all day gives you that depth of flavor that takes soup from good to great. This recipe incorporates several nutrient-rich vegetables, so it’s a good option for kids who typically don’t like veggies with dinner.

Lemon Rosemary Lentil Soup

This delicious soup is one of the best options for a vegetarian meal. Lentils have a bad reputation, but this recipe will change everyone’s mind. The slow cooker infuses the lentils with lots of flavors, and the texture you get at the end is unbeatable. Extend the cooking time for an even creamier version. Serve this soup with bakery-fresh bread you can grab on the way home. You’ll be an instant dinnertime hero.

Photo: alex9500 via 123RF

Whole Chicken with Potatoes

If you’re looking for an impressive dish, this is it. Serve a whole chicken to your family without much work. You will need to add the potatoes at the 5-hour mark, so make sure you have time in your day for this addition. Don’t be shy with the seasonings!

Chipotle Beef Burrito Bowls

Using a slow cooker means you don’t have to worry about cooking tougher cuts of meat. There’s plenty of time for them to get tender over low heat. Similarly, you can get flavorful and moist dishes with lower-fat cuts of meat. These beef burrito bowls are a great time to use beef that might otherwise be difficult to cook or too dry. Serve the cooked meat with a salad base or grain-free tortillas.

Coconut Quinoa Curry

For a burst of flavor, try this easy coconut curry recipe. The quinoa provides plenty of protein, so there’s no need to add meat to this vegetarian dish. Curry usually requires hours to simmer for a well-developed flavor, so using a slow cooker is a great alternative. Experiment by adding other vegetables to the mix!

With these healthy recipes as a starting point, you’ll master the slow cooker dinner in no time!