Healthy summer cooking tips from Janet and Greta Podleski

When summertime rolls around, cooking healthy meals can be a challenge due to busy social schedules. Here are Janet and Greta Podleski’s tips for making summer cooking fun and fast for the whole family

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summer cooking bbq

Cook healthy, even in a hurry

Lazy days of summer? Yeah, right! Between your job, housework, social events and your kids’ extracurricular activities, it can be hard to find time to take a breath, let alone cook a healthy dinner. “We always think we have more time in the summer, but that’s not always the case,” says Greta Podleski, co-author of the illustrated cookbook Eat, Shrink & Be Merry. Along with her sister Janet, Greta has published two other fun-and funny-cookbooks that feature quick, nutritious recipes to suit all tastes. Here are their top tips for making healthy eating fun for the whole family this summer, even when you’re short on time.

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family bbq

Fire up the grill

“A lot of barbecued meals are quite healthy,” says Greta. “It’s a healthy cooking method, and it’s so easy to make a homemade burger.” Grilling is a great option for time-crunched families because you can cook an entire meal at the same time, with less clean-up. “And if you’re lighting the barbecue anyway, you may as well throw on some veg,” says Greta. But even with grilled food, you still need to make a few smart choices. When it comes to those homemade burgers, “Choose really healthy toppings,” suggests Janet. “And if you’re buying steak, remember that ‘loin’ equals ‘lean.'”

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kids gardening

Get the kids involved

“I think it’s good to get kids involved in the kitchen,” says Greta. “They’re more likely to eat something they had a hand in making.” One way to make healthy cooking fun for kids is by helping them grow their own food. School and community gardens are gaining popularity across Canada as a way to combat obesity. It can also help kids develop a greater appreciation and respect for the environment. No time to garden? Let your kids have more control at dinner time-whether they take turns choosing a favourite dish or assisting with food prep, having a hand in the process can encourage even the pickiest eater to show an interest in their meal.

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almond snack mix

On the move? Pack a healthy snack

When you’re trying to quiet a grumbling stomach, a quick, nutritious snack is a great way to ease your hunger. “It takes about 30 seconds to make a healthy snack,” says Greta. Try this “real fruit roll-up” recipe: Spread almond butter on a multi-grain or whole-wheat tortilla and wrap around a banana. Enjoy. (Yes, that’s all there is to it!) Janet also recommends filling a small food container with almond butter to use as a dip for sliced apples. Need some more inspiration? Check out this recipe for almond snack mix.

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healthy eating

Have a healthy stand-by

If you’re feeling pressed for time, rely on quick and healthy favourites, like pasta, suggests Greta. You’ll find several whole-grain pasta options at your local grocery store. Toss with a few veggies for extra fibre, and top with a low-sodium pasta sauce. No time to cook? If you can’t avoid the fast-food route, be sure to pass on high-calorie items and choose lighter fare. “It’s nice to know on days when you don’t have time to cook, there are still healthy options,” says Janet. The pair insists that balance is the key to eating healthy, even when you’re busy. “There’s a rule that Janet and I talk about called the 80-20 rule,” says Greta. “80 percent of the time, eat foods that are low-sodium, contain good fats, etcetera. The other 20 percent, let yourself eat what you’re craving.” “Most people have it reversed, and that’s the problem,” says Janet.

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bbq chicken kebabs

Try a healthy dinner recipe

Need some weeknight dinner inspiration? Here are three nutritious-and speedy-recipes from Janet and Greta’s Eat, Shrink & Be Merry that will save you time in the kitchen so you can get out there and enjoy all that summer has to offer.

Bird on a Wire

The Grill of my Dreams

Turk du Soleil

5 must-use summer cooking ingredients
20 healthy grilling recipes
Healthy summer cocktail ideas

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