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Fall is one of the busiest times of year for many of us. Your schedule is packed, kids need to be driven to practice, and you just don’t have time to make the healthy, home-cooked meals you’d like to. When life gets busy, it’s time to grab onto your slow cooker and save some serious time!
Nutritionists like me are always encouraging folks to eat more whole grains. They’re hearty, high in fiber, and can help you feel full for hours. But many whole grains, like farro, barley, steel cut oats and brown rice take 40 minutes or more to cook on the stove top, which is way too long for busy weekday mornings.
One of the healthiest ways to start your day is with a bowl of steel cut oatmeal. It’s incredibly satisfying and contains beta-glucan, a type soluble fiber in oats, which helps to lower bad cholesterol. Having a batch ready for you and the kids at breakfast is totally doable when you make it in your slow cooker. Set up this Maple Oatmeal in your slow cooker the night before, get a great night’s sleep, and wake up to deliciousness in the morning.
Casey Barber / TODAY
We all know we should be getting more fiber in our diet to help improve digestion and head off a slew of health issues. We often think of sweet potatoes for stews and savory dishes, but they also make a filling breakfast. One large sweet potato contains 6 grams of fiber, and if you load it up with additional fruit and nuts, you’ll get even more. Pop those taters in the slow cooker at night and by morning you can top them up with berries, granola and even tropical fruit! Get the details for Slow Cooker Breakfast Sweet Potatoes.
Soups and stews
Nothing beats a steaming bowl of soup to warm up on chilly fall days. The magic of soup is that you can fit so many nutrient-packed ingredients in one comforting bowl. And with a slow cooker, there’s no need to babysit your dish. Simply load those healthy root veggies, grains and lean cuts of meat into your machine and get back to the really important stuff, like catching up on your fave Netflix series.
If you’re looking for a Meatless Monday meal, try this vegan Slow-Cooker Farro Soup. Farro is also known as einkorn and is an ancient variety of wheat that’s known for its nutty flavor and chewy texture. For something a little more stick-to-your-ribs, try this Slow Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili Verde. It’s perfect for game day or any time you’re looking to warm up with a healthy bowl.
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Meat and seafood
Roasted chicken, lamb, pork and beef can all be the protein-rich centerpiece for a nutritious weeknight meal, but if you’re looking to cut out the active cooking time, make these meats in the slow cooker and then serve them in fun ways all week long.
Pulled pork is super versatile and we love this 4 Ingredient Slow-Cooker Kalua Pulled Pork because it’s so simple and flavorful. Once the pork is cooked, you can serve it in lettuce wraps with slaw, over baked sweet potatoes or in a crunchy burrito bowl, which helps you get more veggies into your day.
And speaking of vegetables, is it possible to make a filling veggie-based dish in a slow cooker? Absolutely! We can’t wait to cook up a batch of this Slow Cooker White Bean and Kale Chili. It’s got plenty of plant protein from the beans, immune boosting beta-carotene from the kale, plus healthy fat from avocado.
Many of us are trying to add more seafood to our diets because it’s so good for our hearts. Cioppino is a seafood stew that is pretty complicated to make on the stovetop, but Giada’s Slow Cooker Cioppino with salmon makes it simple to do. It’s savory, satisfying and all you need to add is some crusty bread to soak up the rich broth.
Zach Pagano / TODAY
Eating a healthy, balanced diet certainly leaves room for better-for-you treats! We love Siri Daly’s Slow Cooker Banana Bread when we’re craving something a little sweet. It’s perfect for those times when your oven is busy with other tasks, like during the busy holiday season. And since we’re officially now in pumpkin spice mode, this Slow Cooker Pumpkin Cobbler recipe will definitely hit the spot.
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
Thanks to your slow cooker, you’ll have more time for other fun fall activities, like leaf peeping, hiking and apple picking. And if you do that, we’re pretty sure you’ll need this Slow Cooker Applesauce recipe!