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When you think about cutting down the time you spend in the kitchen, you might think that means buying more takeout and processed foods (with plenty of calories, fat, and sodium). But it doesn't have to be that way. You can prepare meals in your kitchen with an eye toward health while still keeping the time spent in a hot kitchen to a minimum. Here are a few fast-cooking tips and tricks to help you save on prep time while making healthy meals for yourself and your family.

Fast-Cooking Tip No. 1: Use Pre-cooked Meats

  •  In your grocery deli, you can often buy roast beef or roasted turkey, both of which are lean meat choices. You can even ask for extra thick slices so you can dice it and use in recipes.
  • Fresh off the rotisserie or grill, skinless chicken breasts, whole chickens, and half turkey breasts are available in many supermarkets. Remove the skin, then shred or cut the meat as needed for your recipe.
  • A couple of companies are now offering seasoned grilled chicken strips. Find the packages near the lunch meat section in your grocery store.
  • You can buy cooked shrimp at the fish counter or in the frozen fish section.

Fast-Cooking Tip No. 2: Have a Main Dish Salad

Main dish salads are the perfect summer supper -- cool, light, and quick to fix. Salad greens are the base ingredient and that's easy: just open a bag of salad greens or spinach leaves and pour into a bowl. Then throw in the rest of the ingredients and toss. Convenient add-ins include reduced-fat cheese or crumbled blue cheese, grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, dried cranberries, walnuts, etc.

Fast-Cooking Tip No 3. Make It Vegetarian

One way to save time cooking the meat portion of your meal is to skip the meat. Some easy vegetarian entrees include bean and cheese burritos, vegetarian burgers (they take about four minutes to brown in a nonstick frying pan), egg-based entrees like omelets, and vegetarian sandwiches featuring cheese and/or roasted vegetables.

Fast-Cooking Tip No 4: Heat up an Upscale Frozen Entree

You can find flavorful frozen entrees in many supermarkets. There are even great-tasting and lower-fat choices for people looking for vegetarian, fish, ethnic cuisine, or lean meat options. You'll find a plethora of vegetarian and ethnic cuisine selections in places like Trader Joes and Whole Foods Markets.

Fast-Cooking Tip No. 5: Add Some Store-Prepared Gourmet Items

Save time in the kitchen -- while cranking up the fancy factor -- by buying a few key gourmet items often prepared at Whole Foods Market and similar upscale markets. Look for items like:

  • Freshly assembled avocado-mango salsa (great for gourmet style quesadillas, tacos, meat entrees, and more).
  • Roasted vegetables (great for sandwiches, vegetarian quesadillas and tacos, and more).
  • Grilled salmon and chicken breast (great for pasta dishes, main dish salads, Mexican-style entrees, and more).

WebMD Video Series

Click here to wach video: Creative Meals for Kids

With both parents and kids on the go these days, it's getting harder to eat healthy. We give you creative tips to get your family on a better diet.

Click here to watch video: Creative Meals for Kids

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