THE BLOG

Newlyweds Need Not Have an Intimidating Kitchen

06/10/2013 06:42 pm ET | Updated Aug 10, 2013

Exhilaration and excitement comes with wedding preparations, the wedding and then the honeymoon! However, newlyweds often have a reality adjustment once all the bags are unpacked. Nothing is more intimidating than the kitchen and preparing a home-cooked meal can seem like a daunting task to the beginner cook. As that familiar adage goes, "the way to your lover's heart is through his (or her) stomach."

Choose Healthy Cooking Over Fast Food

Americans tend to eat out often, on average, up to 4 to 5 times per week and one out of four people eat fast food every day. Don't let fast food be your everyday dinner as most menu options tend to be unhealthily too high in calories, fat and sodium. Cooking in the kitchen doesn't have to be a thing of the past. One hundred years ago people spent about seven hours per day in the kitchen and cleaning, now they are spending less than one hour! Today, with both spouses working, cooking, much less healthy cooking, can be challenging. With a few tips and tweaks, the newlywed can easily have a doable time-friendly, healthy kitchen in no time.

Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry

First of all, my favorite tip to achieve easy, healthy cooking is to keep a well-stocked pantry. It is like having a permanent shopping list -- keep all of your basics on your shelves, such as low-sodium broths, canned tomatoes, whole wheat pastas, frozen and canned veggies. This allows you to pull an ingredient out of the pantry and whip up a nutritious go-to meal in minutes without having to stress about what's for dinner.

Stock Your Freezer

And don't forget your freezer as it is an extension of your pantry. The freezer is a great place to store make-ahead meals and leftovers that make great, no-fuss dinners on an extra-busy day. Double the recipe and place half in the freezer to pull out when you need a quick healthier 'tv dinner' meal. Lasagna works well this way; just cut into portion sizes and freeze in individual freezer zip-top bags.

Choose Lean Meat

Also, if you see a great deal on lean cuts of meat or ground beef, pick up a few containers and freeze to pull out for a simple quick-fix. When buying ground meat, look for the leaner cuts that end in "loin" or "round," and purchase in bulk on sale. Shape into burger patties and pop into the freezer to pull out for a quick meal in seconds. No need to zip through the drive through when you can do it even faster, healthier and at your own convenience.

Proper Freezing Techniques

For successful frozen meals there are certain tips and techniques to follow to ensure the best flavor and texture of your food. Food must be at room temperature before freezing and avoid freezing high sodium foods as salt lowers the freezing point of water. Don't overload your freezer and when pulling out your frozen meal, do not put a cold dish in a hot oven as the dish may possibly break. Some foods do freeze better than others. Soups, stews and chilies tend to get richer in flavor over time, making a great freezable meal.

Choose the Correct Freezer Container

Remember to freeze your foods in the proper container to prolong their shelf live and avoid freezer burn. Air and moisture are the two major culprits in causing freezer burn. Some valuable tips when choosing your moisture proof and airtight food containers include, using proper plastic freezer containers or freezer plastic zip top bags. Pack food compactly into the container to reduce air but allow some room for food to expand. If planning on reheating frozen food in the same container, use only microwaveable-safe plastic containers.

Short-Cut Ingredients At the Grocery

These days the grocery stores are helping us out by offering time-saving short cut ingredients so take advantage! No time to chop? Make it easy on yourself and buy fresh or frozen white and green onions already chopped -- no tears required! You can also find chopped onions and peppers in the freezer aisle. Raid a salad or olive bar and buy already cut cabbage (coleslaw) and Kalamata olives for special recipes. If a recipe calls for chicken, use rotisserie or frozen grilled chicken breasts from the store for a time saver. Simply used the cooked chicken in any casserole, pasta salad or mix with green lettuce and your favorite veggies for a healthy hearty meal in minutes.

Quick and Easy Gourmet Meals

Marinara in a jar is another great way to have dinner ready in a flash. With so many sauce options available today, you can even find "healthy" low-sugar varieties. To take it up a notch add your own browned ground meat and chopped sautéed veggies, such as onion, celery, carrots and garlic for an easy gourmet sauce over pasta. Also, why not give whole grain pasta a try? For health, make the transition to whole grain rice and pasta for extra nutrients and fiber, as one cup of white rice contains less than one gram of fiber, while one cup of brown rice contains more than three grams of fiber.

And remember to always keep nutritious and quick snacks on hand, which are easy to make too. By keeping whole wheat flour, oats, fruit, nuts and dried berries on hand you can easily whip up on-the-go granola, breakfast bars and muffins. No need for intimidation in your kitchen anymore! By keeping a these go-to healthy basics stocked in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer you now have the tools to conquer that empty plate with an easy, yet delicious meal that is sure to please your spouse!

With over 1 million cookbooks sold, Holly Clegg has become a culinary expert on practical easy, healthy recipes through her best-selling trim&TERRIFIC® cookbook series, including the more health-focused cookbooks, Diabetic Cooking with the ADA, Eating Well Through Cancer, and Eating Well to Fight Arthritis. Clegg has appeared on Fox & Friends, NBC Weekend Today, The 700 Club, USA Today, Web MD, and The Huffington Post. Visit www.hollyclegg.com or http://thehealthycookingblog.com to learn more about Holly's food tips and visit her author blog on Red Room.