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Health, Santa Monica, Columnist

10 Fast, Easy Tips For Fresh, Healthy Meals

Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Courtesy Photo
Dr. Mao Shing Ni

Posted Jun. 19, 2014, 8:51 am

Dr. Mao Shing Ni / Mirror Columnist

We all agree that it’s much healthier and tastier to eat fresh produce and homemade meals from scratch. But in this fast-paced world, who has the time and energy?

Take it from the way restaurants are run: it’s all in the prep!

Here are 10 tips to help you save time, energy, and a lot of nutrients.

1. Pre-cut produce. Store the freshly cut produce in airtight glass Tupperware or CorningWare containers. It will not spoil or oxidize as quickly, and it will help preserve the food’s nutrients. Other ideas? Clean, cut, and bag salad greens after you come home from the grocery store.

2. Reserve your cooking water. For example, if you cook kale in water, use the same cooking water as a vegetable broth the next time you make rice. It can add intense flavor and valuable nutrients.

3. Freeze one-serving portions. Make stocks and sauces in bulk and freeze them in one-meal portions for later use. Frozen soups make excellent lunches and frozen sauces are helpful and delicious additions to quick dinner recipes.

4. Freeze tiny portions for flavor. Make stocks and sauces in bulk and freeze them in ice-cube trays. Toss a couple of cubes of frozen sauce or stock in various recipes for added flavor the next time you’re cooking vegetables, grains, or meat.

5. Soak beans overnight. This can save you a lot of time over the stove and will also save you from the temptation and hazards of canned food.

6. Invest in a slow cooker or crockpot. Slow cookers help you easily plan ahead and make large portions of stews, beans, cereals, or grains for the entire week—and are also great for a large party.

7. Use your refrigerator and freezer to your advantage. I usually prepare enough cereal grains and beans for a week, and then immediately put half of the prepared food in the refrigerator and the other half in the freezer. By midweek, I have eaten the refrigerator portion, and then I move the freezer portion to the refrigerator to finish out the week.

8. Premix spice and herb blends. They not only enrich the flavor of a dish, they also improve its health benefits.

9. Invest in a good set of knives. And learn how to chop properly. A sharp, well-balanced knife set should include a chef’s knife (8-inch blade), a small paring knife, and a serrated knife for cakes and breads. These three knives will save you time and make chopping easier and safer.

10. Freeze fresh herbs. When a recipe calls for fresh herbs, there’s usually some left from the bundle you bought at the grocery or farmer’s market. Simply place leftover herbs in ice cube trays, fill with water, and freeze. When frozen, transfer to resealable bags. To thaw, simply rinse in hot water, pat dry, and use as if they were fresh.

Instead of nuking a prepackaged meal, use these tips to have healthy, freshly cooked meals even if you work late and come home tired and hungry. You’ll also get to spend more time to enjoy savoring your cooking and those you dine with!

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine, and board certified anti-aging expert. He has recently appeared on “The Ricki Lake Show,” “Dr. Oz,” and contributes to Yahoo Health and The Huffington Post.  Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and Pasadena. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni, founded the Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey.  To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter, visit

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