Updated: Aug 10
For busy professionals, finding time to cook is a rare occurrence. But that doesn’t mean you have to ditch your nutrition goals!
I can tell you from experience: healthy eating doesn’t require you to spend hours cooking everyday.
In my journey to improve my own nutrition while working my corporate job, I’ve found that having the right tools for creating meals can make all the difference — and one of my favorite time-saving tools is my slow cooker.
My favorite slow cooker recipes are the ones where you can toss all of your ingredients into the pot and then leave it to cook for hours. This allows me to prep a meal in the morning, turn on the crockpot, and have it ready to eat at the end of a long work day.
Many slow cooker meals can be prepped in less than 30 minutes, with only a handful of ingredients. Even better, slow cooker recipes often lend themselves to being prepared in advance — so if you like to use one meal prep day during the week, you can lay out your ingredients and store them in the fridge or freezer until the day you plan to cook it.
Here are six healthy slow cooker meals that are simple to prepare when you’re short on time. These don’t require many ingredients, and can be left cooking on the counter until you’re ready to eat!
1. “It’s Almost Too Easy” Salsa Chicken
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 4-6 hours
1 lb chicken breast
1 jar of salsa
Place defrosted chicken in the slow cooker. Pour jar of salsa on top of the chicken. Turn on your slow cooker, and set it to medium heat. Cook for 4 hours if you’re using full chicken breasts, or 6 hours if you’re using shredded chicken. When cook time is up and you’re ready to eat, simply add veggies, rice, or a tortilla to complete your meal.
I love putting this salsa chicken over a bed of lettuce or quinoa, with avocado, corn, and hot sauce to create a delicious bowl meal. Or, you could grab some tortillas and turn this into tacos with your favorite toppings!
Want the free recipe card for my slow cooker Salsa Chicken? Download the recipe card here.
2. Spaghetti Squash Noodle Bowl
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Total Time: 8.5-9.5 hours
1 spaghetti squash (about 4-5 lbs)
2 cups water
2 cups steamed broccoli
Your preferred dressing
Using a fork, pierce the spaghetti squash all over the outside to create little holes in the skin.
Place the whole spaghetti squash in your slow cooker. Pour 2 cups of water over it. Cover and cook on low heat for 8-9 hours.
When it’s done cooking, remove the spaghetti squash from the crockpot and let it cool for 20-30 minutes. Once it’s cooled, cut the squash in half, and scoop out all of the seeds and pulp (it should be easy to scoop now that it’s softened up in the crockpot).
After the pulp is removed, use a fork to “shred” the inside of the squash into noodle-like strings. Place your spaghetti squash “noodles” into a bowl, add steamed broccoli, and top with whatever sauce or dressing you’d like!
Source: The Skinny Fork.
3. Crockpot Whole Chicken
Did you know you can cook a whole chicken in a crockpot? Talk about easy!
Prep Time: 10-20 minutes
Total Time: high heat 3-4 hours; medium heat 6-8 hours
Aluminum foil (optional)
5 lb whole chicken
3 lemons, halved
3 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped (plus additional rosemary for coating chicken)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 cup chicken stock
Optional: Roll your aluminum foil into four 2-inch balls, and place them at the bottom of the crockpot. This props the chicken up so the bottom doesn’t get mushy, but you can certainly cook this recipe without the aluminum foil balls,
If your chicken didn’t come with the insides pre-cleaned, remove all of the filling (giblets, organs, etc) from inside the chicken.
Once you’ve cleaned out the inside of the chicken, fill chicken with the halved lemons and two whole rosemary sprigs. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place your whole, stuffed chicken inside the crockpot, sitting on top of aluminum foil balls (if you chose to use them).
Pour olive oil onto the chicken and rub into the skin to coat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, and chopped rosemary to season it.
Add 1 cup of chicken stock to the bottom of the crockpot. Cook on low heat 6-8 hours, or on high heat for 3-4 hours.
Source: The Clean Eating Couple.
4. Pizza Chickpeas
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: ~6 hours
4 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to season
1 (32-ounce) jar of marinara sauce
Add the chickpeas to the slow cooker and season them with a bit of salt and pepper. Pour a jar of marinara sauce over the chickpeas, and stir to coat them well. Cook on low heat for 6 hours.
Source: The Kitchn.
5. Turkey Stuffed Peppers
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Total Time: 6-8 hours
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 small bell peppers, with the tops cut off (or 2 large peppers, cut lengthwise) and cleaned
1 (24-ounce) jar of your favorite pasta sauce (set 2 tbsp aside)
½ cup water
Coat the bottom of your slow cooker with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. In a large bowl, mix ground turkey, onion, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of pasta sauce. Firmly stuff the mixture into each of the peppers (aim for roughly equal amounts of the ground turkey mixture in each pepper).
Place the stuffed peppers in the slow cooker and pour the remaining pasta sauce over the top. Add ½ cup of water. (Tip: If you want to get every last bit of sauce, first pour the ½ cup of water into the empty sauce jar and shake well. Then, add it into the slow cooker to get as much sauce as you can).
Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.
Don’t eat meat? Try stuffing your peppers with a quinoa and black bean mixture instead!
Source: The Family Freezer.
6. Chickpea Chili
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 8-10 hours
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (13.5-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tbsp adobo sauce (If you like it extra spicy, use 4 tbsp of adobo sauce, and add 1 chopped chipotle pepper!)
2 tbsp chili powder