Keeping on track with your health and fitness goals and consistently eating clean, home-cooked meals can be tricky. Believe me, I know from experience. I’m a mother of two young girls under the age of 6, I work a demanding full-time job, and I also like to think that I’m in pretty good shape. That’s why I rely heavily on time-efficient, nutritious recipes like this super-simple healthy stew recipe.
If you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to do at the end of the day is scramble—figuratively and literally—in the kitchen. Just the thought of hearing those three dreaded words, “What’s for dinner?” can cause you to panic; you may even be tempted to dial it in—for delivery, that is.
As a fellow busy person who values health and nutrition, there’s a miracle tool that I’d like to introduce you to: The slow cooker. Incorporating a slow cooker into your meal planning and preparation allows you the luxury to “set it and forget it,” allocating more time to spend with your family, concentrate on what counts, and escape the takeout trap. Oh yeah, and the “low and slow” approach to cooking results in some magnificent meals—like this healthy stew recipe.
This time-efficient, nutritious slow cooker recipe will satisfy your hunger with its delicious heartiness, and it can feed the whole family to boot. What’s more, this super-simple recipe makes great lunch or dinner leftovers, and overall, it can help keep even the busiest person on track and eating clean.
Stew is an all-encompassing term used to describe “a dish of meat and vegetables cooked slowly in liquid in a dish or pan.” While that’s pretty ambiguous, a healthy stew recipe like this one, which contains chicken, onion, garlic, spinach, tomatoes, lentils, garbanzo beans, and barley, is packed with protein, fiber, micronutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals), and powerful antioxidant phytonutrients, which all combine to satisfy appetite, crush cravings, boost weight loss, promote digestive health, support carbohydrate management, boost overall health, and more.
Fun fact #1: Broth-based stews like this one are considered “low-energy-dense” foods (LEDF), which means that they contain very few calories per weight/volume of food. Why is this important? Glad you asked. You see, how much you eat daily is regulated, in large part, by the amount/weight of food that you consume—not necessarily a certain number of calories. Along those lines, research shows that diets rich in LEDF promote satiety, reduce hunger, decrease overall calorie intake, and promote weight loss. By definition, that’s eating more (overall food) while eating less (calories); BINGO!
Fun fact #2: Barley is the world’s fourth most popular whole grain after wheat, rice, and corn. Among these grains, it also contains the highest ﬁber content, as it packs in about 17% ﬁber by (dry) weight. By comparison, brown rice contains 3.5% ﬁber, corn about 7%, oats 10%, and wheat about 12%. Not only that, barley has been shown to reduce blood pressure and lower “bad” cholesterol, and it may even reduce belly fat and waist circumference.
Fun fact #3: Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, Bengal grams, Egyptian peas, ceci beans, and Kabuli chana, have been used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute since the 18th century. What’s more, they are an excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber, which is fermented by the “good” gut bacteria resulting in important chemicals that fuel the cells of the gut and stimulate the release of hunger-suppressing hormones. In a study published in the journal Appetite, Australian researchers found that adding garbanzo beans daily to the normal diet of study participants, they reported significant improvements in satiety, appetite, meal satisfaction, and bowel function. What’s more, participants decreased their consumption of snack and “junk” foods as well as their overall calorie intake.
Healthy Stew Recipe
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1/3 cup, dry, medium pearl barley
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (or you can use homemade stock or bone broth)
• 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 1 cup, dry, lentils
• 1 jar salsa (or picante sauce)
• 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
• 8 cups fresh spinach
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Cooking fat of choice (e.g., extra-virgin coconut oil, pasture-raised butter, ghee)
1. In a medium sauté pan, melt cooking fat. I recommend coconut oil, ghee, or butter (preferably from pasture-raised cows). Cook the onion and barley until the onion is soft and translucent, about 3 – 5 minutes.
2. Add garlic to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Transfer the onions, barley, and garlic to a slow cooker. Then add all the remaining ingredients (chicken broth, chicken breasts, lentils, salsa, beans) except for the spinach.
4. Cook on low 6 – 8 hours or on high 4 hours. (Times may vary depending on slow cooker.)
5. Remove chicken with tongs and shred with two forks.
6. Return the chicken to the slow cooker and add the spinach.
7. Cook for another 30 minutes, until spinach is wilted, and serve.
Nutrition Info (per serving)
Servings per recipe: 6