Summer cooking: How to eat well without heating up the house

Shelley Schwartz, RD, LDN
Shelley Schwartz, RD, LDN
May 18th, 2022
Summer Cooking with WWUSA Lori

A home-cooked meal can often be healthier and cheaper than going out to eat or grabbing takeout. But when it’s the heart of summer and temperatures are high, turning the oven on and heating up your house or apartment is less than ideal.

A hot house doesn’t have to be a barrier to eating well this summer, though. Here are some ideas of how you can still create a meal that everyone will love and keep your living space as cool as possible.

Look beyond the oven

Slow cooker and multi-cookers

From oatmeal for breakfast, pot roast for dinner and everything in between, slow cookers and multi-cookers (such as the Instant Pot) are versatile tools for your summer kitchen.

Slow cookers not only conserve energy—meaning they won’t heat up your house—they also bring out rich flavors in meals and do the cooking for you throughout the day. Multi-cookers also use less energy, and many meals can be done in one hour or less. And they both cut down on dirty dishes! There are recipes available for all types of cuisines and even the pickiest of eaters.

Griddle

Did you know you can use your griddle outside? Or, if you prefer to stay indoors, a griddle will radiate a little heat but won’t heat the house up nearly as much as a stove. Meats, tofu, vegetables and more can all be done on a griddle top.

Other small appliances

How about creating a delicious masterpiece with the toaster, waffle maker or rice cooker?

  • Toast store-bought, whole grain waffles in the toaster, or try a recipe in the waffle maker. Waffles can be great on their own or as a bread substitute in a savory dish.

  • Use a rice cooker to cook potatoes, steam veggies or for rice-based dishes like risotto or jambalaya.

Grill

There’s more to grilling than just meats. For example, have you tried grilled pizza? All proteins and vegetables (and even some fruit) can be prepared on the grill, so put your imagination to work. If you have a cast-iron pot or pan, you can put those right onto the grill as well.

Check out our three-step plan for quick and healthy meals on the grill.

Cook in batches

Batch cooking is exactly what it sounds like: cooking larger quantities of meals so you have leftovers for later. This not only saves you time and is more efficient but also can help you reduce the number of times you heat up your kitchen.

To beat the heat while batch cooking:

  • Try to cook in the morning before the sun heats up the house.

  • To get the cooking started earlier, plan to do as much of the prep work the night before so you can make the most of your morning.

When you reheat these meals:

  • Use the microwave or an air fryer.

  • If your stovetop is needed, use the smallest burner possible and use a cover to help trap the heat in. Not only will a lid help to reduce heating up the room, it will also help your food reheat faster.

Or don’t cook at all

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a cold meal to beat the heat. Thankfully, you’ve got plenty of options.

Salads

There are many ways to create salads that are filling and healthy. Try these steps for a balanced meal:

  • Start with your base. Pile your plate high with lettuce and other non-starchy vegetables, like onions, bean sprouts, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, mushrooms or carrots.

  • Next, add protein. Canned black or garbanzo beans are an easy go-to, which also count as a healthy carbohydrate. Make sure to drain and rinse the beans to get rid of excess salt and starch. Hard boil eggs in advance or add already cooked chicken, fish, beef or pork. You can usually find hard-boiled eggs and cooked chicken or fish at the supermarket as well, to reduce the need for cooking.

  • Balance your salad out with carbohydrates. Some great options are corn, brown rice, kidney beans, roasted sweet potato or whole grain pasta.

  • Top with healthy fats. Add a sprinkle of nuts or seeds or a few slices of avocado for some good-for-you fats. If you have time, throw together a simple vinaigrette to enjoy on top using a combination of a plant-based oil (like olive or avocado), a vinegar (white wine, red wine or balsamic), lemon juice and herbs.

Sandwiches and wraps

Grab a whole grain wrap or bread and create different combinations of lean deli meats or other precooked proteins, cheeses, hummus and veggies. Stay mindful of condiments: use more mustard and less mayo, for example.

Bowls

Buddha or nourish bowls have become increasingly popular. They’re a one-bowl meal that contains small portions of several foods. Just as you would build a balanced salad:

  • Pick a base like whole grain rice, pasta, quinoa, lettuce or zucchini noodles (zoodles).

  • Then load it up with veggies and lean proteins (served warmed or cold).

  • Sprinkle toppings like seeds, chopped nuts, herbs, spices and a sauce or dressing on top to round out your bowl.

Want more easy meal ideas?

Teladoc dietitians can help you plan quick and healthy meals the entire family will enjoy—no matter the season or the temperature! Our network of 150-plus expert registered dietitians can also customize a nutrition plan and help you meet your personal health goals. Choose your dietitian, make an appointment and start improving your health today.

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