How to Win at the Healthy Eating Game (by Using an Instant Pot)

By May 8, 2018Nutrition
Reading Time: 7 minutes

I’ll be the first to admit I’m skeptical of most new things in the nutrition and fitness fields. Tried and true is usually the best course of action. Occasionally, though, something comes on the market that sparks my interest.

You may have seen the Instant Pot being sold in stores and online this past holiday season. I tend to not go to stores, I don’t pay attention to online ads, and generally I am the last to know about anything new. But a good friend and former client of mine sent me an Instant Pot in the mail to me with a note about how I needed to have one. So, I opened it up and got to work.

And I have to admit — the Instant Pot can be a game changer. Even if you have no idea how to fully use it, with just a few button presses you can cook a meal. Yes, you can get fancy with it, but it’s a kitchen tool you can purchase, unpack, and experience only a very small learning curve to cook a tender, impressive meal (without having to worry about taking too much time or accidentally overcooking).

How to Win at the Healthy Eating Game (by Using an Instant Pot)

What Is an Instant Pot, Anyway?

An Instant Pot is basically one big pot that can perform multiple cooking methods. It can saute, steam, pressure cook, slow cook, and warm. So, it’s actually nothing new — it just consolidates other equipment and methods. And consolidation can be a powerful tool for anything in life.

I have experienced these advantages to using the Instant Pot:

  • It can cook more complicated dishes quickly.
  • It creates less mess and fewer dishes because it’s literally one pot.
  • It declutters your kitchen because it can replace a pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, and even a pan.
  • The recipes are easy to follow because it has a limited number of buttons.
  • It makes cooking fish extremely easy, which is something I noticed people struggle with.

Everything in the above list helps me teach some of my main healthy eating principles more efficiently, including:

  • Mostly homemade cooking, less eating out. An Instant Pot is about as foolproof and quick as they come to help you with cooking at home more.
  • Getting a mix of different proteins, from seafood, poultry, meats, and vegetarian options. You can buy a piece of fish, google “Instant Pot” plus the fish’s name, and have a recipe that is probably under 15 minutes of cook time, won’t let you overcook, and the house won’t smell. The same goes for any other protein you purchase.
  • Making vegetables tasty and easy to cook. Tender cauliflower in seven minutes or less? Sign me up.
  • Less snacking because we build better meals. When you cook more, you snack less because you are getting high-quality, balanced meals.
  • Being time efficient. From the college student to the busy parent to the traveling retiree, who doesn’t need more time to do things we enjoy? A one-stop shop can mean more minutes in the day to get other things done and relax.

With a price tag around $100, the Instant Pot could be a valuable addition to your kitchen. You’ll see that some of the recipes I list use the saute function to brown meat or soften vegetables, then a pressure cook. Instead of the multiple dishes traditional preparation would require, with the Instant Pot, it’s all kept in one pot.

Cooking this way with the Instant Pot makes my weekly food prep very easy, as well as my meals during the week that I make from scratch. I’ll list my favorite recipes so far, but there are thousands of options out there.

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Instant Pot Mahi-mahi

The Instant Pot has a small rack for certain items. It helps keep the food above water, which is important for dishes like fish.

Instant Pot Mahi Mahi
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Instant Pot Mahi-mahi


Category Dinner
Compliance Level Kickstart, Lifestyle, Performance
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 2
Author Marc Halpern

Ingredients

  • Mahi-mahi piece no more than 1” thick which they usually aren’t anyway
  • Paprika
  • Garlic pepper
  • Szechwan seasoning mix

Instructions

  1. Coat the skin side of the fish with olive oil.
  2. Put the fish on the rack, flesh side up
  3. Add 1 cup of water to the pot.
  4. Spice the filet side of the fish. I chose paprika, garlic pepper, and Szechwan seasoning.
  5. Enter “Pressure Cook,” adjust it manually to 5 minutes. Close the valve. It’ll take about 5 minutes for the pressure to come up, the timer will go to 5 minutes, and will shut off from there.

  6. Wait another 5 minutes to release the pressure. The fish will be perfectly done.

Recipe Notes

For a good Szechwan seasoning mix with no sugar and no salt, try this one from Spice Hunter.

Instant Pot Hard-boiled Eggs

I’ve always struggled with making eggs that peel easily. Not anymore (cue infomercial music). When a pressure cooker is turned on, it needs time to heat up and cause pressure. This usually takes about 5 minutes. So, the eggs are in here about 15 minutes total. They come out perfect every time. I dump ice right into the pot when done and let them cool.

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Instant Pot Hard-boiled Eggs


Category Dinner, Lunch, Snack
Compliance Level Kickstart, Lifestyle, Performance
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 5
Author Marc Halpern

Ingredients

  • 8-10 eggs

Instructions

  1. Place the rack that comes with the Instant Pot in the bottom of the pot.

  2. Place eggs on the rack.
  3. Add 1 cup of water to the pot.
  4. Hit “Pressure Cook” and cook on high for 5 minutes.
  5. Do not release steam for another 5 minutes after cooking

Instant Pot Beef Stew

Credit The Salty Marshmallow for this one. I will give the original here, but when I made it I replaced onion with broccoli and it came out great. You can really add as many vegetables as you like. This is a great recipe to demonstrate how you can use multiple functions, like browning the meat, and pressure cooking all in the same pot.

Instant Pot Beef Stew
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Instant Pot Beef Stew


Category Dinner
Compliance Level Kickstart
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4
Author Marc Halpern

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs beef stew meat
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 16-ounce bag baby carrots cut in slices
  • 1 lb potatoes (any kind you prefer) cubed
  • 2.5 cups beef broth
  • 1 10-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch or WLC-compliant thickener (you can also omit this)
  • 2 Tbsp water

Instructions

  1. Add the olive oil to the Instant Pot and turn on the saute function.
  2. When the oil starts to sizzle, add the meat and season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
  3. Cook the meat until browned on all sides.
  4. Add the beef broth and use a spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the Worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion, carrots, potatoes, and tomato sauce.
  6. Close the lid and steam valve.
  7. Cook on high pressure for 35 minutes, then allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes before doing a quick release.
  8. Mix together your thickener and cold water in a small bowl, then stir the slurry into the stew until thickened. (You can also just leave this step out.)

Easy Instant Pot Quinoa

Besides struggling to pronounce quinoa (keen-wa), many of us also tend to overcook it. But it’s a great plant-based protein, quite flavorful, and a nice starch to mix things up from the more common potato and rice family.

Instant Pot Quinoa
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Easy Instant Pot Quinoa

Category Dinner, Lunch, Side Dish
Compliance Level Kickstart, Lifestyle
Prep Time 9 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Marc Halpern

Ingredients

  • 1 part broth vegetable or chicken broth taste best or water
  • 1 part quinoa

Instructions

  1. Cook on high pressure for 1 minute, and let the pressure come down naturally.

Recipe Notes

Regarding the ingredients: "1 part" of each ingredient simply means if you use 1 cup of quinoa, just add 1 cup of broth or water.

As is, this recipe makes great quinoa. But we can also take it one step further. Toasting the quinoa before the pressure cooking makes the flavors stronger:

  1. Rinse the quinoa in a strainer and put right into the Instant Pot.
  2. Hit the saute button, and let the quinoa cook for a few minutes while stirring frequently.
  3. Pour the water or broth in and cook as directed above.

Is the Instant Pot for You?

There are endless recipes available on the Internet and in cookbooks. The major point, though, is that an Instant Pot can help you consolidate equipment, become better at cooking, and save yourself time in the process.

Remember, the Instant Pot does have a slow cooker feature, as well (which I haven’t yet used). If you want to take advantage of the slow cooking option, make sure to purchase the additional glass top as an accessory when you order your Instant Pot.

It’s usually not a good idea to purchase something and find a use for it later. Which is why one of my few equipment recommendations is the Instant Pot. You’ll be a better chef right away, and it will make all the time and effort you are putting into nutrition changes easier.

 

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Marc Halpern
Marc started out losing 75 pounds years ago. It was life changing, as it shaped his career and personal life. He went to school to help others realize their health potential, and met his wife in the process. Professionally, he ended up with: Masters in Nutrition Science (University at Buffalo); Registered Dietitian (RD); Bachelors in Exercise Science; Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS); Titleist Performance Institute Certified (TPI).

His philosophy has always been that food and exercise should enhance your life, not stress, hurt, or takeaway from valuable time experiencing other things. There isn't one type of food or style of eating that can universally change the world. These are individual choices and there are many different ways of eating that can work. A minimal effective dose should be used. Unless it's also your hobby, just use the most effective strategies to enhance your life.

Today, Marc runs a personal training and nutrition business out of TPC Summerlin, a PGA-owned golf facility in Las Vegas. He uses golf fitness training as a means to also blend body composition and general health goals. He also consults private nutrition clients all over the country for weight loss and maintenance.

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