No one wants to get stuck in the house cooking during the summer when you can be outside having a great time at the beach, in the pool, or enjoying a myriad other summertime activities. Instead of slaving over a hot stove and missing all the fun, try these five healthy meals you can make in the slow cooker – dinner will be ready and waiting when you get home!

Slow cooker veggie chili lets you break the mold – chili doesn’t have to be a cold-weather dish when you make it with some of summer’s best fresh veggies. Throw these ingredients into the slow cooker for a delicious meal:

  • Zucchini and yellow squash, are also called “summer squash.” These veggies are high in antioxidants and also contain copper, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C, potassium and much more, all of which are important nutrients.
  • Beans (your choice), are a great source of fiber and loaded with vitamins and minerals. According to The Bean Institute, the lignans in beans may help prevent heart disease, osteoporosis and some cancers. Phytosterols may work to reduce cholesterol and flavanoids can help reduce cancer risk and heart disease.
  • Tomato sauce, juice and diced tomatoes are a major source of lycopene, an antioxidant that is believed to reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Chili powder actually has lots of health benefits, including 2,224 IU of vitamin A in just one tablespoon. It also has a good amount of vitamin C and important minerals.

Blueberry and banana steel cut oats can be made in the slow cooker the night before for a ready-made healthy breakfast in the morning.

  • Fresh summer blueberries are rich in antioxidants and nutrients that may help to maintain healthy bones, reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes and even lower blood pressure.
  • Bananas are high in potassium, antioxidants, magnesium and vitamins B6 and C. Some of the health benefits include reduced swelling, strengthening of the nervous system, protection against Type-2 diabetes, and more.
  • Steel cut oats contains fiber and complex carbohydrates that are an excellent way to get your morning energy.
  • This recipe calls for almond milk, a popular alternative to dairy that contains plant-based healthy fats and has no cholesterol or lactose.

Chilled summer squash soup is easy to make and gives soup lovers a way to have their soup and stay cool too. With four cups of summer squash in the recipe, you get plenty of the health benefits and nutrients mentioned above, plus all the benefits of cashews, which are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are great for your eyes, heart and blood cells.

For something a bit heartier, try this slow cooker vegetarian gumbo that takes advantage of summer veggies like okra, zucchini and bell peppers. Along with a vegetable broth base that carries the nutrients of its own ingredients, you also get the health benefits of kidney beans: they’re high in fiber and lean protein as well as being rich in nutrients. These important nutrients give your cells energy; when you add a bed of rice, you get all of the essential amino acids your body needs for tissues, muscles, and cells.

Okra is a “nutritional powerhouse” of fiber, folate, magnesium, beta carotene, vitamins A, B6, C, K and more. The fiber is great for colon health while other nutrients help to prevent diabetes and kidney disease and promote healthy skin.

Using a slow cooker in summer is a great way to keep your kitchen – and yourself – cool during those hot months. And by doing that, you also save on your energy bills.

Sources:

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/slow-cooker-veggie-chili

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=62

http://beaninstitute.com/nutritional-value-of-dry-beans/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/434794-chili-powder-health-benefits/

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/240977/blueberry-and-banana-steel-cut-oats/?internalSource=staff%20pick&referringId=84&referringContentType=recipe%20hub

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287710.php

http://www.livescience.com/45005-banana-nutrition-facts.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/349995-steel-cut-oats-nutritional-facts/

http://www.livescience.com/51695-almond-milk-nutrition.html

http://www.healthline.com/health/are-cashews-good-for-you#2

http://ohmyveggies.com/slow-cooker-vegetarian-gumbo/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/284447-red-kidney-beans-nutrition/