Now you know some of the basics, so how do you start eating healthy every day? Most importantly, you need to set yourself up for success! That means stocking your fridge and pantry with all the foods you need to make healthy and tasty meals. Here are my top 10 fridge and pantry staples to have in your house:
- Seasonal Veggies – the #1 most important food to have in your home is the unassuming veggie. Maybe this comes as no surprise, but it’s shocking how often I peek at other people’s carts at the grocery store (don’t judge) and nary a green or red or yellow vegetable is to be seen! Whether you roast them, stir fry them, steam them or throw them in soup or salad, it’s absolutely essential you make veggies a big part of your life if you want to be fit and healthy.
- Fruit – Just after veggies comes fruit. They satisfy your sweet tooth, they provide important phytonutrients, they make great snacks, and they help you celebrate the bounty of any season. Be sure you have some seasonal fruit ready to put on your oatmeal, grab as a snack or dip in nut butter.
- Beans! See my last post- a mixture of dry and canned beans for convenience is important to have on hand. When you have more time, soak them and make them into tacos, stews, chili, salads and more! Pressed for time? The canned varieties are great in a pinch – I like to rinse them before cooking to get off any can flavor or excess salt. Then, have at it!
- Whole Grains – I like to have both quick and long cooking grains on hand. For an easy weeknight meal, quinoa is always great, because it’s high in protein, and it cooks quickly. Need it even faster? Find whole grain couscous, which takes just a couple minutes. When you have a little more time on your hands, heartier whole grains like barley, farro and brown rice make a toothsome accompaniment. I also keep whole grain pasta, whole grain noodles and a loaf of whole grain bread.
- Lean Proteins – For me this is one big category that includes tofu, tempeh, seitan, low-fat dairy, fish and lean meats (if you eat them), veggie meats (like gardein or tofurkey, but skip the stuff with a ton of additives), eggs and other sources of protein that aren’t beans.
- Polyunsaturated Fats – Despite the hype around coconut oil, it’s still a very high saturated-fat food, and this does raise your LDL (bad cholesterol), so while I keep it around for flavor, my day to day oils are olive oil, canola oil and sunflower oil. There are a variety of others that you can use both hot and cold, and it’s nice to have a few choices on hand. I do also keep some organic butter and/or Earth Balance vegan butter around for recipes that just can’t do without it.
- Condiments – A good condiment can liven up any meal. I keep Dijon mustard for salad dressings, sherry vinegar, rice wine vinegar, citrus (for salad dressings and sauces), Just Mayo, a good salsa (try Papalote), maple syrup, some good hot sauce (one asian and one latino), tahini (sauces and hummus), low-sodium tamari and nut butter (which I use on pretty much everything – just kidding, sorta).
- Spices – A good spice rack is important for making flavorful food without using a ton of fat. I try to have spices to make Indian (curry, turmeric, garam masala, coriander), Mexican (chili powder, cumin), American/European (paprika, smoked paprika, garlic powder, sage, rosemary, thyme), Asian (Chinese 5 spice, ginger), Italian (oregano, basil, chili flakes), Middle Eastern (cardamom, ras al hanout, allspice) and a variety of other cuisines. I also count shallots, onions, garlic, ginger and jalapenos in this category, as they’re the flavor-starters in most meals in my kitchen.
- Healthy Snacks – Hummus or other bean dips, roasted nuts, whole grain crackers, cut up veggies, olives and pickles make nice, low-cal snacks.
- Carefully chosen frozen foods – I keep a few frozen veggies around for quick meals when i don’t have enough fresh stuff around and some convenience foods like Sweet Earth frozen burritos and a couple Amy’s meals in case of emergency. This is good if you get home late and need a quick bite.
Lastly, I try to pretty much avoid keeping sweets around, but if a craving comes over me, I do keep unsweetened cocoa powder that I can throw in a banana smoothie, a bit of low-sugar dark chocolate and medjool dates for when I’m craving something decadent.