Must-have foods for your pantry, fridge, and freezer—and how to use them.
By Meghan Rabbitt
Each year, Americans spend an estimated $46 billion on diet products and self-help books. We fill our grocery carts with the foods these plans claim will help us lose weight and keep it off. And what does that mean for so many of us? We’ve got a pantry full of our best intentions and no clue what to do with them.
Why do we do this? Because we don’t realize how simple healthy eating can be, says Beth Reardon, RD, a nutritionist at Duke Integrative Medicine. “An integrative approach to health starts with choosing a variety of foods that are worthy of eating,” she says. “Once you have those foods, you just need to learn how to combine them so you don’t get bored.”
Jordan Rubin, author of Perfect Weight America (Siloam, 2008) agrees. “Losing weight or getting healthier isn’t necessarily about eating less, it’s about eating more intelligently—choosing more of the ‘right’ foods,” he says. “These are nutrient-dense foods that make you feel and look younger, and help decrease inflammation in your body. And it’s simpler and less time-consuming than you might imagine to start incorporating them into your diet.”
To make healthy eating as easy as our experts claim it should be, Natural Solutions talked to dietitians, doctors, and chefs to come up with a variety of foods that are both great for your health and easy to make. So ditch the diet plans, obscure foods you have no clue how to cook, and complicated recipes. Here are 45 foods to keep in your kitchen at all times—and easy ideas on how to prepare them.
15 Must-haves for your freezer
- Sockeye salmon
- black cod fish filets
- organic chicken
- ground bison meat
- ground turkey meat
- frozen organic mixed berries
- frozen dark cherries
- frozen organic veggies (spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower)
- whole-grain tortillas
- whole-grain bread
- whole-grain waffles
- organic ice cream
- shredded part-skim cheese (cheddar, jack, or mozzarella)
15 Must-haves for your fridge
- Pomegranate or tart cherry juice
- organic yogurt with live active cultures
- mixed baby greens, arugula, or mâche
- nut butters (peanut, almond, cashew)
- precut veggies
- basil, rosemary, dill, thyme
- lemons and limes
- omega-3 eggs
- sprouted bread or tortillas
- maple syrup
15 Must-haves for your pantry
- Canned beans (garbanzo, black, pinto, red)
- organic tomato sauce and canned diced tomatoes
- organic short grain instant brown rice
- organic chicken or veggie soup stock
- old-fashioned or steel-cut oats
- 70 percent cocoa powder
- hempseeds and pumpkinseeds
- a variety of unsalted nuts
- green and white tea
- dried fruits
- dried mushrooms
- extra-virgin olive oil
Whole-Grain Waffles With Berry Compote
In a saucepan, heat frozen berries with a little honey and pomegranate or cherry juice; thicken with cornstarch if desired. Serve over toasted waffles instead of syrup.
Beat two omega-3 eggs, and pour into a heated pan coated with cooking spray. Flip when firm enough, and lightly cover with sliced avocado and shredded cheese. Fold over, and top with a dollop of salsa.
Sweeten your bowl of porridge with 1/2 cup frozen berries, 1 tablespoon pomegranate juice, and a handful of chopped dried fruit and nuts.
Brown Rice Breakfast Pudding
In a medium saucepan, combine instant brown rice, dried fruit, and a handful of chopped nuts with 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 cup milk. Simmer over medium heat, stirring regularly until thickened. Swirl in honey or maple syrup.
In a skillet, sauté mushrooms, peppers, and onions. Whisk together two eggs, and add to the pan, stirring with a spatula. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, and serve with a side of salsa.
Quick Tip: There’s no reason to shy away from the frozen aisle when your favorite farmers’ market isn’t bursting with options, says author Jordan Rubin. Fruits and veggies grown for freezing are picked (and packaged right away) at the optimal time of year—and are much better for you than off-season produce, which is often picked before it’s ripe and lacks full nutrient potential.
Hummus or Pesto Wrap
Spread hummus or pesto on a whole-grain tortilla and place veggies, shredded cheese, fresh herbs, and a dash lemon juice on top. Fold, and serve. Craving some extra protein? Add grilled organic chicken pieces.
For a rich, thick soup, mix chicken stock with a cup of tomato sauce. Add ground bison or turkey meat, precut veggies, garbanzo beans, and small whole-grain pasta and simmer until vegetables and pasta are tender.
Sauté mushrooms and precut veggies in olive oil, and spoon onto a whole-grain tortilla. Top with shredded cheese, and lay another tortilla on top. Cook each side until brown in a skillet coated with cooking spray. Cut into wedges, and serve with avocado slices and salsa.
Sauté mixed veggies, dried mushrooms, chopped garlic, and soy sauce to taste. If desired, add chicken or fish pieces, and cook through. Stir in a cup of cooked amaranth, mixing well. For a variation, try with cooked quinoa. Fresh and crunchy salad. Toss mixed baby greens, precut veggies, avocado slices, nuts, and dried fruits. Sprinkle with lime juice and a dash of olive oil.
Brown Rice Veggie Risotto
In a saucepan, combine 2 cups cooked brown rice, 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, dried mushrooms, and pre- cut vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender. Before removing from heat, stir in some shredded cheese until melted.
Coat salmon or cod fillets with pesto sauce, and broil (6 inches from broiler) for approximately 15 minutes. Chicken with mushroom sauce. Brown chicken fillets in a skillet, turning on each side. Add mushrooms, 1/4 cup fl our, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1 cup chicken stock. Cover and let simmer about 20 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked.
Vegetable and Chickpea Pasta
Brown chopped onion and minced garlic cloves. Add garbanzo beans, precut veggies, 1 teaspoon dried basil, and pasta sauce. Serve over cooked pasta, and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Quick Fish Fry
Pan-fry lightly salted black cod fish fillets in olive oil, and top with heated salsa. Serve with a side of steamed frozen veggies.
Quick Tip: Before you ditch fat from your diet, now hear this, says Rubin: The good-for-you, unsaturated kind is a concentrated source of energy, has a protective effect against heart disease, and guards against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract. Plus, pairing your veggies with a little bit of “good” fat can help your body absorb more vitamins and minerals, including lycopene and alpha- and beta-carotenes.
In a blender, combine 1 /2 cup pomegranate juice, a handful of frozen berries, 1/4 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon flaxseeds, and a few ice cubes.
Mix 1/4 cup unsweetened 70 percent cocoa powder with 2 cups old-fashioned oats. Toss in a handful of chopped dried fruit and nuts; moisten with honey and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread on a baking sheet, and bake at 300 degrees until lightly crisped. Serve on top of yogurt or ice cream.
Sweet and Nutty Toast
Spread nut butter on whole-grain toast, and top with dried fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Boil edamame pods in lightly salted water for 3 to 5 minutes, or until bright green.
Toast pumpkinseeds on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. If desired, stir in seasonings, such as a teaspoon olive oil, garlic powder, or mixed herbs.
Quick Tip: To be sure your produce is free of GMOs—food that’s been genetically altered to make it grow larger, denser, and more resistant to insect infestation—read the PLU code carefully, says Rubin. The PLU code for conventionally grown fruit consists of four numbers, organically grown fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number 9, and GMO fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number 8. For example: • A conventionally grown PLU would be 4446 • an organically grown PLU would be 94446 • a genetically modified PLU would be 84446.