Putting together a healthful kitchen and not sure where to start? Check out our top ten list of key ingredients to keep on hand. When in doubt, add bags of ready-to eat fruits and veggies!
- Lettuce - It’s a great idea to have lettuce on hand at all times. Even if you bring home takeout for dinner, you’ll still have the building blocks for a side salad. Remember, MyPlate insists that people fill half their plates with fruits and veggies at each meal. The easiest way for most people to eat more veggies is by eating more salad.
- Vinegar - Vinegar is a perfect dressing for salad because it adds tons of zest and flavor without any fat or sodium. Our go-to vinegar is balsamic syrup, also known as balsamic reduction. Sure, it costs a bit more than regular vinegar, but a little of it goes a long way and really amps up the flavor of grilled chicken, cooked veggies, and salads.
- Canola and Olive Oils - These oils contain unsaturated “good” fats, which makes them a more healthful choice than butter and other foods that contain saturated “bad” fats. However, these oils are still very calorie-dense. Use them sparingly in salads and brush just a few drops on vegetables before grilling.
- Key Seasonings -- Garlic Powder, Italian Seasoning, and Black Pepper - These three versatile seasonings add serious flavor and can get any cook out of a pinch. Spices and herbs are like shoes - you can never have too many! For example, Parmesan cheese delivers real cheese flavor in very small doses.
- Rice - Rice is a great way to increase your whole grain consumption, replace some of the refined grains and processed foods in your diet, and add staying power to a plant-based meal. Try long grain brown rice, short grain brown rice, and black rice.
- Pasta - Pasta is another mainstay of a healthful kitchen. It’s perfect for a quick dinner -- just add a few fresh herbs and sauteed vegetables and you will have a healthful and balanced meal. Stick to whole grain varieties, but choose a range of different shapes. That will help dinner stay interesting for everyone.
- Broth - Broth can be used to cook soups, rice, veggies, and pasta dishes. Choose low-sodium options for optimal heart health.
- Greek Yogurt - Greek yogurt is packed with protein and stays creamy even when it is made without fat. Eat nonfat light yogurt as a quick snack or dessert, and use nonfat plain yogurt as a replacement for sour cream or in other cooking projects.
- Canned Tomatoes Without Added Salt - These can be added to pasta or beans, or you can make them into salsa or soup.
- Canned Beans Without Added Salt - Prepared beans are a perfect base for chili, pasta, soups, and dip.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.