A well stocked kitchen means you always have what you need for your favorite recipes. When you have healthy nutritious foods on hand, you’re less likely to fall victim to pizza delivery or ramen noodles. Always keep these recipe staples in your kitchen, to make healthy cooking easy.
Spuds are great for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plus, they're cheap and last practically forever. Despite what you may have heard, white potatoes are nutritious like sweet varieties are; it’s just usually how they are prepared (fried, oiled, and piled high with cheese) that makes them unhealthy. Both varieties are starchy carbohydrates that are low in calories and high in fiber. There are a few slight differences between white and sweet: white potatoes have a few more calories – 130 compared to the 90 for a small sweet spud – and 3 grams of protein compared to 2 grams. Sweet potatoes have 7 grams of sugar per serving compared to white potatoes’ 2 grams, but offer one more gram of fiber than white. Whichever way you go, both potatoes are great baked, diced and sautéed in a little olive oil, or sliced thin and baked in the oven for oven fries.
2. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a staple in many recipes. It’s calorie dense at 120 per tablespoon, and high in fat, so use it sparingly. That fat, however, is unsaturated, which makes it healthy for your heart and helps to lower cholesterol, prevent cancers and decrease inflammation. Use olive oil to coat pans while cooking veggies – the oil actually seals in the nutrients preventing them from leeching out, or mix it with balsamic vinegar and drizzle as a dressing over salads or tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese.
White rice is just brown rice with the fibrous hull stripped off. The health benefits of white and brown rice differ, but in terms of calories, carbohydrates and protein, both are about even. However, in terms of vitamins and minerals, brown rice is king. Brown rice is a great source of vitamins such as Vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin) vitamin B3 (niacine), iron, and dietary fiber. In white rice, most of these nutrients are stripped away along with the shell, although some enriched varieties have added them back in. A healthy carbohydrate that's easy to prepare, rice is the base of many Asian and Mexican dishes, great for casseroles and mixed with ground beef, turkey or beans and stuffed into squashes or peppers.
4. Whole Wheat Pasta
Whole wheat pasta can have up to three times as much fiber as regular spaghetti, so it will not only give you valuable nutrients, but it will keep you fuller longer. The taste is quite different however, so pair them with strong flavors like garlic and don’t overcook them. Pasta has a long shelf life and works great as leftovers; toss it with leftover veggies and protein with a drizzle of olive oil for a whole new meal.
Bananas are yummy in every stage of life: eat them when ripe, bake with them when overripe, and then freeze them for smoothies when they're on the verge of turning. At about 110 calories and full of potassium, these portable fruits add sweetness without sugar.
Canned tuna is convenient, cheap, and high in protein and vitamin D. Plus, like other fish, it’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Each six-ounce portion contains 33 grams of protein, but less than two grams of fat. Look for tuna packed in water instead of oil to avoid added calories and fat. Don’t think drenching it in mayo is the only way to go: tuna is great for sandwiches, mixed into warm pasta dishes, as a topper for salads or formed into burger patties and cooked in a skillet.
Probably the leanest, most versatile protein of all time, chicken can be worked into any meal. Choose high quality, organic, free range, hormone and antibiotic free chicken to avoid chemicals and fillers. Full of B vitamins, selenium and niacin, half a breast only contains 140 calories but a whopping 27 grams of protein.
Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth, Vitamins A and B in milk can help your eyesight and it has also been shown to help lower risk of certain types of cancers. Look for fat-free or low-fat milk products, or if you don't eat dairy, choose soy or almond milk. Milk is a common ingredient in baking and sauces. O you can pour it over cereal, into your smoothies or into a glass and enjoy.
One large egg contains only 74 calories and 5 grams of fat, but about 70% of your recommended daily cholesterol. If you've consumed other sources of cholesterol, opt for a carton of egg whites instead of whole eggs. Hard boiled eggs make quick breakfasts, snacks and salad toppings, and breakfast for dinner will never go out of style.
10. Canned Chickpeas
Even though it's more cost effective to purchase dry beans, canned beans are the fastest way to add protein and fiber to a meal. Garbanzo beans, a.k.a. chickpeas, are mild in flavor and can easily be added to soups, salads, stews and pastas. Blend them in a food processor with some olive oil for homemade hummus or bake them in the oven at 300 degrees for three hours for a crunchy snack.