It’s not always easy to make smart choices when it comes to eating healthy, especially when you’re unprepared. Without healthy food on-hand, it’s that much easier to choose something that lacks nutrition. But keeping a few key items in your fridge (and freezer) can go a long way in helping you make smarter choices.
But what exactly are those smarter options? To get the scoop on the foods everyone should have in their fridge, we turned to Rene Ficek, a registered dietitian who is also the Lead Nutrition Expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. Ficek is an expert on nutrient analysis and menu development and she shared her top recommendations (and explanations) for the foods you should always have on-hand.
Berries might just be one of the most health-friendly foods to store in your fridge. All berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries) are bursting with flavor and nutrients—and they make an incredibly tasty addition to yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, salads, or alone as a delicious snack. Not only are they high in vitamin C, berries are also packed with antioxidant phytonutrients known as anthocyanidins.
Not necessarily kept in the refrigerator, but frozen edamame is great to always have on hand. Edamame frozen in their pods are an easy-to-prepare finger food, and shelled edamame can be roasted and sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper for an unusual snack. A little serving of edamame gives you a bunch of fiber, about 9 grams plus a healthy dose of iron, vitamin A and vitamin C.
Hummus is a nutritional all-star for the whole family to enjoy. Made of chickpeas, hummus is rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps to maintain cholesterol levels while insoluble fiber prevents constipation. As an added bonus, kids love to dip vegetables like sugar snap peas and carrots into this dip, which is a great way to get some raw vegetables in the diet.
Kefir and Yogurt
“The road to good health is paved with good intestines.” The digestive tract is one of your biggest immune organs, so keep disease-causing germs out with probiotics and prebiotics, found in naturally fermented foods like yogurt or kefir. According to many studies, just one serving a day of live and active cultures will enhance immune function. Great to keep the whole family bug-free!
Greens are another amazing food. Most people will think greens are only for salads, but they are actually quite versatile. Spinach is a powerhouse food full of Vitamin A, C & K, magnesium, iron, calcium, methylenedioxyflavonol glucuronides (group of flavonoids), and phytoecdysteroids. Spinach can be thrown into sauces, soups, stews, or sautéed with a little EVOO and garlic for a delicious side dish. Other greens like mustard, collard, and bok choy can also be cooked like this. And if you are looking for a healthy meal in seconds, then a salad will do the trick! As a salad they can act as a vessel for many more nutrient rich foods like cherry tomatoes, beans, nuts, peppers, sprouts, etc. This salad can quickly transform into an entree with the addition of grilled chicken breast, cooked shrimp, or lean steak slices.
Other Low Fat Dairy
Low-fat dairy products have impressive levels of two nutrients many of us need: calcium and protein. For example, a cup of low fat milk will provide ~ 1/3 of your daily calcium needs and satisfies 17% of your estimated daily protein needs. The added vitamin D in milk also helps to ensure calcium’s availability in the blood and may even be protective against certain cancers. Besides milk, other low fat dairy that should be stocked in your fridge include cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream. All of these foods will provide the extra dose of calcium and protein. A bag of pre-shredded, reduced-fat cheese also comes in handy for making many of the healthy snacks and meals mentioned in this list.
One of the best ways to stay hydrated without added excessive amounts of calories in the diet is through tea. And green tea tops the nutrient list. Green tea contains phytochemicals that have a host of health benefits. For example, green tea has catechins, which are thought to not only have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, but also to stimulate the immune system and possibly boost weight loss. Having ice-cold green tea in the refrigerator makes it easy to enjoy a glass in the morning or afternoon when you're looking for a little refreshment. There are all sorts of flavored green teas available (like tropical green tea, pomegranate green tea, etc.). Find a few flavors you like, and keep some brewed and ready to drink in your refrigerator.
An egg is a protein powerhouse providing high-quality protein for children and adults alike. Egg yolk is also an excellent source of choline, a member of the B vitamin family that is involved in a great number of metabolic and cellular processes.
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