Stocking the kitchen with a few basic staples make those inevitable ‘what to cook for dinner’ moments less stressful. Below are some of the foods I try to keep on hand in my kitchen so that I am guaranteed a healthy meal at a moment’s notice.
Olive oil is a great all-purpose oil for sautéing, roasting, dressing and drizzling. I even use it when I bake; it is especially good for making homemade granola. Olive oil is made up of mono-unsaturated fats, which are more heart healthy than foods that contain saturated and trans fats. If you’ve never made yourself an olive oil-fried egg, then get on this ASAP!
Seeds like chia, hemp and ground flax are high in protein and fiber, and they contain omega 3-fatty acids. I keep at least one of the three seeds on-hand for sprinkling onto oatmeal or overnight oats, yogurt and smoothies. Ground flax is also a good substitute for an egg when making baked goods like pancakes or waffles (for the equivalent of one large egg, stir together 1 tablespoon of ground flax with 2.5 tablespoons water and let sit for 5 minutes).
Nuts and Nut Butters
I keep a jar of nut butter (almond or peanut and sometimes sunflower seed, too!) on hand for spreading onto toast or swirling into oatmeal. Unsalted nuts like almonds, walnuts and pistachios are great for packing and taking to work or school for a mid-afternoon snack. I almost never leave the house without a snack in my bag because I never know when the “hangries” will hit.
Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
By keeping at least one package each of frozen fruit and vegetables in my freezer, there is no excuse not to eat them. My top picks for frozen fruit are mango chunks, mixed berries or cherries and packs of acai for smoothies. Sometimes I snack on frozen fruit as a dessert–tastes just like a healthy popsicle. My top picks for frozen vegetables are peas, broccoli and kale or spinach — all are great choices for bulking up a pasta, soup or stir-fry.
Whenever I buy a loaf of fresh bread, I immediately store at least half of the loaf (sliced) in the freezer. When a craving for toast hits, I can just pop a slice or two in the toaster, or defrost a few slices overnight without the rest of the loaf going bad.
By choosing plain yogurt over flavored, I have the option to go savory or sweet. Plain Greek yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream and it can be used in baking or topping quesadillas or homemade nachos. Plain yogurt also pairs well with garlic, lemon and tahini or cucumbers and dill for a quick dip.
Keep the pantry stocked with at a can or two of tuna (or if you like sardines, by all means!), beans (canned or dried), or lentils. I keep eggs and tofu in my refrigerator so that I have a good source of protein for a quick dinner or weekend breakfast.
Quick-cooking grains can help get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. Keep at least three different varieties on-hand for easy meals. Try pairing creamy polenta with spiced chickpeas and spinach, or add chopped vegetables and feta cheese to couscous for an easy side dish.