Our Experts, Your Health

10 foods you should always have in your kitchen

While meal planning and a good shopping list are important parts of a healthy eating plan, the foods you keep stocked in your pantry to make impromptu meals and snacks can make or break your plan as well. Here are 10 items that I keep on hand to whip up a healthy meal, make healthy recipe changes and make good choices when I need a snack.

  1. Non-fat Greek yogurt is packed with 12-16 grams of protein per 6 oz and just 120 calories, so what’s not to love about this food? Its creamy texture makes it feel indulgent and satisfying. Eat it plain, add some to your smoothie or use the plain version as a substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream. (If you use the flavored kind, be sure to pick one low in sugar. A good rule of thumb is to pick one that has more grams of protein than sugar.
  2. Whole wheat pasta is a staple in our kitchen. Swapping out regular white pasta for whole wheat gives you an extra 4 grams of fiber and keeps you full longer. Try sautéing vegetables, chicken and fresh herbs in a teaspoon of olive oil and tossing with cooked whole wheat pasta.
  3. Greens are an easy way to get your veggies. Filling half your plate with some greens at lunch and dinner or tossing some into your smoothie at breakfast will boost your vitamin intake and add volume to your meals so you’ll feel satisfied longer.
  4. We all know getting fruits and veggies is important for healthy eating, but depending on the season, fruits can be hard to keep on hand. Frozen berries are never out of season and are easy on the budget too. Blend some into your smoothie, pile some onto your Greek yogurt or just eat them plain for a sweet treat.
  5. Eggs are one of the cheapest sources of protein. Each egg has 6 grams of protein and about 70 calories. Use this staple breakfast food for any meal such as an egg salad sandwich for lunch or a quiche for dinner. Hard boiled eggs make a great snack too.
  6. Loaded with protein and fiber, quinoa is a great substitute for rice in any recipe. Quinoa can also be a breakfast food: stir in some almond milk, berries and honey for a tasty and filling start to the day.
  7. Packed with protein and heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids, tuna, canned in water, is a great go-to for a quick and easy meal. Serve on whole wheat toast or crackers, mix with nonfat Greek yogurt and chopped vegetables and serve over a bed of greens or add to your favorite wrap.
  8. The soluble fiber in oatmeal may lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) and keep you full longer. Load it up with some berries or nuts for some added nutrients.
  9. Olive oil is one of the best oils for a healthy diet. Using it to sauté veggies or drizzling it over grilled fish will boost the important omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. Although it is healthy, olive oil is still a fat and therefore high in calories so use small amounts. One tablespoon of olive oil still has 120 calories.
  10. When I need a quick sweet treat, a small square of dark chocolate can curb my craving. Its rich flavor helps me stick to a small serving. Choose a higher percent cacao for more of the healthy flavanols. Remember it is a treat so enjoy a small square in moderation!

It’s important to keep healthy options in your house so you don’t end up reaching for convenience food when hunger hits. Next time you’re at the grocery store, add these to your list and you’ll be adding nutrition to your kitchen and your meal plan.

Erickson RD, ACSM-CPT

Christina Erickson, RD, ACSM-CPT is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer with the Billings Clinic Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism Center.

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