Eating healthy today presents lots of challenges. There's the whole willpower thing to conquer, which is huge considering how many great bakeries exist in the U.S. alone. Then, there's the planning that goes into how to pull it off with such a busy schedule -- unhealthy foods always seem to be easier to find in a pinch. But there is a way to make it easier, and it all starts with the fridge.
If you take the time to stock your fridge with the right foods, healthy eating becomes a cinch. Especially if you stock these 11 items:
1. Cooked whole grains like quinoa, barley, wheat berries or farro. Whole grains take longer to cook than refined grains like white rice, so it's a good idea to double or triple the batch when you make some. Then you'll have filling grains to complement a nutritious dinner, turn into a grain salad or beef up a regular salad into a more substantial meal.
2. Homemade dressing. Store-bought salad dressings are often loaded with sugar. If you make your own at home, you can eliminate that sneaky ingredient and boost flavor, too -- homemade dressing is so much tastier. Make a whole bottle's worth, it'll keep for a long while.
3. Pre-roasted veggies. Roasted vegetables -- like broccoli and cauliflower -- taste like a treat. The slight caramelization sweetens them just so, making them a satisfying midday snack all on their own. And they're also a great addition for making salads or veggie bowls even better.
4. Peanut butter. Trust us. Peanut butter is full of protein. It makes a great snack on celery sticks, apple slices and a simple slice of whole grain bread. It's also a great way to make smoothies more filling and oatmeal, too.
5. Chopped veggies. Loading up your fridge with healthy fruits and veggies is one thing, but if they require washing, peeling and chopping, the vegetables probably won't be what you reach for when you need a snack in a pinch. Take a few extra minutes to prep them after unloading groceries from the supermarket. Your busy work week will thank you.
6. Hard-boiled eggs. Best, quickest protein-filled snack ever. Plus, they can also be turned into a healthy sandwich and are great salad toppers, too.
7. Cheese. Most of us are taught that cheeses are not a good idea when trying to stay healthy, but this is not always the case. Some cheeses, like feta and Parmesan, are much healthier than you'd think. And they add a creamy flavor to foods that will help curb cravings when the taste for something rich should strike.
8. Already-washed greens. Ask yourself this: Are you really going to make a salad if you have to wash the greens first? Storing the greens ready to eat gets you one step closer to making a wise meal choice.
9. Plain yogurt. Whether Greek or regular yogurt is your thing, this is one versatile ingredient that definitely deserves a spot in your healthy fridge. Not only does it make a great breakfast or quick snack, but it's also very useful in as a healthy ingredient substitute for more indulgent foods, like sour cream. (Just stay away from the flavored ones, which can be loaded with sugar.)
10. Healthy drink options. Think homemade iced teas and spa waters. It's the easiest way to stay hydrated when you can't possibly imagine drinking another glass of water without reaching for sodas or juices.
11. Nutritious condiments -- yes, they exist! Put down the ketchup and reach for the miso paste. Tahini, harissa, pesto and salsas are also great options. These healthy condiments are great drizzled on top of dishes to keep your meals interesting, and they're also a great ingredient for cooking, too.
Stock up on these 11 ingredients today, and see how much easier -- and tastier -- healthy eating becomes!
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