It's no secret that preparing our own meals makes it easier to stick to a healthy-eating plan. You know the ingredients going into your food, and there's no sneaky extra sodium, sugar or calorie bombs hiding in home-cooked meals. That being said, it can also be time consuming to make everything at home, not to mention the time it takes to go to the grocery store if all the elements aren't already in your kitchen. One way to make it a little easier is to ensure that your kitchen is always stocked with what you need -- ingredients that are satisfying to your taste buds and easy to prepare, whether you are enjoying a relaxing day at home on the weekend or just home from a busy day at the office, with no energy to whip up a fancy dinner. Below is a list of some of my favorite products to stock your kitchen, so you're never more than a few feet away from a healthy meal or snack. And rest assured, my selections are 100 percent impartial -- none of the brands featured paid to make my list.
For the Pantry
- Mesa Sunrise cereal
- Smart Bran
- Pacific Foods steel cut oats and Modern Oats
- Vigilant Eats Superfood Cereal
- Orgran Essential Fiber Rich Crackers (for 2 crackers, you get 5 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and only 40 calories. Put some nut butter or a slice of turkey on top and you have yourself a great snack!)
- GG Scandinavian Bran Crisp (new honey raisin and pumpkin seed varieties are great!)
- Natural nut butter: Justin's and Nuttzo are great brands
- Seasnax Chompers, STIX and seaweed sheets
- 479º Popcorn, Lesser Evil Buddha Bowl Popcorn
- Nature's All Freeze Dried Fruit
- Blue Diamond, Second Nature or Hail Merry single-serve almond bags
- Vermont Smoke and Cure Turkey sticks
- I Heart Keenwah clusters and puffs
- barkTHINS snacking chocolate
- Wild Planet tuna pouch
- Nile and Dr. McDougall soups
- Minsley rice and quinoa
- Whole wheat couscous and bulgar
- Canned Beans: Chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans - no matter what variety you choose, they are high in fiber and protein, and great to add to salads, stews, or soups.
- Ezekiel bread
- Shirataki Noodles (made of tofu and yam flour) and Miracle Noodles
- tera'swhey or Vega protein powder
For Cooking (oils, condiments, etc.)
- Oils and Vinegars: Spectrum spray, Colavita flavored vinegars; Annie's, Bragg's organic, Bolthouse farms
- Light Mayonnaise
- Sabra and Tribe 100 calorie individually packaged hummus spreads
- Whole Guacamole 100 calorie guacamole packs
- Whole Foods 365 organic Dijon Mustard
- Cucina Antica Tomato Sauce
- Le Grand Pesto
- Dried herbs
- Organic non-fat milk or non-dairy milk products
- Silk Dairy Free Yogurt Alternative
- Laughing Cow Lite Cheeses or Babybel Light Cheese Rounds
- Breakstone cottage cheese
- Organic Eggs
- Water packed extra firm tofu
- Produce: Spinach, lettuce of choice, broccoli, onions, fresh garlic, spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes or yams, lemons and limes, eggplant, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, apples, bananas, mango, grapes, berries, pineapple -- any and all of your favorite fruits and veggies!
- Organic sliced turkey
For the Freezer
- Cascadian Farms organic frozen fruits and veggies. The berries are great for smoothies.
- Amy's, Evol and Luvo Frozen Meals (For females, a frozen lunch should be under 220 calories and dinner under 300. Males lunch under 350 and dinner under 500 calories.)
- Veggie Burgers: Dr. Praeger's, Boca
- Organic boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
- Organic extra lean ground turkey: If you keep this on hand, meatballs, meatloaf or burgers are always a possibility!
- Vacuum-packed Frozen fish: It takes almost no time to defrost, and in some cases can even be cooked straight from the freezer. Costco carries a large variety, as does Trader Joe's.
- Chloe's Soft Serve Fruit Pops
For an even more complete list of my favorite products for the fridge and freezer, check out this guide.
Heather Bauer, RD CDN is a nationally recognized nutrition expert, author, and entrepreneur. She has published two best selling diet books; The Wall Street Diet and Bread is the Devil and is the founder of Bestowed, the leading product ratings and reviews site built specifically for health-conscious consumers.
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