Kitchen Makeover: Fridge & Freezer Must Haves

If you are aiming for a healthier kitchen to prepare healthier meals at home, there are several items that your refrigerator and freezer should always have in stock.  The list below can serve as a guide while you grocery shop for healthy staples.

Refrigerator:
• Skim milk, 1 percent milk or fortified soy milk
• Fresh fruit: Keep a variety of fresh fruit washed, cut and stored in a clear plastic container where you and your kids can see it to grab for snacking or adding to recipes.
• Hummus: Dip veggies, such as carrots and broccoli, in this chickpea spread.
• Low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt: Mix fresh, frozen or canned (packed in its own juice) fruit into vanilla or plain yogurt. In recipes, yogurt can substitute for heavy cream, cream cheese, sour cream or ricotta cheese. It’ll add creaminess and body to your dips, sauces and fillings.
 Fresh or bagged salad: Look for darker greens like baby spinach, mesclun greens or field greens.
• Lunch meats: Like lean turkey or lean roast beef
• Whole grain tortillas: They’re a fun alternative to bread.
• Fresh veggies: Buy your own to wash and chop. Or pick up prewashed, precut veggies like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, snow peas and celery to serve as a snack, toss into salads or steam.
• Low-fat cheese
• Natural nut butter: Like peanut or almond butter
• Eggs
• Tofu: Tofu is a great source of protein and it’s versatile. If you’ve never cooked tofu, click for a how-to video.  Extra-firm tofu is good for frying, roasting, grilling or marinating; firm tofu is good for stir-frying, boiling or to use as filling; soft tofu is good for pureeing; and silken tofu is good for pureeing, simmering, egg substitution, vegan desserts and smoothies.

Freezer:
• Boneless chicken breasts: Add to pasta, salads and stir-fries.
• Lean ground beef: Buy 90 or 95 percent lean.
• Seafood: Some of my favorites include salmon, cod, tilapia and shrimp.
• A variety of frozen fruits and vegetables: Frozen produce can be just as nutritious as fresh and it’s there when you need it. Choose options without added sauces and sugar.  Since they’re already chopped, frozen fruits and veggies are good for smoothies, soups and stir-fries. And because they’re frozen, there is no rush to use them before they spoil. Branch out of the ordinary and try some protein-packed edamame!
• Ground turkey: Lean or extra lean.
• Veggie burgers: Made from soy protein.
• Frozen chopped spinach: Thaw and drain a box of frozen chopped spinach, and add it to turkey burgers, meatloaf, marinara sauce, lasagna or frittatas. Frozen spinach is just as nutritious as fresh since it’s picked at the peak of ripeness and flash-frozen to lock in the vitamins.

Additionally, in the summer 2012 issue of WakeMed’s Heart to Heart magazine, I discussed how you can eat fresh and healthy all year long.  Click here, and see page 14.  Need more help getting started?  Click here.

Amy Bowen is a clinical dietitian at WakeMed Cary Hospital.  With questions for the dietitians, e-mail askadietitian@wakemed.org. For individual nutrition counseling, call WakeMed Cary Hospital Outpatient Nutrition Services at 919-350-2358.

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