I find that having a well stocked refrigerator can make the difference between a healthy and flavorful meal or snack and pizza delivery or a candy bar. I usually do one grocery store trip per week to stock up on essentials. Every once in a while I will stop in to a store on my way home from work to pick up a fresh item like fish or meat, but that does not always happen. I need to be sure that I have some really good staples in my refrigerator at all times so that I do not fall prey to the temptation of take-out and junk food!
My top picks to keep on hand are versatile in that they can be used to make meals or snacks. You would be surprised at how many things you can make out of a few simple ingredients. I originally was going to do my top 5 items, but I could not narrow it down to 5. Then I was going to do the top 6 items and I still could not narrow it down. So, I have gone with lucky number 7. Here are my top 7 items to always keep in the refrigerator:
Yogurt – I normally buy a nonfat or low fat option. Yogurt is full of healthy probiotics and is a nice option for people who cannot tolerate milk, either because of a protein allergy or lactose intolerance. It is great with fruit, nuts and cereal for breakfast, in smoothies, or alone as a snack. I will often throw whatever fruits I have around into a cup along with some ice, yogurt and honey. I blend with my immersion blender and get a terrific smoothie. If I really want to be decadent I will add peanut butter and/or chocolate. One of my favorite Indian drinks, lassi, is made with yogurt. You can also make great dips or sauces with it.
My favorite types to use are either kefir or a Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is thick and full of protein. The mouth-feel is wonderful in that you are eating something rich, creamy and luxurious (even if it is fat free). Kefir is technically not yogurt, but it is very similar. Its consistency is more like a thin milk shake. I alternate between the two types as they are quite different. I try to use plain yogurt when possible and add my own fruits and sweeteners. I like to use clover honey, buckwheat honey or agave to sweeten plain yogurt, which can be tart on its own.
Peeled Baby Carrots – I used to think that baby carrots were actually little carrots harvested and peeled. I then found out that the majority of baby carrots you find in the supermarket are just regular carrots, peeled and cut into the baby carrot shape. Oh well, regardless of how they get into that shape I love them. Carrots contain beta-carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the body. They are also a good source of fiber and are super good for you.
Since the peeling is done for you they are a convenience item that you will pay a slightly higher premium for. I think it is worth it. Having them peeled and already in a manageable size makes a big difference if you are trying to put together a meal or snack quickly. I will often eat them plain or dip them in hummus for a healthy snack. I chop them up and put them into salads or soups and stews all the time. I also love anything with crunch factor and these are perfect!
Pre-Washed Baby Spinach – The baby spinach is much more tender than regular spinach and you can easily eat the stems. There was a reason that Popeye ate his spinach. It is full of vitamins A, C, E, K, lutein, calcium and folic acid, just to name a few! Other than being very good for you it can also be used in a variety of dishes. I will use it cold in salads, sautéed with olive oil and garlic as a side dish, in omelets or stirred into soups or sauces.
Since the washing is done for you, you will also pay a higher price. I still think it is worth it. Spinach can be gritty and full of dirt. Having the cleaning done for you can save a lot of time and mean the difference between getting healthy food on the table or picking up a take-out menu.
Hummus – Traditionally made with chickpeas and tahini, hummus is a Middle Eastern dip or spread. It is full of protein, vitamin C and Iron. It is delicious and comes in an assortment of flavors. I used to only find the traditional hummus in the grocery store. I now see dozens of varieties ranging from artichoke and spinach to roasted red pepper to olive. My personal favorites are sun dried tomato and roasted garlic. The good news is that there are so many types you will never get bored with it.
It is a perfect dip for cut up veggies, crackers or pita. It can also be used as a spread on sandwiches or as an accompaniment to meat or chicken. If you have never tried it before you must!
Eggs – There is no need to just eat them for breakfast. They also make an excellent lunch or quick dinner. They are a very good source of protein and vitamins A, B, D and E.
You will see a lot of egg recipes from me. I make awesome scrambled eggs (if I do say so myself), dozens of types of omelets and frittatas. I have THE BEST quiche recipe ever (coming soon!) I really like entertaining for brunch and I always serve some type of egg dish. I also keep hard boiled eggs on hand to make into egg salad (another great and easy recipe) or add into salad to bump up the protein.
Tortillas – They are traditionally Mexican but have been part of main stream culture for a while. They used to only be made out of corn or flour. Nowadays you can find them made from whole grains and they come in a variety of flavors. Tortillas are a really good convenience item because they are so versatile. I can use them in any meal of the day. They can be made into breakfast burritos in the morning, wraps for lunch or dinner and quesadillas for a meal or snack. If you want a really healthy lunch you can make a wrap with hummus, baby spinach, other veggies and/or protein and serve baby carrots on the side 🙂
Cheese – I saved the best for last! I L.O.V.E. cheese. All types of cheeses. I do not discriminate. I plan to do a posting soon dedicated solely to cheese. I love it so much. You get the picture. Cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. There are so many different types that I can have a different kind on hand each week and never get bored.
I always have some kind of cheese in my refrigerator. I often use cheese with eggs in omelets, frittatas and quiches. I eat pieces of cheese with whole grain crackers or veggies as a snack. I make cheese sandwiches, grilled cheese and quesadillas. It is the perfect topping for pasta and home-made pizzas.
So, there you have it. My top 7 picks for the refrigerator. I would love to hear what you think of the list and also what are the top items in your refrigerator!