I went grocery shopping yesterday after a long day of exams, student panels, and puppy-watching. When I walked in my normal grocery store, nothing was where it was supposed to be. I know Kroger said, “Pardon our dust while we remodel!”, but man. Running through 12 aisles to find canned beans by themselves next to the lightbulbs and forgetting to buy peanut butter because my flow was off was NOT what I wanted to do yesterday.
Alas! I was on a mission. I’m truly terrible at the whole “New-Year’s-Resolution-Get-Healthy” thing. Because the last thing I want to do when it’s -10 degrees outside is leave my house (and my Netflix). Every year, during the fall, I decide to go on a bit of a health kick. Last year, I found an awesome yoga/barre studio and it was my saving grace during the throws of my second year of medical school. This year, since I have much more time during the day, I’m focusing on healthy cooking, and Dan and I are joining the gym down the street for some accountabili-buddy workouts when Gino wakes us up at 5:30 AM (like this morning…)!
I think one of the most important things about cooking healthy foods – and avoiding eating out all the time – is to have a well stocked pantry and fridge to whip up some basics or to spice up something bland. Here’s what I make sure to have on hand…along with some of my latest life pictures!
- Whole wheat bread crumbs and panko: mixed with herbs and a little parmesan cheese, this makes a perfect quick breading for chicken and veggie “fries” that you can bake in the oven for a healthy crunch. Bread crumbs are a good addition to hamburger meat to make it stick together better!
- Whole wheat noodles and thai rice noodles: For when you want to use up leftovers or clean out your fridge, nothing is easier than a quick noodle dish or stir fry.
- Brown sugar and honey: A great sweetener to oatmeal in the morning or a stir fry sauce.
- Brown rice: To bulk up a simple chicken dish or to use as a base for delicious veggies. I like to make a lot and have some leftovers in the fridge.
- Peanut butter: No explanation needed. Just kidding – it’s great on a piece of whole wheat toast for a quick breakfast or smeared on a banana for a great post-workout snack. Or plain.
- Canned tomatoes: I like to have a big can of low sodium crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes (fire roasted), and tomato sauce on hand. Then, I can make a quick meat sauce for spaghetti or chicken tortilla soup.
- Canned beans: Low sodium black beans and kidney beans can always be added to soups for some protein.
- Whole wheat tortillas and english muffins: A quick egg and cheese breakfast sandwich can be incredibly satisfying (and delicious!), while a wrap with turkey and cheese is a great snack.
- Taco seasoning: I always have the tortillas, ground turkey, and toppings, so this is a fantastic back up dinner that I never get sick of.
- Granola and oatmeal: Added into yogurt or topped with walnuts and fresh fruit, this breakfast never gets old and I can make it in my sleep.
- Popcorn: I like the kind I can pop in a big pot on the stove. It’s high in fiber and good for you! And you can add your toppings as you like.
- Trail mix: Great for a quick snack out the door. But be careful! 1/4 cup is the proper serving size and calories can add up quickly with nuts.
- Cooking oils: I always have sesame oil, canola oil, and olive oil on hand for various things!
- Asian cooking necessities: Low sodium soy sauce, mirin, fish sauce, minced ginger, and hot chili garlic sauce. These ingredients combined in any which way make a fantastic sauce for shrimp, chicken, and veggies.
- Plain greek yogurt: A fantastic substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream and often used in baking. Mixed with fresh fruit and granola, you can’t do no wrong.
- Parmesan cheese: A great add-on for soups, salads, pastas, and veggie fries!
- Maple syrup: I often use this as a sweetener in my baking, but I also love to get frozen whole grain waffles and heat those up to top with fresh berries and maple syrup on a lazy morning.
- Lemons and limes: I’m getting back on my hot water with lemon kick first thing in the morning. Not to mention, these two can pack a flavor punch into any sauce.
- Snacking cheeses: I’m a big fan of part-skim string cheese and The Laughing Cow cheese wedges. With a little bit of protein and endless dipping options, these are great for a quick snack.
- Mustard: Mix with some greek yogurt and tuna for a quick tuna salad or add on a snack wrap for some pizzaz!
- Eggs: Is your salad boring? Throw an egg on it! Is your dinner boring? Throw an egg on it! Hungry? Eat an egg!!!! You get the jist – the options are endless with these bad boys.
- Apples: Cut up with cinnamon or peanut butter.
- Bananas: Eat on yogurt, oatmeal, or plain for a filling snack.
- Onions: I always have yellow and red onions for cooking – store in a cool, dark place and they will last a while.
- Peppers: Great cooked with noodles or rice and fantastic raw with some hummus.
- Greens: The more color the better! I like to have on hand for a salad to feel like I’m getting nutrients, no matter what the meal.
- Serrano peppers: I always add to Mexican dishes and chili for a zing!
- Frozen veggies and brown rice: For when I’m feeling particularly lazy, this brown rice cooks in minutes in the microwave. The veggies are great for slow and low dishes like soups and casseroles.
- Ezekiel Bread: The only bread I’ll ever buy – whole grain and incredibly good for you at only 80 calories a slice.
- Frozen whole wheat waffles: For a quick breakfast fix that feels special!
- Frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast, shrimp, and ground turkey: We buy all this at Costco and always have it on hand for meals. It takes up some space, but I never have meat go bad in the fridge and never have to run to the store for a last minute main dish. Just make sure you defrost it in the morning!
- Frozen bananas and berries: For smoothies galore!
Week to week, I always get a few extra things for whatever we’re cooking. But, you can bet your bottom dollar that I have these ingredients on hand at all times. Trust me! The more appetizing your fridge and pantry look, the less likely you are to order your favorite burger for the third time this week.
Check in on Wednesday’s for other health tips!