10 Items You Must Keep in Your Pantry & Refrigerator
By Lindsay Martin, M.S., R.D., Hilton Head Health
Common scenario: A mother with a family of four has chosen four to five healthy recipes for the upcoming week. She purchases everything from the grocery store, returns home and chops some onions and peppers for her early morning omelets while also preparing a Sunday evening turkey chili. By mid-week, she starts to notice certain foods are going bad, but she has plenty of leftovers and limited time to use everything before it hits the trash can. Another trip to the grocery store is needed, and it just adds another item on the “to-do list.”
What may be missing in one’s healthy lifestyle is practicing the concept of cross-utilization. Similar to the scenario above, one can make every intention to prepare great recipes, but it can get overwhelming at times and certain foods can be wasted. Cross-utilization is taking one ingredient and/or segment of a meal and using it in another way throughout the rest of the week. Awesome, right? The 10 ingredients below are not only healthy but are easily used in multiple ways.
5 Ingredients to Keep in Your Pantry:
- Sweet potatoes: Rich in cancer-preventative carotenoids as well as dietary fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Use these within three to five weeks in the following ways: baked sweet potato fries, mashed sweet potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, sweet potato soufflé with tofu, or a simple baked sweet potato with a touch of ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt.
- Oats: This whole grain can be used to make oatmeal, homemade apple-and-oats granola bars, pumpkin oatmeal pancakes, or mixed into a healthy smoothie to help bulk it up. Oats are packed with soluble fiber (think intestinal and heart health) and beta-glucans (shown to inhibit tumor growth).
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO): Use this oil to sauté vegetables, sear salmon and other protein sources, incorporate into a vinaigrette dressing, roast Brussels sprouts, or as a light sauce to a pasta dish. One tablespoon of EVOO is 120 calories so one can’t be too heavy handed; however, olive oil has been ingrained into the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet for years and seems to be working just fine.
- Quinoa: This whole grain is actually more like a seed. Uniquely, it is a complete protein, as it contains all of the amino acids essential to get from food. There is red quinoa, black quinoa, quinoa flakes, and more, but one can incorporate as a breakfast cereal, pilaf with dried cranberries and toasted pecans, or combined with black beans and vegetables to make a vegetarian burger.
- Spices: As most people have busy lives, cooking can sometimes go out the door. Using different seasonings and spices such as salt-free Mrs. Dash blends, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, saffron, Italian blends, cinnamon, and nutmeg can transform bland-but-easy dishes into something special. Try roasted potatoes with garlic/onion powder, baked Italian seasoned chicken breast, or turkey meatballs incorporating garlic powder, paprika, and a touch of salt.
5 Ingredients to Keep in Your Refrigerator:
- Eggs: The incredible edible egg is great for omelets, frittatas, scrambles, poaching, and more. As most of the protein is found in the egg white, the yolk is a source of Vitamin B12, choline, Vitamin D, etc. Added bonus—eggs are quick to cook and stay fresh all week long.
- Yogurt (regular & Greek): Greek yogurt tends to have more protein per ounce, but traditional yogurt is still a great way to consume high-quality protein, as well as calcium and Vitamin D. Use non-flavored yogurts for breakfast parfaits, blended and seasoned for dressings or smoothies, incorporated into traditional baked goods, or as a simple snack between meals.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Ideally, you would want to use these within three to five days, but make sure to stock your refrigerator with broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbages. These are nutrient powerhouses, as they are high in fiber, vitamin C, glucosinolates, and folate (great for our body’s cellular regularity). Prepare broccoli cabbage slaw, roasted paprika-seasoned cauliflower, sautéed Brussels and onions, and more.
- Spinach & mixed greens: Spinach is so versatile—it cooks down for omelets, side dishes, or into a stuffed chicken breast. Use this green in salads, along with other mixed greens to get a variety of textures and nutrients—one can’t go wrong with something so low in calories, but high in fiber, folate, carotenoids, vitamin K, and more.
- Mixed berries: These may go bad relatively fast in the refrigerator, but one can easily individually quick freeze berries and keep around for months. Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries are the ones most commonly seen but try using them in different ways: spinach and berry salad, strawberry smoothie, blueberry chipotle sauce, or baked berry ricotta strata.