15 Must Haves for your Kitchen

First, I have a confession, this list was really long at first. I love to cook and when I was looking at my pantry, cupboards and fridge I had a hard time narrowing it down. With that being said, this list could easily be longer and your top 15 is most likely different than my top 15. None-the-less, here are 15 must haves for your kitchen at all times. With these 15 things, and of course some seasonings, you can whip up a variety of things in a matter of minutes.

EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil -Rich in healthy monounsaturated fats—known to lower heart disease risk—extra virgin olive oil can be used to marinate, saute, crisp, bake, and more.   Another need-to-know: “Extra-light” olive oil isn’t lower in calories or fat; the descriptor refers to color and processing.

BeansBeans – Stock your pantry with pintos, kidneys, garbanzos, black beans, and more. Canned may seem easier, but dried beans are cheaper, tastier, and save space. You can prepare for the week ahead by cooking a pound of white beans: On Monday, mix some with freshly chopped sage, garlic, and good olive oil for a satisfying dinner side dish. On Wednesday, combine some with a can of tomatoes; chopped celery, carrots, and onions; cooked pasta; and cheese for a quick and hearty minestrone. On Friday, sprinkle some over your favorite salad for lunch, and freeze any leftovers. (Small amounts of beans can be frozen indefinitely.)

Canned Tomatoes – You don’t need fancy fruits with unpronounceable names to nab your daily cancer-fighting antioxidants. Almost every kitchen has a can or two of these undercover superfoods socked away. They are loaded with vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and iron. And their key antioxidant, lycopene, actually becomes more readily available to the body when cooked (versus fresh). Canned tomatoes come in all sorts of flavors, like fire-roasted or garlic, onion, and basil. Look for low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties to limit sodium; it shouldn’t affect the overall taste of your dish, as other ingredients likely contain salt.

Old Fashion Oats -A canister of oats guarantees a healthful, filling breakfast that, with a few special ingredients, is far from boring.  Beyond breakfast, oatmeal can be used as a binder in meatloaf and meatballs or pulsed in a food processor to make a healthier white flour substitute in pancakes and muffins. Speaking of which, you can kiss your muffin-top goodbye with this pantry staple: One study found that people who doubled their daily fiber intake from 12 to 24 grams absorbed 90 fewer calories per day than those who ate the same amount of food but less fiber. One cup of cooked oats provides about 4 grams.

Natural Peanut (or Almond) Butter -It’s peanut butter jelly time! True, peanut butter is naturally high in fat, but it’s the heart-healthy variety, and it’s delivered with a shot of protein. Look for no more than two ingredients on the label (peanuts, maybe salt) and choose regular over reduced-fat varieties, which are packed with sugar.

vinegarsVinegar -Pour on the flavor with virtually no calories, fat, or sodium. Stock an assortment of tangy vinegars—balsamic, rice, champagne, apple cider—and use them in marinades, salad dressings, and Asian-inspired dishes, to caramelize onions, or pour some over strawberries or pears for a sophisticated dessert.  Just watch out for fancy-flavored vinegars like pomegranate or raspberry, which may contain hidden sugars. There are even vinegar stores like wine stores where you can go in and sample a wide variety of vinegars.  Vinegar keeps well—store it for up to a year in your pantry.

Sweet Potatoes – You can always rely on versatile, budget-friendly spuds. Research shows they’re one of the most satiating foods around, potatoes provide long-lasting energy from their healthy carbohydrates and fiber combination. Plus, they will help to fend off colds and flus, since one potato has 45 percent of the daily value of vitamin C. Mash them, add to stews, or slice them up, spritz with olive oil, and bake for healthy fries.

Greek Yogurt – First, to be clear: Both Greek and regular yogurt, in their plain, nonfat or low-fat forms, can be part of a healthful diet. They’re low in calories and packed with calcium and live bacterial cultures. In roughly the same amount of calories, it can pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half.

Brown Rice – Brown rice is the “unrefined” version of white rice. Before white rice went through the refining process, it at one time looked exactly like brown rice.Brown rice, unlike white rice, still has the side hull and bran, which renders quicker cooking times and makes it easier to digest as it’s much “lighter” in the in the stomach.

Rainbow_Quinoa_ref.1951Quinoa – (pronounced “KEEN-wah”), a South American seed that serves as a tasty and healthful stand-in for rice or couscous. One cup of cooked quinoa has 15% fewer carbohydrates and 60% more protein than a comparable amount of brown rice; it also has 25% more fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol.

Raw or Roasted Nuts – Almonds, walnuts, pecans are my favorite.  It does not matter if they are raw or roasted as long as you add them to your diet.  They have high antioxidant activity and are able to quench free radicals that lead to cell damage and oxidative stress. Nuts also have a very nice fatty-acid balance and are a good source of vegetable proteins. And they are linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Eggs – Eggs are all-natural and packed with a number of nutrients. One egg has 13 essential vitamins and minerals in varying amounts, high-quality protein, unsaturated fats and antioxidants, all for 70 calories. Eggs’ nutrients can help you with weight management, muscle strength, eye health, brain function and having a healthy pregnancy. Particularly important for aiding healthy brain function and pregnancy is choline (pronounced KOH-leen), which is amply present in eggs.
  Now the choline and the other antioxidants are present in the yolk.  So the question presents itself of do I keep the yolk or toss it?  While half the protein from an egg is in the yolk as well, all the fat (5grams) is in the yolk. My rule of thumb is if I am having a hard boiled egg for a snack I eat the yolk.  If I am making an omelette, scrambled eggs or such, I typically toss half the yolks.

Avocados – One of my favorites!  One cup of fresh avocado (150 grams) added to a salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, and carrots increased absorption of carotenoids from this salad between 200-400%.

Leafy Greens – Dark leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses filled with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They are rich in chlorophyll, which alkalinizes the blood, and fiber, which keeps the colon healthy. The USDA recommends eating one-half cup of green leafy vegetables each day to prevent nutrient deficiencies and serious illnesses. There are many varieties of edible green leaves, and they are most nutritious when eaten raw or lightly steamed.

Farmers-MarketSeasonal Fresh Fruits/Veggies – This is a given so that you have go-to snacks and availability to make your meals colorful and healthy. The reason I say seasonal because I recommend going to farmers markets and eating what is in season. When we start messing with producing fruits and veggies outside of their season we mess with their nutrient balance. Plus we are making an impact on our carbon footprint when we have to pay to have those fruits and veggies shipped to us. Every thing we do, every choice we make, creates an impact somewhere. Choose wisely and choose for the future. Okay, sorry, I will get off my soapbox now.

There you have it, I might write a follow up post with my second set of top 15 must haves, especially if you like to bake. Don’t be afraid to experiment with recipes and even creating your own. The kitchen is supposed to be a fun place to explore and discover.

Please feel free to share what your top must haves are in your kitchen.

About sherianne

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is SheriAnne Nelson and I am happily married to my husband Mike. I’m a mother of three beautiful children ages 9, almost 6, and 3, am a passionate fitness professional, and a Star Diamond Level fitness coach within the Team Beachbody program in Scottsdale, Arizona.

  • Nicole

    I’ve got every one in my kitchen eVery week (except Greek yogurt since I don’t eat dairy). Great list!

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