From dairy-free pesto to sauerkraut, these are the essentials Cynthia Sass, RD, likes to have on hand.
Healthy eating is my foundation, and I like to think of a well-stocked fridge as pre-production for everyday life. Having the right mix of nutritious foods on hand helps me hit my daily target for veggies and fruit, and lets me throw together simple but balanced meals, so I don't ever have to rely on takeout.
To stock up for the week, I shop at multiple spots, including my local farmer's markets, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, traditional supermarkets, and on amazon.com. I'd say I spend about $100 per week on groceries (some of the things I buy aren't pictured because I keep them in the pantry or freezer). But I rarely spend any money dining out. Below is a peek inside my fridge, and a list of my 15 essentials.
Keep in mind that I don't eat gluten, dairy, soy, red meat, processed carbs, and refined sugar. I have an autoimmune condition, and avoiding these things makes helps me feel healthier and happier. But you may want to add some of my staples to your own shopping list.
1. Vegetable broth
I use the broth to sauté veggies for dinner in place of extra virgin olive oil, when I want to include another healthy fat in the meal, like nuts or avocado. I also use this to make a quick stew or soup. I just sauté minced onions in extra virgin olive oil, add garlic, herbs, spices, and broth, bring to a quick boil, then reduce to a simmer, add more veggies and a scoop of steamed lentils or beans, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes.
2. Dairy-free pesto
I always keep a few jars of Seggiano's dairy-free pesto in the fridge ($10, amazon.com). I use it as a dip for raw veggies or toss it with greens, chickpeas, steamed broccoli, oven-roasted Brussels sprouts, fingerling potatoes, or spaghetti squash.
I oven roast them as a snack, add them to salads for plant-based protein and fiber, or use them to make my own homemade hummus. I also keep the liquid to make aquafaba.
4. Plant-based milks
I usually keep three types of plant-based milks in the fridge: coconut milk, almond milk, and pea protein milk. These are typically used for smoothies, overnight oats, and golden milk. I also love to use plant-based milks in chia or avocado pudding (my current favorite treat), or to make mock “ice cream” mixed with fruit, chopped dark chocolate, spices or herbs, and nuts. Ripple, the pea protein milk, contains 8 grams of protein per cup, so I’ll use it when I want to bump up my protein intake without having to add a protein powder.
5. Canned tuna
I always keep a can of sustainably-sourced tuna or salmon in the fridge (I like either Wild Planet, $31 at walmart.com; or Safe Catch, $30 at walmart.com). For another quick meal, I mix the tuna or salmon with a combination of organic balsamic vinegar, stone ground mustard, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning and serve over chopped kale with a small scoop of quinoa and half of an avocado.
6. Pastured eggs
For a quick breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I’ll sauté veggies in the low-sodium organic vegetable broth, add eggs to scramble, and serve with half of an avocado. When I have more time I also make a crust-less veggie frittata or quiche.
7. Fresh veggies
I try to mix it up, but right now I have kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, and carrots. I eat veggies with every meal, and snack on raw veggies by dipping them in hummus, guacamole, or pesto. I also use cucumbers to infuse my water with added flavor.
8. Guacamole cups
I eat a lot of fresh avocado and homemade guac, but I keep individual cups of Wholly Guacamole (available at Walmart) in the fridge as a back-up, or for when I’m taking guac and veggies on the go.
I enjoy making my own hummus, but I typically keep a store-bought version in the fridge—I like Hope brand ($60 for 8-pack, amazon.com) for when I’m pressed for time. Guac and hummus are great vehicles for eating more veggies. I never keep chips or crackers around because I love scooping up hummus with cucumber, carrots, red bell pepper, or broccoli florets.
For gut health, I keep some type of fermented plant-based food—sometimes kimchi, but currently sauerkraut (available at health food stores)—in my fridge. I’ll add the kraut to a salad, add a layer to hummus to scoop up with veggies, serve it as a side with dinner, or just eat it by itself.
11. Apple cider vinegar
I use Bragg brand organic raw apple cider vinegar ($7, amazon.com) to make a drink with organic honey, lemon, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, and water—or just the honey and water if I’m having golden milk. (To learn more about the buzzy vinegar, check out "These Are The Real Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar.")
12. Sparkling water
While I prefer flat water these days, I keep some sparkling on hand, especially for guests. It’s nice to serve in a fancy glass with a few mashed berries, or some fresh grated ginger and a slice of fresh pineapple.
13. Water-filtering pitcher
I try to drink one pitcher per day. When I'm leaving home, I fill my stainless steel S'well bottle from the pitcher.
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14. Probiotic supplement
Along with a fermented food like kimchi or sauerkraut, I take a daily probiotic from Nature's Way ($30, amazon.com) to promote gut health.
15. Fresh fruit
As with vegetables, I aim for a variety. Currently, my fridge is stocked with blueberries and blackberries, pineapple, cantaloupe, and lemon. I eat fruit with breakfast every day and as a snack along with nuts, seeds, or olives. Ginger root and lemon make great water enhancers, too.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees.