20 Foods You Should Always Have in Your Kitchen
Healthy pantry staples
A well-stocked kitchen allows you to throw together a fast, flavorful meal after a long day. And, when you wake up and have to dash out the door for work, it pays to have grab-and-go breakfast and snack options on hand. We tapped registered dietitians, personal chefs, and bloggers for their must-have foods to always keep in their kitchens. (And yes, they're all good for you, too.) Some you probably already have, while others you'll want to add to your list.
Watch the video: 10 Foods You Should Always Keep in Your Kitchen
Extra-virgin olive oil
How to use it: Los Angeles-based personal chef Hallie Norvet recommends buying cold-pressed olive oil for the best flavor. Cook with it, but also drizzle over finished dishes, like grilled fish, pasta, and vegetables sides. (Just be sure not to go overboard. Even though it is good fat, one tablespoon still packs 120 calories.)
Nonfat Greek yogurt
How to use them: Throw them on top of salads, stir them into pastas, or try snacking on them. You can eat 10 for about 50 calories. "They're perfect when you're craving something salty, but it's more satisfying than a fluffy cracker in your belly," says dietitian Jenna Braddock, RD.
How to use it: Sweeten homemade marinades and salad dressings. Braddock also likes to incorporate it into whole-grain baking. "Whole wheat flour can be denser, but adding honey in place of regular sugar keeps things tender and moist." In recipes that call for sugar, swap in an equal amount of honey and reduce baking temperature by 25 degrees.
How to use them: Keep beans of all kinds in your kitchen. Gina Homolka of Skinnytaste favors chickpeas, black beans, and white northern, but what you stock in your pantry is up to you. Keep canned around for salsas and salads; dried to make larger servings that will last the week.
How to use it: Combine cooked quinoa with shredded chicken, chopped veggies, and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Or, eat quinoa hot as a substitute for oatmeal. Stir in almond milk, dried fruit, nuts, and drizzle with honey.
How to use them: Hard boil a bunch at the beginning of the week for an on-the-go breakfast or snack with a piece of cheese and fruit, says Wieczorek. Or, throw a fried egg on top of a rice-and-veggie bowl or a salad for an extra dose of protein. You could also try one of these high-protein breakfast recipes that feature eggs.
How to use it: Use just like you would regular salt. Norvet loves sea salt, which contains a higher mineral content than regular table salt.
How to use it: Buy it in a can or in a squeeze tube and use it to add an extra layer of flavor to curries and stir-fries.
How to use them: For a quick snack, smear a banana nut butter or top on whole grain toast. Banana turning brown? Freeze it and whirl in your food processor until smooth for banana "ice cream."
How to use them: Keep a variety around, says Wieczorek. Cilantro for Thai or Southwestern dishes; basil for Italian, rosemary for marinades or on roast chicken. (Try these recipes for fresh herbs To make sure they stay fresh, store in in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator (not wrapped in plastic) or stuff the sprigs in a glass of water like a vase. (It's pretty, too!)
How to use it: "I always keep dark chocolate on hand, and not just for chocolate cravings," says Wieczorek. You can also use it as a surprise ingredient in sauces. For example, throw one square into a braising sauce for meat to elevate the flavor. Try these 27 healthy chocolate recipes.
How to use it: Norvet buys the already peeled variety for fast chopping to add to soups, stews, sautés, stir-frys, and marinades.
How to use them: Buy them peeled and deveined so they can be easily defrosted and incorporated into last-minute weeknight meals. Norvet loves them because of their versatility. She whips them up into shrimp scampi, shrimp tacos, shrimp salad, and bakes and grills them.
How to use it: Keep a couple different varieties in your refrigerator, says Norvet. That includes Dijon for salad dressings, sauces, marinades, and in a coating for breading chicken and pork. Grain mustard is another favorite as a spread on sandwiches.
How to use it: Flavors like blackberry or strawberry balsamic can be drizzled to brighten the flavor of salads for few calories (one teaspoon contains about five).
How to use it: A bowl of oatmeal is a stick-to-your-ribs, wont-be-full-until-lunch way to start your mornings. Homolka also makes oatmeal smoothies: cook the oatmeal in water with cinnamon sticks, let cool and then blend with milk, ice, and a little raw sugar.
Herbs de Provence
How to use it: Sprinkle on chicken, potatoes, grilled veggies. Also makes a great seasoning for eggs, combined with panko as a crust for fish, or on pizza.
How to use it: Whether chicken, beef or veggie, Stevens relies on these to make soups, stews, and chilies. It also makes a great substitute for oil when sautéing vegetables. Store leftover broth in ice cube trays in the freezer for quick access. When buying broth, Stevens recommends reading the ingredients list and avoiding those that contain added sugar and caramel coloring. Buy low-sodium whenever possible.
Ground chicken and turkey
How to use it: Stash in your freezer and thaw when ready to eat, recommends Wieczorek. It's one meat that cooks in a zip and can be used in stir-fries, meat sauces, tacos, enchiladas, stuffed peppers, or rice bowls.