It can be difficult to prepare a quick, healthy meal when you don’t have the right ingredients on hand. One can make the argument that most healthy foods are very perishable and don’t have a long shelf-life. That may be true for fruits and vegetables, but there are other shelf-stable ingredients that exhibit diverse nutritional profiles. When you have them in your kitchen, a healthy meal is never out of reach.
There are numerous healthy foods that will keep fresh in your freezer, fridge, or pantry. Use these items to make nutrient-dense meals or snacks, even if you don’t have your typical healthy go-to foods. Don’t do crime to your waistline! Keep the following staples in your kitchen at all times and you’ll be able to throw a healthy meal together whenever you please.
Dried Herbs And Spices
Many herbs and spices exhibit impressive health benefits in addition to adding depth of flavor to dishes. Ginger, oregano, turmeric, thyme, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, or cumin may help to reduce inflammation, lower risk of heart disease, or improve brain function. More than that, though, spices and herbs elevate the flavor profile of dishes, helping you pull off more dynamic flavor combinations.
Believe it or not, quinoa is not a grain. This seed is an excellent source of fiber, protein, and vitamin B6. It also contains more iron and protein than most whole grains. Quinoa is shelf-stable and you can store it at room temperature. Prepare quinoa in advance and then store it in an airtight container in the fridge. This makes it easy to add to salads, soups, vegetable dishes, bowls, and even breakfasts.
Dried Or Canned Beans & Lentils
Beans and lentils are some of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. Some canned varieties contain excess sodium or processed ingredients, so it’s best to purchase sodium-free varieties. It’s better to purchase dried beans or lentils for this reason. Dried beans can last on the shelf for up to 10 years because they lack moisture that is necessary for bacterial growth. Beans are excellent sources of heart-healthy nutrients, including B vitamins, iron, fiber, and antioxidants.
Oats are natural sources of potassium, protein, fiber, iron, and magnesium. Their versatility lends them a variety of recipes, including energy balls, oat cakes, oatmeal, and even smoothies. The soluble fiber in oats may help to regulate blood sugar and keep cholesterol levels down. Oats also exhibit unique antioxidant activity because of the avenanthramides, which are polyphenols that my reduce blood pressure levels.
Frozen Fruits & Vegetables
Even though they are not fresh off the vine, frozen and fruits and vegetables do have health benefits. The produce loses a little nutritional value by being flash frozen after picking, but the nutritional profiles are lightyears beyond canned fruits or vegetables. Dietitians state that frozen fruits and vegetables are comparable to fresh varieties in the micronutrient department. They go great in smoothies, baked goods, and stir-fries.
Apple Cider Vinegar
It’s best to purchase raw apple cider vinegar with “the mother,” as this is the healthiest variety. Apple cider vinegar is very versatile, tangy, and healthy. In fact, several studies found that apple cider vinegar has potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and heart-healthy properties.
Nuts & Nut Butters
Nuts and nut butters are excellent sources of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Depending on the type of nut or nut butter, you can store at room temperature or in the fridge. Natural nut and seed butters may require refrigeration and are much healthier alternatives to commercial, processed, butters that contain added oils, sugars, and preservatives. As for nuts and seeds, you can add them to many dishes, including salads, desserts, snacks, and oatmeal.
We know most people are sweet enough, but a little extra honey in your life doesn’t hurt. Raw honey is an excellent natural sweetener that offers unique health benefits. According to several studies, raw honey exhibits anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It also offers an array of beneficial antioxidants that help to fight free radicals in the body.
Coconut oil and olive oil are some of the best oils you can use and they keep safely at room temperature for more than a year or so. That means that you can buy more of these oils in larger quantities, so that you don’t run out. Cooking with healthier fats, like the ones in coconut oil or olive oil, enhances the body’s ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and minerals from food.
Everyone raves about fermented foods, and for good reason. Kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, natto, kombucha, and more contain beneficial probiotics that may improve gut microbiome. It’s possible that these foods may also regulate blood sugar and reduce inflammation. Because of their nature, fermented foods last a long time, so you won’t have to worry about food waste!