Too often people go to their refrigerator or closet and find that they don't need to prepare healthy food. This leads to poor food choices. You need to have go-to items in your refrigerator that allow you to quickly whip up a snack or main meal when you are too tired or too short to cook.
I like having a nice stash of my eight essentials in my fridge to feed the family during the week. With these refrigerator essentials on hand, there's no excuse to go off course even if the main store isn't done. Eggs and / or smoothies for breakfast, salads and vegetables for lunch, and nutritious soups for dinner … it's a no-fuss formula that creates quick, healthy meals that taste delicious.
Eight essential foods for your refrigerator
- Raw vegetables to nibble on: Buy celery, baby carrots, and a variety of colored peppers (these baby peppers in Lidl are ideal). Wash thoroughly, then cut into sticks and store in small containers with lids in your refrigerator. Always try to save onions, celery, and carrots as a good base for a soup – add butternut squash or lentils to flavor them. Studies show that a diet that focuses on the daily intake of fresh vegetables has many health benefits, such as weight loss, diabetes control, decreased insulin secretion, improved athletic performance, and reduced risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.
- Greek yogurt: I love this as an evening snack or sometimes for breakfast – sprinkled with chia or flaxseed, blueberries, and some oats and almonds for extra crunch, it always satisfies. But it doesn't all taste good – in a study at the University of Tennessee, people who consumed a little over 500g of the Greek yogurt per day lost 22 percent more weight and 81 percent more belly fat than those who avoided the snack. Go Greek with all your yogurt – did you know that a 170g serving is almost as much protein as a chicken breast? It's also lower than other yogurts.
- Almonds: Yes, believe it or not, you should keep them in the refrigerator – they will last longer there. I think a small handful of almonds is the perfect solution for morning or afternoon nibbles (and they help keep my blood sugar stable for hours). They contain fat, protein and fiber, three nutritional factors that promote a feeling of fullness. And look at this incredible fact: According to researchers at Loma Linda University, people who eat only one serving of tree nuts like almonds per week are 46 percent less obese than those who don't eat nuts. Almonds have anti-inflammatory effects on the body and are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that can fight off free radicals for a healthy immune system. They're also a great source of potassium – a mineral necessary for nerve transmission and the contraction of all muscles including the heart.
- Salad Ingredients: Always have pre-washed salad vegetables, cucumber and chopped onions ready as a basis for your main salad for lunch or the side salad for dinner. Research suggests that eating more is an effective strategy for preventing and treating obesity and chronic diseases. Make a large leaf salad and pour it over a small dressing. Use cold-pressed vegetable, nut, or seed oils as these contain heart-healthy fats that can promote health. However, remember that one tablespoon is enough, otherwise you will add unnecessary calories. If you like lemon juice and / or balsamic vinegar, these are great calorie-free options.
- Eggs: I love eggs! They always satisfy my hunger. In fact, I've often known I have a boiled egg in the afternoon to stave off cravings – and it works! Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the market and make a perfect protein-rich meal any time of the day. One egg provides 13 essential nutrients and is a great source of the B group vitamins, which are needed for vital functions in the body. An egg contains only about 85 calories with protein, B vitamins, vitamins A and D, zinc and iron. Eggs are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. When sourcing your eggs, be sure to buy the best quality you can find. I always try to buy organic when I can. Try our Baked Eggs in Portobello Mushrooms Recipe.
- Salmon: Salmon stands head and shoulders above all other fish when it comes to vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. I always try to smoke salmon in the fridge, which I can give my daughter for lunch with cream cheese on a whole grain bagel and which I often have in a pack with a small amount of sweet chili sauce and lots of vegetables. I buy fresh organic salmon fillets for family meals and serve them with pak choi, broccoli, and brown rice with soy sauce. Check out our recipe for orange and ginger salmon.
- Cheese: Eating cheese can help you lose weight (due to its high protein and chromium content, which results in more stable blood sugar) and even prevent heart disease and osteoporosis. Even so, some cheeses are healthier than others. The best destinations are: mozzarella, feta, cottage cheese, goat, parmesan, cheddar and Swiss cheese. Cottage cheese is one of the best because it is particularly rich in protein. I love having feta in the fridge as it is so convenient to make a Greek salad with lettuce, olives and tomatoes.
- Hummus: A healthy, vegetarian-friendly, low-fat dip or spread made from chickpeas. This is the perfect luznh or generous snack when served with brown pitta triangle or raw vegetables. Can't tell you how many times I almost ate my daughter's Doritas but was saved by a serving of hummus. Try it out and see for yourself – it's a fantastic appetite suppressant due to the high protein content (in the chickpeas) and the fat in the oil. However, watch out for garlic!
Don't forget water! Always keep a nice, cold jug of fresh water in the refrigerator to help retain moisture. Try seasoning it with a lemon or cucumber slice. You may already have some of the above eight essential foods for your refrigerator, but how about adding to this list once a week and watching it become a very healthy proposition for you and your family.