When it comes to being physically healthy, what’s the secret to success? It’s the million dollar question, but in most cases I’d argue the answer is a well-stocked kitchen that allows you to fix quick, nutritious meals on a budget. Preparation is key, especially when you’re a busy bee. And if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight, remember that diet is paramount! This graphic says it best:
You really can’t. I’ve tried. I could be the only person in the history of life who actually GAINED weight while training for a marathon.
The following items are vegetarian and/or vegan and even better… versatile! You can use them in all sorts of ways. I list some ideas, but use your imagination. They’ll also give you the most bang for your buck in terms of protein and essential nutrients. Call this your secret superfood stash!
The 13 Best Foods For Your Fridge (and Pantry)
Almonds: A handful a day keeps the doctor away! Raw nuts are best. Almonds have more calcium than any other nut. They also contain a healthy dose of fiber and protein to keep you full, with healthy fats and vitamin E!
Almond Milk (Unsweetened): Aside from the fact that it’s vegan, I actually prefer the taste of almond milk over regular cow’s milk. It can be more expensive, but it’s worth it. Fewer calories. Lots of calcium. Also great for my friends with lactose intolerance.
Bananas: I ALWAYS have bananas around. They’re usually inexpensive, and if they get too brown before you can eat them, ditch the peel and throw them in the freezer. Use them in smoothies. Or, make my guiltless Cocoa Banana Ice Cream. It’s boyfriend approved!
Cacao: Look for raw and organic varieties. You can buy cacao beans, nibs or powder. All are a great substitution for regular cocoa in smoothies, shakes, baking, and more. It’s better than your garden variety baking cocoa because it’s unprocessed and, therefore, more potent. It could very well be the world’s most concentrated source of anti-oxidants. It also has sky-high levels of magnesium and iron.
Coconut Oil: I love this stuff so much, I made it a Friday Favorite. Click to find out why.
Eggs: When I attempt to go entirely vegan, these little babies always bring me back. Nothing makes a cheaper, lower calorie meal than egg whites, veggies, and some whole grain toast.
Greek Yogurt: Yet another reason why it’s almost impossible for me to go 100% vegan. Greek yogurt is so high in protein, so tasty, and so versatile, it’s just hard to give up. I always keep a tub of the non-fat plain in the fridge. I eat it with fruit and cereal. I use it as sour cream. I mix it with marinara sauce for an instantly creamy red sauce for veggies or pasta. The opportunities are endless!
Lemons: An esthetician (the awesome Christen Michel) once told me that drinking fresh lemon water in the morning can help a puffy face. It can also help a puffy body. I like to drink as much lemon water as I can stomach in the days after an indulgent weekend. The enzymes in the fresh lemon juice help your body work out extra waste. If you’re feeling brave, add some cayenne pepper for a metabolic boost.
Natural Peanut Butter: I don’t care what anyone says. Natural peanut butter is better than regular. It tastes better, and it’s better for you. Before you buy, check the ingredient list. You’d be surprised at all the things manufacturers hide in those jars. Your goal is to find a brand with just ONE ingredient – peanuts. MAYBE salt. No sugar or syrup or high fructose anything. Whole Foods sells a generic for about $4.
Quinoa: I used to be a brown rice whore until I found quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah). Why would you eat plain ol’ rice when quinoa provides so much extra protein? In fact, it’s one of the few plants that can be classified as a complete protein. It also cooks way faster than rice. Eat it warm with stir fry or cold in a salad with fresh fruits splashed with lemon juice and olive oil.
Frozen Spinach: Spinach is the best for so many reasons. It’s easy to find. It’s one of the most nutritious foods available. You can hide it in things (like breakfast smoothies). And when you buy it frozen, it lasts forever.
Stevia: One of the healthiest things you can do for yourself right now is to ditch the artificial sweeteners. They’re poison, and they can actually make you fatter. I’m not kidding. I gave up conventional diet soda almost completely 3 years ago. I lost 10 pounds without even trying. Stevia is a great way to naturally sweeten most anything, including coffee and baked goods, without adding extra calories. Aldi sells a 40 packet box for just $2.
Whole grain breakfast cereal: Nothing makes a quick meal like cereal, day or night. I’m a big fan of generic Grape Nuts. The ingredients are scarce and simple. Kashi cereals are also awesome, but beware of added sweetener. “Organic cane syrup” might sound fancy, but sugar is sugar.
Did I miss something? How do you keep your kitchen stocked? Let me know in the comments below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.