The Ultimate Kitchen Guide from Nutritionist Amy Shapiro
- Written By:Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN
Even though lockdowns and quarantines are loosening up in most areas, the truth is we’ll still be spending a lot of time at home working, parenting and yes you guessed it, eating. In order to pep up your pantry and spice up your fridge I’m sharing my kitchen must-haves, which should provide you with some motivation and at the very least a solid base to make a variety of nutritious and delicious snacks and meals.
Farmer’s markets and grocery stores are brimming with colorful fruits and vegetables this time of year. While you should absolutely enjoy the flavors of the season, we also suggest including heartier items that will last a bit longer (who doesn’t love fewer trips to the store?). And remember, when organizing your fully stocked fridge, be sure to put the nutritious items front and center so that the decision to reach for some pre-cut veggies is that much easier.
Fresh Vegetables: Our favorites are also fairly sturdy including cabbage, kale, peppers, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, which can last a week or more in your fridge and can be prepared in a variety of ways.
- Add cabbage to salads for extra crunch, grill thick slices or sauté with sliced onions and turmeric
- Make ribbons out of carrots by peeling them slowly and toss them into your salad to add color or tempt your kids with
- Cauliflower steaks are my new favorite. Simply brush with olive oil and sprinkle with EBTB seasoning, check out my recipe.
- Enjoy peppers stuffed with grass-fed ground beef or enjoy with guac instead of chips.
Eggs: My most favorite go-to easy meal maker is the egg. Farm fresh is best if you can find them. They are considered a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids, choline for brain health, omega 3s for longevity and vitamin D3 for immunity. How can you beat that?
- Sauté some Brussels sprouts then cook an egg on top
- Make a frittata filled with spinach, tomato and feta cheese
- Top toast with a fried egg, add a slice of cheese or avocado underneath
Lemons: Incredibly versatile, detoxifying, immune boosting and delicious. I always suggest having a bunch on-hand, I even travel with them. I start every day with a large glass of warm water with half a juiced lemon, you should too!
- Marinate chicken or shrimp in lemon, olive oil, fresh garlic and herbs then grill or bake.
- Add to your green smoothie to brighten up the flavor and boost your absorption of the non-heme iron available in greens.
- Zest into pancakes and add a few blueberries for a grown-up yet kid friendly start to your day.
Think of your freezer as the new pantry. It’s your back up plan and will always have your back when your fridge is empty. Stash frozen vegetables, meat and even prepared foods in your freezer for up to six months.
Frozen Fruit and Vegetables: Picked at the height of freshness and flash frozen to preserve their flavor and nutrition frozen fruits and vegetables are just as fresh and nutrient rich than their fresh counterparts. Some favorites include broccoli, spinach, cauliflower rice, edamame, blueberries, açaí packets (unsweetened, please!) and mango.
- Sauté cauliflower rice in some water to defrost then toss with some coconut Aminos and add an egg or some tofu!
- Boil up edamame in salted water and enjoy a protein and fiber rich snack hot or the next day cold.
- Mix frozen berries into your yogurt for a creamier chilly treat
Prepared Foods: Frozen meals have come a long way since the days of Lean Cuisine, and are perfect for cooking fatigue. I always stash a few frozen meals in my freezer for healthy meals post vacation or when I’m just feeling stuck or lazy. My personal favorite is Daily Harvest — the Blueberry Cacao smoothie is delicious and balanced and so easy to prep in AM. I’m also obsessed with their new flatbreads to make my pizza cravings easy to satisfy without fillers, and of course their Brussel Sprout Tahini Harvest Bowl, which is damn delicious with, yup you guessed it, an egg on top!
Canned Foods: Shelf stable, efficient and an effective way to get nutrient-rich, balanced meals at no cost to your wallet — or your waistline — if done right! Some of our favorites include tuna (try Tonnion), sardines (loaded with omegas!), wild salmon, beans (unsalted) and Palmini, to help you when pasta cravings hit hard!
Pro tip: Even if you buy the low sodium or salt free options, most canned foods have added citric acid as preservative, which is technically salt-based. Always rinse your canned food in a colander before serving to get rid of excess sodium.
- Add beans to any salad for a quick hit of protein and fiber
- Sauté Palmini in marinara sauce for a pasta sub even the biggest carb lover would eat
- Mix your tuna with lemon juice and garlic powder for a quick and low fat protein source
Grains: Easy to cook and a great add on to most meals, grains when done right are good for you and really round out your plate. When shopping for grains go for color (black rice is loaded with antioxidants), unprocessed, ancient varieties and don’t forget oats! They’ll keep you full, nourished and satisfied.
- Cook rice with coconut milk for a filling and balanced side dish
- Enjoy overnight oats or make your own (and healthier) granola with rolled oats
- Make a quick tabouli with quinoa, parsley, onion, cucumber, tomato, lemon and garlic
Seeds: True superfoods, seeds are loaded with heart healthy fats, protein and fiber. Some like chia, hemp and flax even contain omegas, a great source for those who are plant based. A nice swap from nuts — which we love, too.
- Add them to yogurt, smoothies, on top of salads or make your own trail mix
- Process in a food processor and make an allergy-friendly seed butter
- Toast in the oven tossed with your favorite oil and seasonings for a great alternative to croutons
Legume Pasta: With more protein and fiber than the wheat versions, chickpea and lentil pastas come in handy when you need a quick and balanced meal. I’m a huge fan of Tolerant pasta because it is made without fillers and it tastes great.
- Use in soups
- Simply enjoy with pesto or red sauce
- Cook, chill and serve as you would any pasta salad!
Tea: An easy way to kill a sweet craving, help with digestion, detoxification and even relaxation. (Yes, we treat it like a ritual and recommend you do too.) Many teas are filled with healing herbs, antioxidants and even metabolism-boosters.
- Brew tea as an afternoon pick me up or an evening wind down
- Brew then chill and keep in the fridge as a smoothie base with zero calories
- Brew then chill and keep in the fridge as Iced Tea all summer long
Bars: These are my “only in emergency” foods but they are still good to have on hand. Sometimes you just don’t have time for a meal or snack and when done right, a good bar can really get you to where you need to be without extra sugar, calories or unwanted ingredients. Some favorites include: