Kitchen Basics

By Lisa Barnes

A well-stocked kitchen can make the decision between cooking a healthy meal at home or running out for fast food or take-out.  Here are some staples for the pantry that should always be on the grocery list and in your kitchen, so preparing snacks and planning meals is simple and convenient.

For the Refrigerator:

Pre-cooked chicken and meats – already grilled or steamed.  Ready to add to pasta, salads, stews, stir frys, and fajitas.

Pre-cut vegetables and fruits – found in the fresh produce section of supermarket.  Veggies are perfect for stir frys and pastas.  Fruits are ready for snacking, salads or smoothies.

Shredded cheeses – found in the cheese or deli section of supermarket.  Great way to save time when making your favorite Italian and Mexican dishes.

Fresh dips and salsas – found in cheese and meat sections of supermarket.  Can spice up sandwiches, raw vegetables, crackers, pasta, and baked potatoes.  Store in freezer or refrigerator for last minute get-togethers, meals and snacks.

Pizza and bread dough – found in the freezer or refrigerator section of supermarket.  Let each family member create their own meal with lots of healthy topping options.

Dairy Products:

Choose pasteurized, whole milk and dairy products for those under 5 years old.  Some pediatricians say to cut back on whole milk products as young as 3 years old, and introduce low and skim milk options.  Be sure to check dates on packages to be sure you’re getting the freshest and longest lasting.

Yogurt – particularly plain yogurt which you can add your own fruit and purees.  For those under one year, be sure the yogurt is made from whole milk and active cultures.  Soy yogurt is an option for those who are lactose intolerant.  Plain yogurt is also a good base for salad dressings, smoothies, sauces and a healthy alternative to sour cream for topping baked potatoes, and Mexican foods.

Milk – you may have a few different types of milk (whole, low fat and non-fat) for family members based on age and diet.  Soy and rice milk are also good alternatives, especially for those with allergies and lactose intolerance.  Have on hand for drinking, making smoothies and baking.

Cheeses – soft cream cheese makes great dips and spreads for all ages.  Adding calcium to your family’s diet is as easy as sprinkling fresh parmesan over pastas and vegetables.  Cheddar cheese is always welcome for sandwiches and homemade macaroni and cheese.  Cottage, ricotta and goat cheeses can be part of a healthy meal or snack.  Pre-shredded and grated cheeses are very convenient for Italian and Mexican favorites.

Eggs – eggs can make all kinds of quick meals by themselves – omelets, egg salad, frittatas and quiches.  Some kids think “breakfast for dinner” is a fun family meal.  Choose cage free and organic for the least exposure to harmful bacteria.