We all know how hard it can be to come home and make dinner after a long day at work. Especially if the only options for dinner involve an hour of prep and cook time. The best way to combat making unhealthy food choices at any time of the day is by having a well-stocked kitchen. If you know that you have healthy, convenient foods available at home, the temptation to order pizza or go through the drive through is greatly diminished.
PS Eating at home doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of time or money on your meals. All you need is a few essentials in your kitchen to help you make healthy food choices.
Please note: Depending on whether you are in the weight loss, transition or maintenance phase of the program—all foods may not fit in your diet at this time. However, they are essential to an overall healthy diet and will eventually be integrated back into your daily routine.
- Frozen Fruit and Vegetables. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at the peak of freshness and then flash frozen. The process of freezing them allows all of the nutrients to remain intact, thus they will not degrade over time or during the transportation process. Be sure to choose plain fruits and veggies, with no added sauces, syrups or seasonings. Fruit can be added to a smoothie or eaten plain for dessert. Vegetables defrost quickly are great for stir fry’s, steaming or sautéing. Not only are frozen fruits and vegetables a great option nutritionally, they are cheaper and last much longer than fresh fruits and vegetables, so you don’t have to worry about wasting food!
- Canned Vegetables: Canned vegetables often get a bad rap. However, as long as you choose a NO added sodium version, they are a great option to help you get in your vegetable servings each day. When choosing a canned vegetable, be sure that the only ingredient found on the label is the vegetable itself. For example, Ingredients: Corn. There should be no added sodium or sauces. Bonuses of canned vegetables: they are often cheaper than fresh vegetables; they last for months in your pantry and are versatile in many dishes.
- Veggie burgers. There are countless types of veggie burgers. Some of Medifasts’ favorites include: Boca® Original Vegan Burgers and Morningstar Farms® Veggie burgers. Be sure to read the label on these burgers as some can be high in calories and sodium. Aim for no more than 200 calories per burger. Veggie burgers are a great option for those who are busy and on the go. They keep in your freezer for at least a month (check expiration date on package) and can become a complete meal in 2 minutes time. Sautee some frozen vegetables with olive oil, garlic salt and pepper, add a veggie burger and you’ve got a delicious, easy, healthy dinner!
- Canned or Dried Beans and Lentils. Bean and lentils are in a category classified as legumes. They are a great easy addition to meals that not only provide protein and fiber but are a great source of iron. Use no sodium added black beans on a salad with tomatoes, a little cheese and a few crunched up tortilla chips to make a healthy taco salad!
- Frozen boneless skinless chicken breast or lean fish. Yes, you do have to remember to defrost the meat by putting it in the fridge at least 12 hours prior to cooking. However, you can also place it in the microwave to expedite the thawing process when crunched for time. These lean meats are the star of your meal. Lean meats are a great source protein and the flavors can be transformed to work with any type of vegetable or grain.
- Canned tomato products. Tomato paste, canned stewed tomatoes and fresh tomato sauce are flavorful ingredients that will really liven up your cooking. They provide a punch of flavor without a lot of calories. These tomato products can be used in stir fries, soups, pasta dishes or as a sauce over your meats.
- Nuts and Seeds. The best way to stay on track with your weight is to eliminate unhealthy snacks and replace them with nutritionally packed ones! Nuts are a prime example of a healthy snack that is great to keep around the house. (It is important to note that even healthy foods can be eaten in excess.) For example, one serving of nuts is only one ounce. With almonds, that is equal to 22 nuts and 170 calories. Instead of trusting yourself to stop eating nuts at one ounce, purchase pre-portioned packages or split them up yourself. Trader Joe’s and Emerald Brand® offer great 100 calories packs with flavors such as cocoa roasted and cinnamon.
- Spices. Adding spices are the best way to make your foods flavorful without adding excess calories or sodium. Each spice has different nutritional profile that will benefit your body. For example, cayenne pepper can help with circulation, cumin has anti-microbial properties and cinnamon and ginger have antioxidant properties. Add a dash of cinnamon in your morning coffee or add some ground ginger to any Thai inspired dishes.
- Whole grains. Carbohydrates are often scary for those who have lost a lot of weight. However, calories consumed from whole grains react markedly different in the body than those consumed from white, highly processed carbohydrates such as pastries, muffins, bagels and white bread. Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber and they contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. It is important to eat whole grains in moderation and stick to the recommended serving sizes. Make sure to add some variety to you diet and not only eat whole grain bread. Quinoa, couscous, barley, brown rice and oatmeal are all examples of whole grains.
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. This may seem like the most obvious food that is imperative to keep in the house. However, at times it can be challenging to stay fully stocked with these items as they go bad quickly. This is why it is perfectly acceptable to keep the house stocked with frozen/canned options as well. When you go grocery shopping, choose fruits and veggies with a wide range of colors, as you want to “eat the rainbow.” Each color of fruit and vegetable provides different vitamins, minerals and antioxidant properties.