11 Kitchen Staples for Quick and Healthy Meals
August 27, 2018
Life is busy, right? You most likely don’t always have time to properly meal prep or cook three healthy meals each day. So what do you do—allow excuses like “I don’t have enough time!” or “I’m too exhausted to make a healthy meal!” give you a reason to stop for fast food? Not anymore! Transform your definition of “fast food” and drop your excuses for making unhealthy food choices by stocking up on these 11 kitchen staples perfect for quickly preparing healthy, quick meals.
1. Mixed Greens
Mixed greens are the perfect healthy kitchen staple when you are need of a quick and easy meal. Keeping a large container of mixed greens in your refrigerator is the easiest way to ensure you always get a serving of vegetables at each meal. Mixed greens are loaded with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well as fiber, helping you feel fuller without loading up on calories. No need to cook or even chop them—just toss a few handfuls into any dish. Change up your go-to greens by alternating with arugula, spinach, kale and romaine.
Eggs are cheap, versatile and nutrient-dense, making them a staple for your kitchen. Omelets and egg scrambles are both quick and easy meals that don’t have to been eaten only for breakfast. Also, try cooking up a few eggs over easy and tossing them on top of a bed of mixed greens with a sweet potato, or cook some hard-boiled eggs for a high-protein snack.
These are one of the most nutritious foods you can include in your diet: one egg contains 7 grams of protein and is packed with essential omega-3 fatty acids, natural vitamin D, B vitamins and many other nutrients. Be sure to eat the whole egg—when you throw out the yolk, you are throwing out half of the protein and nearly all of the omega-3, vitamin and mineral benefits.
3. Rotisserie Chicken
Every time you make a trip to the grocery store, be sure to add a rotisserie chicken to your cart. You’ll love having it as a staple in your kitchen for those mornings you are rushing out the door and need to make a quick lunch, or for those nights when you have hungry kids and no time to cook.
There are countless quick and easy meals you can whip up when you have a rotisserie chicken on hand. Quickly make chicken tacos by shredding the chicken, sprinkling it with Mexican seasoning, adding it to a tortilla and topping it with avocado and any vegetables you have on hand. Or, easily toss together a chicken salad for lunch with mixed greens and hummus. For more quick and easy chicken recipes, check out this post.
Keeping your pantry stocked with a few cans of lentils ensures you always have a quick and easy complex carbohydrate source to add to any meal. Simply drain and rinse the lentils and they are ready to go. Lentils are also a great source of vegetable protein, containing 18 grams in one cup.
Packed with iron, fiber and magnesium, this amazing kitchen staple is great for boosting digestion, energy levels and weight loss. Lentils are a great substitute in any ground meat recipe, like tacos, Bolognese, stir-fries, “meatloaf,” chili, burgers and so many more. They are also a great addition to any salad for a healthy complex carbohydrate and protein source.
Lentils are used in many ethnic dishes, so experiment with new exotic flavors by adding curry, Moroccan or Thai sauces and spices. Add lentils to a bowl of your favorite roasted vegetables and top with cashews, hemp seeds or almonds for a delicious and easy meal. For more fun sauces and spice blends to use with lentils, check out this post.
5. Frozen Brown Rice
Brown rice is a great staple for any healthy diet, as it is a complex carbohydrate, gluten-free, unprocessed, extremely versatile and packed with fiber and energy-giving B vitamins. But you may not always have 45 to 60 minutes at night to patiently cook up a pot, which makes frozen brown rice your new favorite kitchen staple.
Taking 2 to 3 minutes in the microwave or 5 minutes on the stove top, with no additional water needed, your quick and easy meal options are endless. Frozen brown rice still holds the same texture and taste as if it were fresh!
6. Frozen Vegetables
Always having your freezer stocked with frozen vegetables ensures you never go a meal without them! Frozen vegetables may sound processed, unhealthy and less than ideal, but studies have shown that they are just as nutrient-dense, or even more nutrient-dense, as fresh ones. They are frozen immediately, which helps preserve their vitamin and mineral content.
Stock up on frozen chopped spinach, broccoli, cauliflower rice, green peas and spiralized carrots, all found in the frozen vegetable section at your grocery store. Watch out for frozen vegetables that are smothered and cooked in processed oils and excess salt. For quick and easy meals, reheat on the stove with frozen brown rice and rotisserie chicken or eggs. Stir-fry with coconut aminos, sriracha or nutritional yeast to create a meal bursting with flavor!
7. Coconut Aminos
Coconut aminos is similar to soy sauce, but it’s a healthier version that is derived from coconuts. Soy sauce can contain gluten, soy, MSG, GMOs and other toxic chemicals harming your health, and it’s loaded with sodium.
Coconut aminos is soy-free, gluten-free and low-sodium, making it the perfect alternative. Make your own healthy salad dressing or stir-fry sauce with 2 tablespoons coconut aminos, 1 teaspoon ginger powder and ½ teaspoon garlic powder. Or simply mix it with 1 tablespoon tahini or honey for a quick and simple way to boost the flavor of your dish. Make coconut aminos a staple in your kitchen and never eat a boring meal again!
8. Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are the secret kitchen staple to quickly make your meals taste delicious. You don’t need to cover your food in fancy sauces, excess salt and cheese, or spend hours cooking in order to make your meal taste delicious. There are countless combinations of spices and herbs that will easily change up your dish into something new and exciting every night, while keeping it clean and healthy!
Transform your go-to chicken, rice and vegetables into a delicious Mexican, Indian, Asian or Italian dish, depending on the spice blend you choose. Find inspiration for different herb and spice blends here. Or enjoy simplicity: Cumin, dill, smoked paprika, rosemary, oregano, basil, cilantro, parsley and cinnamon are all great spices to add to your meals on their own.
Looking for new ways to spice up your meals? Make sriracha a kitchen staple and never worry about eating a bland meal again. As opposed to other flavorful condiments, sriracha contains only five calories per serving and zero added sugars.
There are countless uses for sriracha and no wrong way to use it! Try using it to make buffalo-style roasted cauliflower or chicken, add it to your eggs with cumin, create a spicy marinara by adding a dash to your tomato sauce, mix it into hummus and dip with celery, or mix it with coconut aminos to create a fiery salad dressing.
Naturally gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free, plus low in carbohydrates, a healthy source of plant protein, long-lasting and made from whole food ingredients, hummus is an amazing kitchen staple. And with so many fun and delicious flavors, from the popular roasted red pepper to chipotle black bean to Moroccan lentil, you can always keep your meals new and exciting.
Have a healthy snack by dipping your favorite vegetables in hummus, or fill a few hard-boiled eggs with a spoonful of it. Make a clean yet flavorful salad or pasta by adding a dash of water to your hummus to form a salad dressing or pasta sauce–like consistency. Spread it on roasted chicken, toasted sprouted-grain bread or a rice cake (then top with cucumbers or tomatoes!). The options are endless with this kitchen staple when you are in need of a quick and simple meal!
11. Protein Powder
If you’re working to lose weight and build muscle, consuming enough protein is a must. Make protein powder one of your kitchen staples to ensure you never fall short on your protein needs. If you are pressed for time and need a simple healthy meal to go, protein smoothies are the answer! Try blending protein powder with ¼ cup full-fat coconut milk, 1 cup frozen spinach and 1 frozen banana, or ½ avocado, 1 cup fresh berries and 1 scoop powdered greens.
As long as you combine your protein powder with one source of healthy fat, fiber and greens, you will create a satisfying meal on the go. Protein smoothies are also the perfect alternative to your regular nighttime snacks or your sugar-filled, carb-heavy breakfast choices and a great post-workout meal! Ensure the protein powder you consume contains only clean ingredients, as many are packed with chemical fillers.