Healthy Kitchen Essentials

Written by Leslie Goldman, MPH | Published on November 4, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA on November 4, 2014

Healthy Kitchen Essentials

One of the most effective ways to stay on track with a diet is to cook at home. But there’s more to a healthy kitchen than a well-stocked fridge and a pantry full of pre-portioned snacks. How you prepare and enjoy your meals matters almost as much as what you’re eating. The following are must-have items that will help turn your kitchen into a dieter’s dream.

Food Processor

You can purchase a mini- or full-size processor for chopping or shredding vegetables, fresh herbs, and nuts with ease. It will also puree squash into silky smooth soups and let you sneak vitamin-rich cauliflower, broccoli, and sweet potatoes into sauces and spreads. Whip up healthy hummus, pesto, and marinades, too. You can also try a handheld blender. They work well for smoothies.

Good Knives

Any smart weight-loss program will call for plenty of vegetables. A sharp knife will make all that cutting, chopping, and slicing much easier. Make sure you have a chef's knife, a slicer, and a utility knife. You’ll also need a sharpener. Dull knives make prep work far less enjoyable. Armed with these, you can start your week off with containers full of red pepper strips, celery stalks, and carrot sticks for easy snacking. You can also spend 15 minutes on Sunday afternoon chopping onions, carrots, and celery to keep on hand as a healthy base for sauces, soups, and stews.

Smaller Plates and Glasses

Research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association states that the average plate size has increased 36 percent since the 1960s. The bigger your plate, the more likely you are to load it up with food. Replace your 12-inch dinner plates with 9-inch salad plates. Then fill them up with high-fiber, low-calorie greens and legumes, plus smaller portions of rice or pasta and meat.

When it comes to glasses, Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab researchers found that individuals pour more of a drink into short, wide glasses versus tall, narrow ones. Remember that when pouring your morning OJ or a Friday night cocktail, and choose a taller, narrower glass.

Water is the exception. When hydrating with the clear stuff, choose the biggest goblet you can find. Many people mistake thirst for hunger. Staying hydrated can help you avoid needless snacking.

Salad Spinner

This kitschy tool lets you simultaneously wash and dry your greens. Spinach and lettuce will last longer if stored dry, and these gadgets make drying veggies much quicker.

Mini Zip-Close Bags

Use them to hold individual servings of nuts, dried fruit, granola, cheese, and other easy-to-eat items.

Olive Oil Mister

An olive oil mister allows you to add just a spritz of heart-healthy olive oil without overdosing on fat. Mist veggies prior to roasting them, or add some flavor to salads. You should also keep your pantry stocked with nonstick cooking spray, which allows you to whip up everything from scrambled eggs to chicken breasts without butter or oil.

Microplane Grater

Use this tool to grate small amounts of flavorful cheese into soups, salads, and more. It will also zest oranges, lemons, and limes.

Slow Cooker

This is the tool for you if you don’t like cooking but love coming home to a house that smells delicious. Slow cookers can turn basic ingredients like chopped vegetables, chicken, broth, and spices into low-fat comfort food. If you have a hot, delicious meal waiting for you, you’ll be less likely to open the fridge and mindlessly snack while wondering, “What should I make for dinner?”

Spices

A fully stocked spice cabinet lets you add flavorful, calorie-free punches to food. You’ll save on fat and sodium, too. Staples include:

  • basil for pasta and veggies
  • bay leaves for flavoring stocks, sauces, and stews
  • cayenne pepper (red pepper) for a spicy kick
  • cinnamon for hot cereals such as oatmeal or in baking
  • crushed red pepper flakes to add heat to spaghetti, soups, sauces, marinades, and meats
  • cumin for chili or Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern foods
  • dill for fish or potatoes; mix with low-fat yogurt or sour cream for a vegetable dip
  • garlic powder for any recipe that calls for garlic flavor
  • oregano for tomato-based sauces as well as stews and vegetables
  • rosemary for lamb, chicken, potatoes, stews, sauces, vegetables, and fresh breads
  • rubbed sage for chicken, turkey, stuffing, and pork chops
  • thyme for hearty roasted or baked dishes as well as vegetables

At Home in a Well-Stocked Kitchen

A successful weight-loss attempt is easier when you are prepared. A well-equipped kitchen makes choosing healthy foods easier. Without the proper tools and foods, you are far more likely to choose something quick and often detrimental to your waistline. Learn to enjoy your time in the kitchen and make eating right a lifelong habit. 

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