I always love when a recipe calls for something new. Keeping an open mind in the kitchen is important because cooking boredom can make you end up eating the same things over and over. Remember, variety is key to getting all of your nutrients! You may hate the idea of having leftovers of a new ingredient, but don’t! Look at it as a way to expand your kitchen repertoire.

When I have to buy a new ingredient for a recipe, it undoubtedly will be used again and again. The key to reusing new foods is having a few staple, go-to ingredients on hand so that you can creatively whip up new meal combos, tasty toppings, and even salad dressings to turn a tired, old recipe around.

These are the five staple ingredients I’m currently never without

Oats

Oatmeal is such a go-to breakfast for me and my kids, especially since you can transform the meal in so many ways by just adding different ingredients like nuts, nut butters, seeds, fruit, and spices. It’s filled with fiber and protein and is super satiating.

For the busiest mornings, I make overnight oats. I will also use oats when I want to bulk up a smoothie. Plus, you can bake with them whole, grind them and make oat flour, or make a healthy homemade granola.

Cinnamon

I literally add this healthy spice to so many things: my coffee, smoothies, oatmeal, and baked goods. I’ll put it on a slice of Ezekiel raisin bread toast with coconut oil for breakfast. I sprinkle it on apples and pears for my kids for a snack. I’ll put it on sweet potatoes with coconut oil at night. I even have a chili recipe that calls for cinnamon.

Avocado

Predictable, I know. But you may already know I’m totally obsessed with healthy fats. Avocado is so satisfying because of the fat and fiber, and it’s loaded with antioxidants. You can put it on toast (of course, do it for the Insta!), or in a smoothie, salad, grain bowl, or creamy salad dressing.

Pro-tip: Cut it in half, toss the pit, add a little lemon juice and sea salt, and eat it with a spoon directly out of the skin as a snack. I do it all the time.

Almond butter

Nuts and nut butters are really important staples for me. They’re such a great way to get in plant protein that’s delicious and satisfying. Almond butter has plenty of antioxidants and calcium, too.

It’s funny, I definitely liked peanut butter better for a long time. Almond butter is a bit more of an acquired taste. I grew to love it equally and now find it’s more versatile. It has less of a distinct, strong flavor so you can use it in creative ways, like in place of tahini in a recipe.

Sweet potatoes

I could eat sweet potatoes at every meal, seriously. They’re a great source of complex carbs, providing 4 grams of fiber for a medium sweet potato. They’re also rich in antioxidants such as vitamin A, C, and E. I like to make them in big batches for the week.

In the morning, I’ll eat half of one with coconut oil, cinnamon, and chopped nuts. At lunch, I’ll slice and throw them on arugula with other leftover veggies, and maybe a little goat cheese. You can make them savory or sweet, and if you slice them and make them into sweet potato fries, kids love them too.

But don’t be afraid to try new foods!

Years ago, I used to take more time cooking with new ingredients regularly. (You know, during the B.C. era… before children.) But every now and then, I love making something new.

I was making a new dish recently that called for peperoncino, a nutrient-dense vegetable. I fell hard for the flavorful veggies as soon as I tried them. Now, I always have them around as a new staple. I know I can chop them up to add to all kinds of things. Peperoncini and eggs? You bet.

But now, since I’ve definitely become more of a creature of habit, having go-to ingredients that I can depend on is key.

A version of this article was originally published on Nutritious Life.


Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, is a renowned celebrity nutritionist and wellness thought-leader. She’s the founder and CEO of Nutritious Life, a lifestyle and media company devoted to helping individuals discover and live their most nutritious (and happiest!) lives, and The Nutritious Life Studio, an online platform that provides cutting-edge nutrition and wellness education that supports a thriving community of wellness professionals. Keri is a “Today Show” Tastemaker and a contributing editor for Women’s Health. She’s also the author of four best-selling books and is regularly featured on national television programs like “Good Morning America” and “The Rachael Ray Show.”