The Healthy (Winter) Kitchen
I find it much harder to keep a healthy kitchen during the wintertime. In the summer my fridge is filled with all sorts of fresh fruits and veggies from the farmer's market and from the grocery store. Summer's salads are refreshing and satisfying. Truth be told, when the weather is cold salad is the last thing I want to eat, but if I have everything already prepared I'm much more apt to toss everything together than I am when I have to prep and chop veggies every time. Even though I eat well I definitely don't eat as many fruit and veggies during the winter and it's easier to turn to the bags of pretzels and chips in the pantry. Keeping away from baked goods takes strength and determination. I'm naturally one who grazes preferring smaller snacks throughout the day to the larger meals. I know that those snacks can add up if I'm not careful so I have to make a conscientious effort to fill my kitchen with healthy foods that are low fat, and nutrient dense that are ready for the taking. Because I am a grazer and not one to necessarily go to the effort to prepare a proper meal just for myself, it's imperative that I have healthy bites ready for the taking so that I'm not reaching for the chips and pretzels and cookies and all the other danger that lurks on the shelves of my pantry (lovingly referred to as The Carb Closet in my home) or my fridge. Having prepared foods at the ready makes all the difference and before we know it the warm weather will be upon us and we'll be donning our swimsuits, sundresses and shorts and we'll be so grateful to have had that head start!
The Healthy Winter Fridge
Truth of the matter is as much as I try to eat locally grown fruits and veggies, there's not much to select from here in the Northeast this time of year. Our local grocery stores are bursting with options and lately the berries have been phenomenal. Berries are soooooo good for you. I believe in the power of fruit. I don't think the naturally occurring sugars are bad for you and they're loaded with vitamins, anti-oxidants and water. But maybe you're not a fruit person, that's ok. Load that shopping cart up with veggies. If you can't be bothered to cut up your own cauliflower or broccoli heads, they now come pre-cut and packaged. Salted and shelled edamame beans, already-spiralized squashes and beets... Or you can do it all yourself. The point is to have healthy foods at the ready. Once I make my purchases I bring them home and prep immediately - and if I can't immediately I do it as soon as possible so that I don't put it off. A good sharp knife and the Ziplock will become your best friends! Following are some ideas of things to fill your fridge with that will (hopefully) steer you away from temptation.
- Blueberries - I love to combine the following fruits to make fruit salad. I pre-wash or cut and store them in containers and pull what I need.
- Strawberries - These berries don't last as long when washed, so I only wash enough for a day or two.
- Apples - Never underestimate the power of an apple! I prefer them best cut into slices for some reason.
- Bananas - I'm not a huge banana fan but my kids love them with peanut butter!
- Pears - I've become such a fan of these lately! I often bring a pear or apple with me in the car so if I'm running errands, headed to a meeting or off to the gym I can eat something healthy before or after.
- Grapes -
- Lemons - try squeezing fresh squeezed lemon on almost everything instead of salt!
- Carrots - I love the organic multi colored varieties that Trader Joe's sells. They're so unbelievably sweet.
- Lettuce - I wash, dry and "chop" my lettuce in advance. This way making salads is easy and fast.
- Romaine or Bib lettuce - un-chopped - that can be used in place of bread for "sandwiches"
- Beets - You can get these pre-cooked or cook them yourself. I love to add beets to my salads.
- Radishes - Plain, dipped in salt and or olive oil. A great snack. Also good in salads
- Squash/zucchini - Sliced, spiralized... "baked" or tossed in salads or soups.
- Cucumbers - Cubed or sliced. Eaten alone with salt or tossed into salads.
- Assorted peppers - Sliced and tossed into Ziplocks. Great with hummus or alone, yogurt-based dressings
- Cauliflower - baking these in the oven with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper yields a satisfying treat or side dish.
- Broccoli - blanched or par-boiled and enjoyed with a yogurt based salad dressing or low-fat dip
- Potatoes (white) - These are not unhealthy! Top them with salsa, low-fat sour cream or plain greek yogurt and scallions. Perfection.
- Sweet potatoes - Baked sweet potatoes "fries" are a healthy, filling snack jam-packed with nutrients
- Fresh Salsa - See above! Also great addition to scrambled eggs or omelet
- Avocados - grilled, with fresh lemon squeezed over the top. Delish!
- Salmon - I like to add this to salads, eggs as well as eat alone.
- Rotisserie Chicken - I like to turn this into chicken salad, eat alone as a good source of protein at the ready and toss into salads.
- Eggs - Scrambled, omelet, sunny-side up or down (I use a non-stick spray) and hardboiled as a good quick snack.
- Parmesan - to make Parmesan crisps in lieu of crackers
- Feta - Great addition to salads and dressings and dips
- Hummus -I am a Sabra ADDICT!
- Fresh herbs, bay leaves (for cooking and soups), cilantro, parsley, etc
- Greek yogurt - eaten plain with honey or fruit. Great for making dips, spreads, dressings and smoothies
My veggie drawer is always full because on a cold day I may not be in the mood for salad. Roasted veggies are not only delicious but comforting as well. And the ultimate comfort food is soup. With an assortment of fruit, beans and broth that I keep on hand I can always make a pot of soup!
The Healthy Winter Freezer
- Cauliflower rice - I love to make batches and toss them into the freezer for a quick thaw and cook.
- Blueberries - The kids and I make a lot of smoothies. Our freezer cannot be without fruit!
- Strawberries, quartered or halved
- Sliced peaches
- Sliced bananas
- Cauliflower florets - for soups or snacking
- Broccoli florets
- Individually packaged chicken breasts - chicken breasts thaw faster when individually wrapped. I toss them into the freezer both raw and cooked.
- Shrimp - These cook up quickly with the cauliflower rice for a great low-fat and healthy "stir fry"
The Healthy Winter Pantry
These are all the items that don't have to be refrigerated. Let's fill our pantries with healthy items so that we're not reaching for the chips and cookies!
- Popcorn - this is my go to and my weakness. I don't do the microwave variety. I prefer Jiffy Pop (so much fun!) or else I like to pop the kernels myself in a pan with olive oil and lots of salt. Then when the kernels have all popped I drizzle a bit of white truffle oil over the top. Amazing!
- Garbanzo beans (Chic peas) Sauteéed or baked with a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder and lots of cumin these are the tastiest snacks, make a great addition to any salad, and are also a great side to any dinner entrée. Recipe here.
- Black, kidney and pinto beans - these are great added to soups and salads
- Beef Broth
- Chicken Broth - We love to make soup and having broth (stock) at the ready as well as an assortment of fresh veggies at the ready means you can make soup any time!
- Quinoa - a great substitute for rice and pasta
- Brown rice - a much healthier alternative to white rice
- Assorted nuts - packed with protein these nutrient-dense snacks are anything but empty calories. Nuts are great on salads and yogurts.
- Nut butters - eaten alone, swirled into yogurt, spread on apples, bananas and pears
- Honey - local if you can get it
- Olive oils
- Vinegars (Cider, red wine, distilled, herb infused)
- Assorted mustards
- Basic vinaigrette - Recipe here
- An assortment of seasonings and spices to sprinkle on crudité, fish, meat, chicken and salads
- Oats - I like to make my own granola that is lower in sugar than the commercial varieties. Recipe here and here.
- Dark Chocolate - because sometimes you just need a little something!
- Pasta - because some times you just have to!
These items are great in the kitchen all year long, of course, but it's during the winter months, we tend not to eat as well and with spring looming on the horizon and as we start to shed our winter layers and show more skin we need to think of tossing the bad and replacing it with the good!