It’s time to give your fridge a face-lift.
Let’s start with organization. Instead of stashing fruits and veggies in the crisper drawers, put healthy items on the visible shelves and hide the items you should reach for less often in the drawers. This will guide your eyes to fruits, vegetables and hummus, before soda, cheese and bread.
Now let’s talk about what to put in your fridge. When three Sharp dietitians were asked what staples they always have on hand in their fridge, they all agreed on two items — plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits.
Vegetables are a necessity for every meal, as they are rich in fiber, phytonutrients and vitamins.
Barbara Bauer, a registered dietitian at Sharp Coronado Hospital, suggests washing vegetables right when you get home from grocery shopping. That way, you’ll always have prepared vegetables to use in any dish or as a quick snack or appetizer.
Another good practice is to meal prep some of the more time-intensive vegetables to store and consume throughout the week. This will help you incorporate vegetables into every meal.
Low-calorie and nutrient-rich, fresh seasonal fruits can be used in both sweet and savory dishes — and they add a pop of color to any dish.
“Seasonal fruit can be a dessert, snack, sauce or smoothie,” says Bauer. “If you buy your fruit in large quantities to save money, freeze what you won’t be using quickly, and you can use it later as a fruit ice cube.”
In addition to fresh fruit and veggies, Sharp HealthCare dietitians can’t live without these refrigerator staples.
Barbara Bauer, registered dietitian and program manager of clinical nutrition at Sharp Coronado Hospital
Low-fat cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is a good source of protein and calcium. The versatile dairy item can be served by itself; with vegetable layers and spaghetti sauce as a mock lasagna; blended into a sauce or dip; and even served sweetened with fruit.
Spa water is a refreshing beverage for the summer season. Just add some slices of your favorite fruit — such as citrus or strawberries — or even cucumbers and mint to a pitcher of water and keep in the refrigerator. Spa water provides hydration and flavor without sugary calories.
Plain Greek yogurt
Perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner, Greek yogurt works as a stand-alone meal with fresh fruit or vegetables. Use it in sauces, as a topping for a baked potato or as a parfait for an elegant dessert.
Angelea Bruce, board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition at Sharp HealthCare
Soy and low-fat milks
Bruce uses both soy milk and low-fat cow’s milk. If the soy milk has been fortified, then both beverages are excellent dietary sources of calcium and vitamin D. Compared to other plant-based milks, soy milk is similar in protein content to cow’s milk. While cow’s milk is a good source of several B vitamins, soy milk has the added benefit of containing naturally occurring isoflavones, which may help prevent breast cancer among other potential health benefits.
Single-serving hummus cups
These are great as a quick snack or as part of work and school lunches. Hummus pairs well with whole-grain crackers, pita bread or chopped veggies, and is a good source of fiber and plant-based protein.
Make your own homemade dip with this sun-dried tomato hummus recipe — and pre-portion servings so they’re ready to grab on the run.
Lauren Elliott, wellness education specialist with Sharp Rees-Stealy's Center for Health Management
Salsa can impart a lot of flavor and up the nutrition factor of foods. Elliott likes to make a simple salsa of chopped tomatoes, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime and a dash of salt and cayenne pepper. In a pinch she will look for store-bought varieties with moderate sodium levels and no preservatives. Fresh salsa can add zest to a baked potato, a bowl of black beans or a Southwestern-inspired salad.
While chia seeds don't require refrigeration, Elliott likes to store them next to the almond milk in her fridge as a reminder to add them to smoothies and oatmeal. Chia seeds' nutritional profile boasts omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants and protein. And because the seeds become gel-like when exposed to liquid, they can be made into nutrient-dense puddings or serve as a substitute for eggs in baked goods.
This native Indonesian food is a plant protein powerhouse. Tempeh, a fermented patty made of grains and soybeans, might be a bit of an acquired taste. However, this meat alternative's nutty flavor can be enhanced through marinades and spices. Elliott likes to crumble it, season it with taco seasoning and use it as a base of a burrito bowl. As a fermented food, tempeh is bioavailable, meaning that it can generally be easily digested and its nutrients absorbed. It also serves as a source of B vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.