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. For example, Tracey Grant, a registered dietitian at Sharp Rees-Stealy, always has baked sweet potatoes available to use as a base for a bowl meal, in smoothies or as a side topped with cinnamon.
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. “Fresh fruit is perfect to satisfy a sneaky sweet tooth,” says Grant.
“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.
Tracey Grant, registered dietitian and program manager of weight management at Sharp Rees-Stealy
Coconut aminos and fish sauce
These two ingredients can dress up a boring stir-fry in a hurry. Stir-fries are an easy and quick way to use up vegetables that are lingering in the fridge.
Coconut aminos is similar to soy sauce in flavor, but made from coconut instead — and with about one-third of the sodium. Fish sauce provides a bold umami boost, but a little goes a long way. Because this is a high-sodium ingredient, use a few dashes per dish.
Eggs are an incredibly nutrient-dense, versatile and convenient source of protein. Add a couple of cooked eggs to a side of fresh veggies to make a complete meal; hard boil for an on-the-go snack; or use them in dishes like frittatas. In addition to protein, they also contain nutrients such as choline, which is important for liver health and metabolism.