If you take a look in your kitchen, there's probably a mix of food items that you never really use. From half-eaten snack foods you bought on a whim to sauces that become permanent fixtures within your fridge, there are definitely a few things you don't need taking up that prime storage space. While it's totally fine to keep a couple not-so-nutritious things in stock (we're looking at you wine and ice cream), there are some healthy essentials that are great to always have on hand.
Not so sure what to grab on your trips to the grocery store? We asked Nicole Centeno, founder and CEO of the plant-based meal program Splendid Spoon, to give us some advice. As a biochemist and a chef, she knows exactly what your body and your plate needs to feel good. Read ahead before you write up your next shopping list.
“For that quick snack, root vegetables like radishes, beets and carrots last longer and maintain nutrition value longer than more delicate veggies like peppers and cucumbers,” says Nicole Centeno. “A few chops and I have something crunchy to keep me going.”
“Cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, kale, or cauliflower, cover so much of the nutrient spectrum — super high in fiber, great sources of folate, vitamins A, K, and E, and iron,” explains Centeno. “I roast and add into most meals.”
Healthy Cooking Fats
“Pick the one you love most! Olive oil and ghee are my faves,” shares Centeno. “Unsaturated, omega-3-rich olive is the gold standard.”
“I love the taste of butter, so I also use ghee. Ghee has a higher smoke point than butter which makes it friendly for cooking, and it contains a higher concentration of medium-chain-triglycerides which are linked to improving heart health.”
“I have a food ‘uniform’ for myself that includes ready-to-eat breakfast and lunch at least five days a week,” notes Centeno. “This is because during my work week, I don’t have time to make healthy meals for myself, and I don’t want to waste working hours thinking about ‘what to eat.’ It really does cut into productivity and cognitive ability). Of course, Splendid Spoon is my uniform of choice, but you could make your own!”
Citrus & Sparkling Water
“I kept a food journal for a month and realized, wow, I drink a lot of cocktails! Alcohol contains empty calories and, for a sensitive soul like myself, it really messes with me emotionally,” shares Centeno. “I do enjoy the occasional mezcal or natural wine, but to keep it in the ‘occasional’ category, I rely on sparkly water throughout most of the week.”
Nuts & Seeds
“I love adding these to my smoothies and fruit bowls in the morning for added protein and fat (read: sustaining energy). Pumpkin seeds are a fave of mine for their magnesium content — great for regulating sleep patterns,” the founder explains. “Also flaxseed, which help flush excess toxins from your liver.”
“Grains hold many of my meals together. I know some people fear grains, but if you are loading up on whole veggies and unprocessed proteins — and aren’t sensitive or allergic to grains — then they can be such a great component to a healthy meal,” says Centeno. “Brown rice, rice noodles, and risotto rice are my favorites. If you are watching your blood sugar, then opt more for less processed grains like freekah, millet, brown rice, and wild rice.”
“Lentils cook MUCH faster than beans and are loaded with heart healthy protein, fiber, and folate,” explains Centeno. “Mung beans are another fast-cooking legume that are great to keep in the regular rotation.”
“Keep a rotating mix of the basics: apples, oranges, bananas, and berries when in season. Whatever you can do to replace packaged snacks with whole fruits and veggies, do it,” she says.
Nut Butter & Hummus
“Similar to the fresh fruit and root vegetables — keep plant-based proteins on hand and add a scoop to your snacks to balance out those complex carbs,” shares Centeno.
Cooking Protein Of Choice
“I like a mix of fish, chicken, and tofu for my dinners. I aim to keep animal proteins minimal during the day so that I’m really loading up on veggies, fruits, and whole grains,” Centeno notes. “At dinner time, I love a little wild salmon, grass-fed beef, local shellfish, or local poultry. As a general rule of thumb grass-fed, free-range meats or wild seafood are best. These animals are eating more of the complex foods that are natural to them and we get the benefit of more omega-3s as a result.”