10 Foods Everyone Should Have in Their Kitchen
by Tiffany Ayuda
Your kitchen is your wellness fortress. Whether it's breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a snack you're seeking, you're probably making several trips to your kitchen every day. That's why it's so important to fortify it with foods to support a healthy lifestyle.
Plus, having nutritious foods at the ready makes it easier to snack on healthier options. While everyone has different food preferences, there are a few staples that are absolutely necessary — and we don't just mean the things you keep in your fridge.
"A well-stocked kitchen doesn't depend on a full fridge alone. Adapt the ‘all foods fit’ mentality and maintain a well-organized pantry and freezer to ensure you can always pull together a meal in a pinch,” says a New York-based , a dietitian and personal trainer.
To help make your next trip to the grocery store a little easier, read on to learn which foods you should always have on hand, according to dietitians.
Foods You Should Always Have in Your Kitchen
1. Canned Protein
Protein is the building block of muscles and can help you feel fuller longer. Some of the most popular sources of protein comes from grass-fed beef, poultry, fish, low-fat dairy, and eggs.
But one shelf-stable source everyone should stock up on is canned fish, like sardines, wild salmon and yellowfin tuna, and beans, such as black, cannellini, and red kidney beans, Rodriguez says. Fish also provides heart-healthy fats while beans offer fiber and important minerals, like iron and potassium.
"I always have cans of tuna ready because It's an easy meal with about 20 grams of protein per 5 oz can. I will usually eat this post-workout because of the high protein content. I mix it with plain yogurt instead of mayo for a lower-calorie meal,” says Noa Emert, M.S., R.D., NASM-CPT, a dietitian and personal trainer based in New York City.
You can also use these canned foods to whip up a quick meal when you're too tired to cook something more elaborate. Use tuna salad to make easy lettuce wraps or add to your sandwich, top your salads and tacos with sardines, throw some beans into a simple soup or weeknight nachos, or mash beans into a veggie burger for a meatless Monday meal.
2. Frozen Fruit and Veggies
Sure, it's always a good idea to have fresh fruit in the fridge that you can top over some Greek yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal, or just enjoy for snacking, but Rodriguez says stocking up on frozen fruit is just as worthy of your dollars, especially if you want to perk up your smoothies and shakes with a frothy, creamy texture.
Plus, frozen fruits are picked at peak ripeness — their most nutrient-dense stage. "You may find that you prefer their flavor over the fresh varieties in the dead of winter,” Rodriguez says.
That said, she also suggests picking up some frozen vegetables like edamame. "The complete protein found in soybeans is a welcome addition to most plant-based meals, but it can also add satiety to your run-of-the-mill guacamole,” she says.
3. Whole Grains
Rodriguez says she always stores whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, kamut, and farro, in her pantry. "They deliver fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. They maintain freshness for up to six months in airtight containers in a cool, dry place and up to a year when stored in the freezer,” she says.
Overnight oats make for a filling and nutritious breakfast or snack, and you can put it together in minutes with fixings, like Greek yogurt, nut butter, berries, and chia seeds. And brown rice and farro can be enjoyed as a side with roasted veggies and your choice of lean protein for lunch and dinner.
You can also keep whole-grain flour in your pantry to prepare pancakes, muffins, and other baked goods if you want to meal prep for when a sweet craving hits.
4. Pre-Washed Greens and Pre-Cut Veggies
Most people don't nearly get enough vegetables in their diet. In fact, only nine percent of American adults get the recommended daily intake of vegetables and 12 percent for the daily recommendation of fruit, according to the (CDC). (FYI, the CDC recommends women eat 1 1/2 cups of fruits and 2 1/2 cups of veggies daily, and men 2 cups of fruit and 3 1/2 cups of veggies.)
But that doesn't mean you should fill your fridge with more produce than you can actually eat. Rodriguez points out that vegetables and fruits account for .
"Save yourself time and help reduce your carbon footprint by purchasing easy-to-use, pre-washed salad blends and spiralized zoodles. With minimal prep involved, they're all bound to be eaten instead of forgotten in the back of your vegetable drawer,” Rodriguez says.
You can also find pre-cut sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli and cauliflower in the fresh produce aisle of the grocery. "I keep fresh broccoli and cauliflower in my fridge,” Emert says. "I roast a serving in about 20 minutes with a little olive oil and salt. This helps me make sure I'm getting my servings of vegetables in for the day,” she says.
5. Store-Bought Rotisserie Chicken
For a speedy dinner that almost feels like take-out, consider purchasing a pre-made rotisserie chicken, Rodriguez suggests. You can divide the chicken into separate containers to enjoy throughout the week. For example, you can have a bit of rotisserie chicken with your salad for lunch, or heat it up with some leftovers for dinner.
6. Fermented Foods
Rodriguez suggests having pickled and fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, Greek yogurt, and kefir, in your fridge. Fermented foods contain probiotics which may help support gut or digestive health.
"Kefir is a great snack or breakfast, and an easy way to add fermented foods into your diet,” Emert says. "This is a staple for me because it is a source of probiotics. I often pair it with a banana, which contains prebiotics (aka the carbohydrates that feed probiotics). Overall, they support digestive health."
Miso, kimchi, and sauerkraut lend bold flavor to your dishes while providing probiotics. Emert is also a fan of tzatziki sauce. "It is a sauce made with yogurt and tastes good on everything!”
Not a fan? Kombucha and tempeh are other sources of probiotics, according to the . You can stir-fry tempeh with some veggies for a one-and-done dish, and kombucha is an alternative to sugary juices.
7. Protein Powder
While it's always best to get protein from whole foods, you can add protein powder to your smoothies and shakes to help support satiety. Protein powder also supports recovery and muscle building when taken over time with regular resistance training.
"I always use protein powder for an easy breakfast smoothie or for a post-workout meal,” Emert says. "I generally look for one that has more than 15 grams of protein and less than 5 grams of sugar. I usually mix it with soy milk or regular low-fat milk for some added protein as well."
If you're vegetarian or vegan, you'll want to look for plant-based protein powder blends, which can include pea protein, hemp protein, chia seed, and brown rice, among others. Or go for a soy protein powder, which is a complete protein, meaning it contains all that your body can't make itself.
8. Low-Fat Cheese
In addition to Greek yogurt, another dairy source you should always have in your kitchen is cheese. Whether you enjoy it sliced, cubed, grated, or in stick form, cheese provides protein and calcium, which is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth, according to the (NIH).
"I always have slices of low-fat cheese in the fridge because one ounce can add additional protein to any meal,” Emert says.
Cheese infuses a satisfying flavor to your dishes, too. Grate some Parmesan over a bowl of pasta, sprinkle shredded cheddar onto your omelets and mozzarella on pizza, and add a slice of muenster to your turkey sandwich.
Rodriguez also recommends no-salt-added, low-fat cottage cheese. Cottage cheese can make a snack or breakfast with chopped nuts and seeds and fruit. Prefer something more savory? Try it with everything bagel seasoning, some greens, avocado and even an egg on top.
9. Hard-Boiled Eggs
Emert recommends keeping a batch of hard-boiled eggs in your fridge to enjoy throughout the week for a grab-and-go snack or breakfast.
"I throw these into salads for added protein and to keep meals interesting. They are also great for breakfast when you don't have time to cook."
In addition to protein, eggs are also a good source of vitamin D, which is common to be deficient in but is necessary for bone health and muscle function, according to the .
10. Sugar-Free Jell-O
In addition to all of the savory foods on this list, you also need to have something sweet in your kitchen. Fresh fruit and dark chocolate are healthy options when you're hankering for the sweet stuff, but if you want something that feels a little more indulgent, Emert suggests sugar-free Jell-O.
"I always have sugar-free Jell-O in my fridge if I'm craving a sweet snack. I add a little whipped cream on top. This helps me not overindulge and stay focused on my goals,” Emert says.