To incorporate a healthy diet into your lifestyle, there are a few items that should always be found in your kitchen. The following items can be used in many different ways, and are packed with nutrients.
(1) Fruits and vegetables -the obvious "health" food. You can never go wrong with fruits and veggies. Always something good to have on hand for easy snacks.
(2) Whole grains - brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, etc. Whole grains are loaded with fiber and nutrients that aren't found in processed, white grains.
(3) Extra virgin olive oil - the best oil for most cooking (not baking). Compared to virgin olive oil, extra virgin olive oil has stronger concentrations of phytonutrients that contain anti-inflammatory properties. Olive oil has more monounsaturated fats than other oils. This type of fat has been known to lower cholesterol, which in turn, fights off heart disease.
(4) Low fat dairy - nature's most nutritious drink. Milk contains calcium, vitamin D (fortified), potassium, protein, and many other healthful nutrients. I'm a little biased towards dairy since I grew up on a dairy farm, but years of research show that dairy has numerous health benefits.
(5) Lean meat - meat often has a bad rep for being "unhealthy". If you buy lean meat, it actually has many health benefits when eaten in moderation. Red meat is a great source for iron. Fatty fish is a great source of omega-3's. Meat is one of the best sources of protein. I like to buy frozen meat on sale, so that I can make a quick meal without having to run to the store to buy fresh meat. Luckily, my parents are nice enough to give me meat raised on their farm. Nothing beats that!
(6) Eggs - a cheap, natural source of protein. The incredible edible
egg has nutrients that aid in brain and eye function, and healthy fetal
development. Fresh is best, but eggs last in the refrigerator for a very long time!
(7) Beans - another cheap protein source.
Beans are also a good source of fiber. Adding beans to a meat dish can
stretch out your dollars instead of using more meat.
(8) Nuts - full of protein and healthy fats. Limit yourself to one handful a day. Nuts are a great snack between meals to tide over hunger.
Stocking your kitchen with these items will help you make good choices when deciding what to eat. You'll thank yourself later.