Healthy Habits

What Do Nutritionists Keep in Their Kitchens?

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

With countless food options available and temptation all around us, it’s easy to fall into unhealthy eating habits, which can make maintaining a balanced diet seem like an almost insurmountable feat.

One way to tackle this is to stock your kitchen with a variety of healthy food staples, so you always have nutritious options  on hand. These foods can be tools to help you amp up the nutrition value of your favorite meals or serve as healthy mid-day or late-night snacks. They can also help take the guesswork out of what to eat when you’re hungry and tempted to order carryout.

We asked five Henry Ford registered dietitian nutritionists what they keep in their own pantries and refrigerators to keep their healthy habits on track, as well as their tips for balancing busy lives and other responsibilities while staying healthy.

Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN

What food staples do you always keep on hand?

I keep a lot of foods that can be nutritious additions to recipes. For example, frozen fruits, yogurts and oatmeal – the fruit can be added to the yogurt or oatmeal for a healthy breakfast or snack. Whole-grain pasta and frozen veggies are often a go-to meal in my home with pasta sauce. I also keep items like fresh fruit and vegetables that are easy to grab for a snack as you’re walking out the door.

What foods do you never keep at home?

Cookies and candy rarely make it in to the house because they disappear quickly. They are too easy to grab, and it’s even easier to eat way more than a portion. If I have them in my home, it’s because they are there as a purposeful treat. I try to wait until the day before or day of to buy Halloween candy for passing out. Otherwise, I’d have to buy it multiple times!

What tips do you have for balancing life responsibilities with maintaining a heathy diet?

A healthy diet doesn’t just happen – you have to plan for it. If you don’t have the right ingredients in the house, you can’t prepare healthy foods. Take the time to plan meals and build a shopping list from that – checking to see what ingredients you have on hand and what you will need. That investment in the beginning makes everything else flow much more easily.

 

Ashlee Carnahan, MS, RD

What food staples do you always keep on hand?

Apples! They fill you up and are loaded with nutrition and fiber. I always eat one per day for either a snack or lunch. My 18-month old daughter also loves them. Other staples I keep include organic spinach, which is great for salads or mixing in with dishes such as pasta for a nutritional boost, or natural peanut butter, which is filling and goes great with fruit or whole-wheat toast.

What foods do you never keep at home?

Refined carbohydrates. You will never see white bread, white pasta or white rice in my house. I always choose whole-wheat versions of these foods. By choosing 100 percent whole wheat, you receive more fiber and an overall higher nutrition value. Whole grains also keep you fuller longer.

What criteria should people look for in the foods they regularly purchase?

You should limit added sugar – ideally, aim for less than 5 grams per serving. It’s important to note that processed foods will tend to have more sugar. If you’re craving something sweet, aim to consume naturally sweet foods such as fruit. Also keep in mind that the higher the fiber and protein content in the food, the higher the satiety – so you’ll feel fuller longer and won’t crave these foods as often.

 

Maria Stawarz, RD, CDE

What food staples do you always keep on hand?

I keep foods that satisfy the MyPlate guidelines and that can be incorporated into quick weekday meals. Items like low-sodium beans, frozen vegetables, quick-cooking brown rice, oatmeal, and fresh fruits and vegetables are always available in my kitchen.

What foods do you never keep at home?

I never keep cookies, cakes, pies and potato chips because they are too tempting to have around. I also never buy processed meats such as hot dogs or sausage because of their fat and sodium content.

Why is eating a balanced diet so important for overall health?

Many studies demonstrate the benefits of a healthy eating pattern in preventing chronic diseases and for managing weight. Choosing nutrient-rich, high-fiber foods helps keep our bodies running well and gives us the energy to do the things we need to do.

 

David Schwartz, RD

What food staples do you always keep on hand?

Low-sodium canned beans, sweet potatoes and frozen spinach, to name a few. They’re easy to prepare and all are loaded with antioxidants and fiber.

What foods do you never keep at home?

Soda. It’s like a flood of sugar entering your body. I always keep fresh fruit available for when I want something sweet.

What tips do you have for balancing life responsibilities with maintaining a healthy diet?

A few things: First, cook in bulk and use a lot of vegetables. You can store your meals in containers and have lunches for the week. Also, make exercise a priority. Part of a balanced lifestyle also includes exercise, so it’s important to make time for the gym. Bonus if yours offers free daycare!

 

Patricia Jurek, RD, MBA

What food staples do you always keep on hand?

To be able to eat healthy and support a healthy lifestyle, convenient, grab-and-go items are key. I keep fruits like apples, grapes, bananas and fresh berries front and center in the refrigerator. I also cook large batches of foods on the weekend for easy lunches and dinners during the week. Items I keep include steel-cut oats, marinara sauce, frozen vegetables like spinach and corn, nuts and seeds to add to yogurt and salads, low-sodium canned tomatoes and beans, and quinoa.

What foods do you never keep at home?

I never keep items like potato chips, cookies, crackers, pretzels or containers of ice cream because I would overeat them. If I do buy something like ice cream, I only purchase a package of individual ice cream bars.

Why is healthy eating so important for overall health?

You truly are what you eat. Your body is made up of cells which all require nutrients to be able to work properly – if you don’t give the body what it needs in the foods you eat, your activity, sleep and overall health are all impacted.

For more recipes, nutrition advice and cooking demo videos, check out our EatWell section and subscribe to get all of the latest posts.

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