We all know: once the holiday season is here, the new year is not far behind. The beginning of the year is a great time to declutter, toss the junk and organize your kitchen to set you up for clean-eating success. Here are some must-haves to help you prepare healthy, fast and flavorful meals in the year ahead.
1. Fruits and veggies are key.
A healthy kitchen starts with fresh produce, even in winter. Fruits and vegetables deliver vitamins, minerals and plant nutrients that protect against chronic conditions including obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and dementia. Aim to eat at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables every day.
How to use them: Add veggies to egg dishes, smoothies and even muffins; eat fruits and veggies as snacks. Shredded veggies can even replace some of the meat in burgers.
2. Go for Greek yogurt.
Nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt is a stellar source of high-quality protein and essential nutrients like calcium and potassium. A typical single-serving container of nonfat Greek yogurt packs around 17 grams of protein — about the equivalent of three eggs!
How to use it: Enjoy with fresh fruit as a snack or use to make smoothies, as an oatmeal topper or as a healthier stand-in for sour cream or mayo in most recipes.
3. Go nuts.
People who eat around an ounce of nuts per day tend to be thinner and have lower risk for heart disease and certain cancers compared to those who avoid nuts. Nutritionally, all nuts are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat and protein and provide nutrients like vitamins B and E, magnesium and filling fiber.
How to use them: Toast them to bring out even more flavor. Chop and sprinkle over oatmeal, yogurt, salad greens, roasted veggies or whole grains.
4. Add extra-virgin olive oil.
EVOO is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and low in unhealthy saturated fats. It's the primary fat used in the Mediterranean diet, considered the gold-standard eating pattern for health and longevity.
How to use it: Save pricey EVOO for dipping and drizzling over foods. Combine it with vinegar to make delicious, tangy salad dressings.
5. Eat plenty of whole grains.
Whole grains — like brown rice, quinoa, farro, oats and barley — provide filling fiber plus beneficial antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Strive to get about three servings of whole grains per day.
How to use them: Enjoy oats or other whole-grain cereals for a hearty breakfast. Add couscous, farro, quinoa or other cooked whole grains to salads or side dishes. Bake with whole-grain flour whenever possible.
6. Keep canned beans on hand.
Beans are rich in fiber, protein, antioxidants, potassium and iron. Research shows that eating beans can help you manage your waistline and reduce your risk for heart disease. Shoot for a half-cup three times a week.
How to use them: Snack on roasted chickpeas or spread hummus on your sandwich in place of mayo. Add beans to hearty soups, turkey chili or burrito bowls.
7. Eat canned seafood for healthy fats. (Editor’s Note: Or, Alaskans, enjoy your haul from this year’s time on the river that you’ve canned, smoked or stashed in your freezer!)
A tin or pouch of tuna or salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids that help protect your heart, boost brainpower, elevate mood, maintain eyesight and keep joints mobile.
How to use it: Make salmon cakes or burgers. Use tuna as a protein-packed salad topper or a savory addition to pasta dishes.
8. Don’t put away the pumpkin puree.
Yes, as we enter the new year, the holidays are over. But canned pumpkin puree is much more than pie filling. Look for a variety with no added sugar or flavor for a low-calorie pick brimming with beta carotene, vitamin C and potassium.
How to use it: Add to smoothies, oatmeal, soups and stews, pasta sauce and casseroles. Make pumpkin butter to spread on toast.