Looking for an easy recipe for good health and long life? It can’t get any simpler than this – just stock your fridge right! I believe that, to make sure our table brims over with delicious foods that taste good and are super healthy too, it is important to stock right, particularly what we keep handy in our refrigerator. This is my 12 must stick in your fridge list. It’s simple and uncomplicated, but you’d be surprised how often we miss out on these.
Skim or low-fat milk should always be within reach. It’s a great source of calcium and when added to cereal, makes for a quick and healthy breakfast.
Note: Lactose intolerant? Not to worry. There are plenty of other great calcium sources that you can stock, including soy milk, calcium-fortified orange juice, dried figs and sesame seeds.
2. Green vegetables
Get a load of these. Add a couple of servings of cabbage, broccoli or spinach to your daily menu and you’ll go a long way towards lowering your risk for many forms of cancer, crunch for crunch. Cruciferous vegetables (including cauliflower) are laden with cancer-fighting substances and antioxidants.
3. Orange veggies
Orange and yellow vegetables are powerhouses of beta-carotene, tomatoes abound in lycopene (an important antioxidant) and carrots are one of nature’s best sources of vitamin A (they also taste great in soups and stews, as well as raw). These are richest in disease-fighting antioxidants.
4. Assorted fruits
An almost zero-preparation snack when guests stop by! Popular favourites are grapes, papaya, apples, bananas and oranges. Choose any seasonal fruit you like – all fruits have something or the other going for them.
Necessary ingredients for many baked goods, a protein-packed breakfast item or a gourmet dinner treat in the form of an omelette or rice-based stir-fry, eggs are versatile and perfectly healthy if you don’t have a cholesterol problem. Scramble, bake, poach, hard- or soft-boil them all on their own, or add some of the other stuff found in your fridge to cook them in a myriad other forms (crepes, egg rolls, French toast…). Eggs are an excellent source of protein, iron and phosphorus (good for teeth and bones).
Perfect for making fruit smoothies, layering with fresh fruit and granola, or just spooning up as a snack – it’s one of the healthiest quick-meal options around. Stock up on plain or flavoured varieties – but stick to unsweetened.
7. Fresh lemons
Umpteen uses again: Perk up a glass of iced water with a fresh slice or use lemon juice as a low-fat salad dressing. As for nutrient value, they contain vitamin C, iron and protein.
8. Low-fat cheese
If you have low-fat cheese in the fridge and whole-wheat pasta (or bread) in the cupboard, you will always have the makings of a healthy meal in a jiffy. Feta anyone!
9. Fresh ginger
Store unwrapped in the fridge. Perfect for marinades and spicing up last-minute stir-fries.
10. Fresh herbs
A little sprig of leaves can add plenty of flavour to a meal without racking up calories. A simple lentil (masoor dal) soup simmered with seasonings of tejpatta (bay leaf), finely chopped sage and marjoram is not just low in fat but brimming with rich flavour and health. Spice up grilled chicken with fresh tarragon or rosemary – and you won’t even miss the heavy sauces. The best news of course is that most herbs and spices are super healthy.
Tip – to keep fresh herbs fresh longer, keep them in a cup of water, like cut flowers. Or for longer periods, freeze them in your ice tray with water – just add a cube when cooking soups or curries, and still looks fresh and pretty.
11. Cold cuts
Okay, they may not necessarily be the healthiest foods out there, but you may enjoy a homemade ham or turkey sandwich every now and then. Definitely a better bet than takeaways or order-in junk.
12. Salad dressing
This list already includes ingredients for several salads, so now you need something to spice them up. If buying bottled, check labels for quantity of fat per serving, and go for low-calorie, low-fat ones but ideally just stock up a homemade ones as that way you can ensure low sodium, sugars and other highly processed ingredients.