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Pantry Staples

These 8 Foods Are Clean Eating Staples You Should Always Have in Your Fridge

Keep these essential foods on hand, and you’ll be able to make an array of delicious, nutritious meals every day of the week.

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The key to making clean eating easy? A well-stocked fridge. When you have a fridge filled with fresh, convenient foods, you’ll have everything you need to eat well throughout the week. Plus, with a few key staples you can always fall back on, you’ll be able to make everything from easy breakfasts to speedy snacks to flavorful dinners. Stack your shelves with nutrient-dense foods that can streamline both your decision-making and your cooking time, and you’ll be ready for anything.

If you’re hoping to make the most out of your grocery budget and the nutritional value of your meals, stock up on these eight essential foods and keep them in your fridge as often as possible. 

1. Pre-cut vegetables

Save yourself a ton of time and make reaching for fresh produce a total breeze by keeping a supply of pre-cut veggies in your crisper drawer.  We love this fridge shortcut because it’s more than just efficient; it’s also an effortless, no-excuses solution for ramping up your vegetable intake and adding fiber and disease-preventive antioxidants to any meal. After all, we could  all do with more veggies in our diets. Studies link higher vegetable consumption with lower rates of chronic illnesses and overall mortality. 

There are two ways you can stock your fridge with cut vegetable: Buy bagged and pre-cut veggies, or chop them yourself and store in reusable containers. No matter which approach you use, include a mix of crucifers like radishes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli; they’re rich in compounds shown to lessen the risk of breast, prostate, colorectal and other cancers. And they’re versatile, too. You can use these veggies in so many ways. Sauté shredded Brussels sprouts and shallots, then top with toasted walnuts and fresh thyme; simmer cauliflower, broccoli and onions in coconut milk and puree into a creamy soup; or, toss thinly sliced carrots with olive oil and rosemary and roast till crispy. 

2. Eggs

Eggs aren’t just an easy breakfast solution; they’re a versatile, crazy-cheap source of protein. But they do more than satiate your hunger and feed your muscles. Eggs also contain immune-boosting selenium and choline, a hard-to-get nutrient vital for the brain and nervous system. Egg yolks are also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that protect the eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration. Oh, and they’re great for your heart, too. Despite their cholesterol content, research suggests eating eggs enhances beneficial HDL cholesterol levels and doesn’t increase the risk of heart disease. 

To ensure your eggs are extra-nutritious, look for pasture-raised varieties with the Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved seal. Studies show pastured eggs are higher in vitamins A, D and E, and have more omega-3s and less saturated fat. 

You can put eggs to use in almost anything and everything. Scramble, fry or poach them for a standalone meal; or, make deviled eggs using guacamole instead of mayo. Add some extra nutrition by scrambling eggs with scallions, kale, garlic and curry powder. You can also bake them into a crustless quiche with rainbow chard, red peppers, mushrooms and leeks. 

3. Leafy greens

Fresh greens like spinach, arugula, chard and collards are among the healthiest staple foods you can keep in your fridge. And that’s because they’re nutrient-rich. 

All leafy greens are excellent sources of beta carotene, a nutrient that can dampen inflammation, minimize free radical damage and potentially lessen the likelihood of cancer and other diseases. They’re also high in lutein, a potent antioxidant that protects the heart, brain and eyes, plus magnesium, calcium and B vitamins that keep arteries supple and strong. Oh, and as a bonus, kale, arugula, collards and cabbage are members of the cancer-preventive cruciferous family. 

Plus, when you have leafy greens in your fridge, you can always make a satisfying salad or a nutrient-dense side dish. You can serve leafy greens in so many different ways. Here are a few ideas: Sauté shredded collards and onions with cumin and smoked paprika; lightly steam whole chard leaves and use as a wrapper instead of tortillas; toss baby spinach leaves, avocado cubes, blackberries and jicama into a simple salad.

4. Hummus

This creamy chickpea-based food is low in fat and loaded with protein – and it makes for an easy way to elevate your fiber intake. Whether you opt for store-bought or your own DIY recipe (try some of our fave recipes here), hummus is a must-have. You can enjoy it with fresh veggies, try a hummus bowl topped with your favorite salad ingredients, mix it into all kinds of recipes or add it to sandwiches. The options are endless!

Additionally, whether you’re enjoying hummus as a dip, an ingredient or a standalone snack, it’s highly nutritious beyond its protein and fiber content alone. It’s been linked with decreased risks of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions. And studies suggest people who eat more legumes have lower rates of overall mortality. It’s also high in resistant starch, a hard-to-digest carbohydrate that supports gut health, improves insulin sensitivity, encourages weight loss and protects the heart. 

Clean, store-bought hummus is both convenient and versatile; just look for short ingredient lists on the packaged options you’re considering. With homemade or store-bought hummus in your fridge, you can spoon hummus into endive leaves and sprinkle with chopped black olives and chives; mix with olive oil, minced basil and lemon juice for a creamy dairy-free dressing; or spread on whole-grain toast and layer on thinly sliced red onions, arugula and avocado.

5. Tomatoes

Vibrant in color and a staple ingredient in everything from pasta sauce to salads, tomatoes are an absolute must-have in your fridge. Fresh tomatoes, one of summer’s best in-season ingredients (at least, in our opinion!), can be utilized in countless ways, whether you’re a fan of just-picked tomato slices, a sprinkling of cherry tomatoes in your salads or cooked in warm dishes.

Beyond their versatility, tomatoes also offer a particularly healthful array of nutrients. They’re a concentrated source of heart-protective lycopene, which is linked with lower risks of prostate, breast and other cancers. Tomatoes also offer potassium, vitamin C and beta-carotene. 

You can keep a variety of different types of tomatoes on your kitchen counter or in your fridge. Cherry and grape tomatoes are handy for snacking, while Roma and vine tomatoes are ideal picks for sauces and salsa. To get even more nutritional bang in every bite, try cooking your tomatoes in olive oil. Heat enhances lycopene availability, and research shows adding olive oil dramatically increases its absorption. 

Need some tomato inspiration? Drizzle halved cherry tomatoes and rosemary with olive oil, and roast till tender. Or, make a speedy salsa with chopped tomatoes, minced scallions, yellow peppers and cilantro. You can also simmer Roma tomatoes and leeks with garlic and olive oil.

6. Blueberries

They might be small, but blueberries are pretty potent when it comes to nutrition. These tart little berries are loaded with antioxidants that tame inflammation, protect the brain and slash the risk of heart disease, cancer and chronic illnesses. And they’re a great staple food to keep on hand.

Blueberries aren’t just healthy; they also offer pretty good value for your money. They’ll last a week in the fridge; for more savings, you can stock up on blueberries and stash them in the freezer. In fact, frozen blueberries just might be even more nutritious – studies suggest icy temps break down cell walls, liberate nutrients and improve antioxidant availability. 

Not a fan of blueberries? Berries and dark-colored fruits, in general, are great to keep in your fridge. Strawberries, cherries, blackberries and pomegranates share similar antioxidant profiles to blueberries, and blackberries are exceptionally high in fiber. 

While blueberries (or any other berry variety) make for a great breakfast ingredient in dishes like oatmeal bakes and smoothies, you can actually incorporate them in your lunches and dinners too. Toss blueberries into a salad of arugula, red onions and cashews; top with a blend of ground almonds, honey and coconut oil and bake till bubbly for a grain-free crisp; whirl up a nutrient-dense smoothie with mixed berries, spinach, yogurt and hemp seeds.

7. Onions

When you need to add flavor to a dish, onions are an easy way to do so. Nearly every savory dish can benefit from onions – and whether you’re using them raw, sautéed or incorporated into a sauce, they’re a must-have in your kitchen. 

Onions and other members of the allium family (garlic, leeks, scallions, chives and shallots) are surprisingly good for you. They’re packed with sulfur compounds that protect the heart and reduce the risk of cancer. And each variety can offer different benefits. Yellow onions, for example, are rich in disease-preventive quercetin; red varieties contain anthocyanins, the same potent antioxidants found in blueberries and blackberries. Raw onions are higher in sulfur, but cooking increases quercetin levels. 

You can easily include onions or alliums like garlic into almost anything and everything. Here are a few examples: Stuff yellow onions with cooked quinoa, chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto, and roast till tender; combine red onions, cucumber, yogurt and cilantro; toss halved leeks in olive oil and grill till golden. 

8. Salmon

While there are many protein-rich foods you can turn to, particularly when you’re looking at meats, salmon is one of the best. This fish is an excellent source of protein, sure, but it’s also rich in selenium, B vitamins and other protective nutrients. In fact, some studies suggest eating two ounces of fish a day slashes overall mortality risk. Plus, salmon is packed with omega-3 fats, which can minimize inflammation, balance your mood and lessen the likelihood of heart disease, stroke and neurodegenerative conditions. It’s also rich in astaxanthin and other carotenoids that dampen inflammation and shield cells from damage. 

The best kind of salmon to keep in your fridge? We like wild-caught salmon instead of farmed; it’s also best to opt for sustainable options. And if you’re in need of recipe ideas or inspiration, we’ve got plenty. You don’t have to get fancy, though. To put salmon to use in different ways try folding minced salmon, capers and horseradish into yogurt for a clean, savory dip. Or, toss with radicchio, shaved fennel and avocado, and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette. You can also make a speedy breakfast hash of smoked salmon, grated sweet potatoes, onions and kale.

Once you’ve stocked your fridge, don’t forget about your pantry. Keep reading for more must-have foods to keep on hand:

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