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12 healthy cooking and pantry essentials to keep on hand

Set yourself up for healthy eating success.

healthy-kitchen-essential-tools-pantry-items
Chowhound
This story is part of New Year, New You, everything you need to develop healthy habits that will last all the way through 2020 and beyond.

Eating healthy can be pretty overwhelming -- so daunting, in fact, that you decide to ditch the whole idea all together. But don't do that just yet. After all, your body and mind deserve nutritious fuel, and it'll all pay off in the long run.

Maintaining a healthy diet, no matter which one you decide is best for you (keto, paleo, Whole 30 -- oh my!), doesn't have to be incredibly complex. And we're willing to bet that equipping your kitchen with these tools and food items will make your quest easier, even if your sole goal is to stop eating so much processed food.

Healthy cooking tools

This equipment will make it easier to stick to healthy eating resolutions of all kinds.

Amazon

It's perfect for making things like tomato sauce, pesto, guacamole (yes please!), hummus and homemade baby food. You can even throw some nuts in there to chop them for salad or granola, or keep blitzing to make them into nut butter. It's always good to know exactly what goes into each item of your food, especially without having to navigate a complicated nutrition label ingredients list.

OXO

We're not here to villainize regular pasta. But, in general, whenever you can put more veggies into your system, it's a good thing. With this tool, you can whip up some noodles made from zucchini (known as zoodles), beets, sweet potatoes, carrots and more. Mimic a delicious pasta experience without being too carb heavy.

Instant Pot

This one is a game changer. It has seven different functions (yes, seven!), including serving as a slow cooker, steamer and a pressure cooker. It's great for making big batches of soup, chili and your favorite oatmeal recipe, as well as beans, whole grains and hard-boiled eggs. See our Instant Pot meal prep tips for more ideas on making the most of it. And consider adding a Mealthy CrispLid to turn it into an air fryer when you're craving healthier fried food.

NutriBullet

The NutriBullet's biggest strength is smoothies, which are a great way to start off your morning, refuel after a workout and jam pack your system with fruits and vegetables. It's compact and easy to clean. While smoothies are a very common use for it, NutriBullets can also make soup, and with the milling blade, it even makes nut butter.

Amazon

Adding a little zest to your food can create a whole new flavor profile, as can grating a little bit of cheese on top of your pasta (zoodles or regular) or salad. And, yes, it's perfectly fine to consume cheese in small doses. Unless, of course, you're allergic or vegan. Use it for grating garlic to liven up your dinner too.

Staple pantry items

Stock your kitchen with these foods and spices so you're always ready to cook a healthy meal.

Spices

spices
Chowhound

Spices make the cooking world go round. There are just so many ways to use and combine them -- from baking chicken with salt and paprika, to making taco seasoning, to throwing some cinnamon in your coffee grounds before you hit brew. 

They're a fabulous way to add flavor without increasing calories. If your spice cabinet is a little bare, we suggest starting with: salt, pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper flakes and cumin. Work your way up to blends like za'atar. , Chinese five spice powder and shichimi togarashi.

Oil and vinegar

Two absolutely essential items in every kitchen. Not only can you cook with each, but you can also use them for dressings and sauces. Canola oil is good to cook with, though it doesn't have much flavor. For that, go with extra virgin olive oil (or EVOO). 

As far as vinegar goes, try balsamic or red wine vinegar for jazzing up veggies and salads. Rice vinegar is nice if you like to cook Asian dishes, and white vinegar is good for pickles but otherwise best suited for cleaning.

Canned legumes

chole-masala-indian-chickpea-recipe-chowhound
Chowhound

Legumes -- specifically beans and chickpeas -- are extremely affordable and chock-full of nutrients. Cook them up whole with some of your favorite spices (try easy oven roasted chickpeas or this Indian chickpea curry), add them to vegetable stew for extra protein or pop them in a food processor to make things like black bean burgers and hummus.

Rolled oats

With tons of protein and fiber, oatmeal should be a regular breakfast choice, as long as you stay away from the versions full of sugar. 

Oats are quite versatile, too. You can add them to a smoothie, make homemade granola or turn them into gluten-free flour. Endless oat-pportunities, you know?  

Other dry grains

Grains are a great meal base. In addition to oats, farro and quinoa are great healthy options. And, yes, you can keep some whole wheat pasta on hand, too. Again, pasta is not the enemy, especially in the correct portion sizes. In fact, it's a good way to fit in some fiber and protein.

Popcorn kernels 

paper-bag-popcorn-chowhound
Chowhound


Healthy snacking can be difficult. Carrot and celery sticks can get boring quickly. That's where popcorn comes in. A low-calorie, low-fat option, popcorn is a great snack choice. You just need to be mindful of how you make it and what you put on top of it. Air popping is the best way to go, and you definitely don't want to drench it in butter or oil. If you don't have an air popper, try Chowhound's paper bag popcorn recipe. (Then flavor it with black sesame and mustard or spicy cinnamon.)

Nuts

Choose your favorite nut or make a mixture. Full of healthy fats, you just want to watch how many you consume. And while they're fine on their own, they can also be a nice crunchy addition to oatmeal or salads or ground into a healthier flour option. If you buy in bulk, store them in the fridge or freezer to keep them fresh.

This story was written by Abby Wolfe.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.