We all have different ideas of what it means to "eat healthy." Are you part of the low-carb camp? Or the clean-eating, raw crowd? Vegetarian? Flexitarian? Whole 30, Paleo or Keto?
Cooking your food at home is the best way to eat what you crave in a healthy way. In the kitchen, you have control. And if you're shopping for other people, you can support their food and wellness goals with tools that help over the long term.
"If you're working on making healthy changes, it's one thing to know what those changes are, but in order to be successful in sticking to your wellness goals, having the tools you need makes it so much easier," says registered dietitian and health coach Jessica Cording.
Cording has a few favorite gadgets to recommend that she uses all the time in her own kitchen. I chatted with her while she prepped some meals, combining her ideas with my own favorite gadgets and a couple more that have friends raving. Some are more high-tech than others. These are all practical enough that they're less likely to turn out to be another barely used toy cluttering the kitchen.
Dash compact air fryer
OK, so I fudged a little on the practicality factor, but I couldn't help it. This $59.99 compact 1.2-quart air fryer could be the least practical gadget on the list, but it's the most fun and will make an exciting, thoughtful, trendy helper for the health nuts. The AirCrisp technology eliminates the need for a big vat of bubbling oil, reducing the fat by up to 80 percent while perfectly crisping all your basic pub foods. Just think of all the fries, wings and chicken fingers. It has a nonstick fry basket with a capacity for one to two servings (portion control, y'all) and an automatic shutoff feature for safety. It comes in cool aqua, apple red, sleek black, pristine white and subtle silver.
Wüsthof two-stage hand-held sharpener
You know what's healthy? Not cutting yourself and bleeding all over your food. It's a rule of ... er ... thumb that dull knives cause the most injuries in the kitchen. So sharpen those knives! This is one of Cording's most favorite, practical kitchen gadgets. "It's magic. I love this thing. It really was a game changer for me," she said. "It's really about safety and presentation in my kitchen. That's the one kitchen tool I'm most enthusiastic about." This particular sharpener's V-shaped cutting head with two crossed carbide blades puts a quick edge on knives in two stages, and it works on any flat surface. It's $19.95 and it's only 9 by 3 by 1.5 inches, so it doesn't take up much space.
Veggetti spiral vegetable slicer
How can I offer you a healthy gadget list without including a device that transforms your vegetables into pastalike noodles? I can't. Both Cording and I love the simplicity and small size of this $9.99 double-cone gadget. Sure, it works for only tube-shaped vegetables, but you were probably only planning to stick zucchini, yellow squash and carrots in it anyway. The big countertop devices can handle all sorts of vegetable shapes and carve them into much more than spaghetti noodles, but frankly, they take up too much space for our taste.
Oxo Good Grips salad spinner
Fact: A person who owns a salad spinner is much more likely to eat salad. Sure, you can buy those prewashed bags of salad greens, but isn't there always some kind of E. coli outbreak with those? Buy the greens in their true form and use this device to wash and dry them. The plunger makes it do the spin thing, spraying the liquid out to the outer bowl with centrifugal force. Then you drain the water, repeat, eat and store the rest in your fridge. With that done, you can quickly pull together a salad in no time, all week. The colander and bowl parts can also be used for other foods... as a colander and bowl. Go figure. Note that the quality of a spinner differs greatly by brand. When it's flimsy or cheaply made, it breaks with all that vigorous plunging. So go for this Chowhound- and America's Test Kitchen-recommended one from Oxo for $29.95.
Cozilife silicone egg poaching cups
Cording tries to eat as many eggs as possible, starting with breakfast obviously. "I'm a big fan of eggs because they're rich in a nutrient called choline, which supports brain function, which we need to use all day," she said. For her everyday eggy needs, she likes poaching them in the microwave with these $12.99, BPA-free doodads. "I actually just did one today. If I poach one in the microwave, it keeps the shape so they look pretty. The yolk won't spread all over the place or be a funky shape," Cording said. "For day to day, it's so much saner and less cleanup."
GreenPan Rio 12-inch ceramic nonstick fry pan
To encourage home cooking, you need quick weeknight meal ideas, and a nonstick pan is ideal for quick sautes. Unlike those old nonstick pans of yore, this one wasn't made with any toxic materials, and it gives off no harmful fumes. This $29.99 pan is Cording's second-favorite kitchen tool. "I really appreciate that the handle doesn't get really hot, and the heat distributes great," Cording said. "This company came highly recommended by a lot of people I trust on these kinds of things." Remember to use safe, nonmetal utensils when stir-frying all those vegetables, so you don't scratch your beautiful new pan.
Demarle Silpat nonstick silicone baking mat
An easy way to make healthy dinners is to just roast stuff like vegetables and meats. You need a big, rimmed metal sheet pan, and then you need a silicone baking mat so your food doesn't stick to the pan. The old way was to slather tons of butter, oil or grease on the pan, cut some parchment paper (let's reduce our carbon footprint and stop using throwaway items, shall we?) or spray it with Pam. But these baking mats beat all. You don't need anything besides a teeny bit of oil for the food itself. The $19.99 mats can go in the dishwasher too.
In addition to a spiral-cutting device, you can't have a healthy kitchen gadget list without including a Vitamix, the reigning brand of blenders. Anyone who's owned one -- Cording and me included -- raves about its unsurpassed motor power. And we love power. These gadgets blur the line with kitchen appliances, as they're large, heavy and quite the investment, starting in the mid-$300 range for a refurbished model. I've linked to a range here. I was given a certified reconditioned one and use it for making nut butters, chile sauce, pesto and hummus, for example. Cording got her hands on a Vitamix from her aunt and, like me, uses it for the most popular purposes: smoothies and blended soups. Oh, "And sometimes a vegan cheese sauce with silken tofu. It's a good umami sauce," Cording said.
Oxo Good Grips 3-in-1 avocado slicer
No self-respecting person living her or his best wellness life lives without the joy that is avocado. Yes, this is the second time we've recommended the Oxo brand, and that's because it makes quality products that don't fall apart easily and the brand is available at most big-box stores. This little $9.99 slicer cuts your avocado in half, removes the pit and creates perfect, uniform slices that you can fan out on your toast, salad or eggs in beautiful Instagrammy fashion. "When I cut an avocado myself, they're all different sizes," Cording said. "I don't know about you, but if I'm rushing, I tend to be a bit clumsy in the kitchen, and I'm accident-prone, and this has really cut down on my avocado-related injuries." Beauty and safety: It's the perfect combo for upping your delicious, healthy meal game.
OK, not everyone loves avocadoes. The bottom line is we encourage people to eat the way that serves them best and never forget the No. 1 rule of all time (yes, alllll time): Eat Delicious Food. It's a commandment.
Looking for more great kitchen gadget tips? Check out our sister site Chowhound.