Food Staples for Healthier Eating: 6 Staples You Need Now

My Diet Matters
food staples for healthier eating

A “healthy” kitchen stocked with food staples is a pretty straightforward path to healthier eating in 2020. Who doesn’t care about healthy eating? I think most people would like to make better food choices, but end up floundering for a variety of reasons. Sometimes there is no healthy food in the house, they are tired, not motivated in the moment, or just too tired to care about eating a healthy diet. Once in a lifetime there may even be a pandemic. It’s important to keep in mind that a healthy meal does not need to be labor intensive and time consuming. Keeping basic food staples around can simplify the process of carrying out healthier eating. Here’s my list of 6 food staples for healthier eating you can implement right now.

Food staples for healthier eating include vegetables

people know this, they are not going out of their way to eat enough. I have not really figured out why, but I think it is because there is a bit more labor required in order to eat most vegetables. You know, scrape, clean, cut, etc. The “work around”  is to prep some for the week, and bag them up. For instance, if you like peppers, cut a few up for the work week and put your portions in Ziploc bags for the week. You will not need to stop and chop, just grab your portion. Don’t forget you can also drink your vegetables like low sodium V-8 which is loaded with potassium.

Food staples for healthier eating include fruits

Yes, it is good for you. No, it does not contain too much sugar and is ok to eat even if a diabetic. While we do not have a ton of choices in the Midwest right now, every store has a nice variety of bagged organic frozen fruit. Keep it on hand to use as a smoothie.  When I am hard pressed for good nutrition on the run, I love doing the smoothie trick.  Want to increase the protein? My trick is to add 1/2 cup of cottage cheese to the mix which boosts the protein to 15 grams.

Food staples for healthier eating include grains

Despite all the negative comments regarding carbohydrates, grains are an important part of a healthy diet.  Grains provide fiber and B vitamins. They can be dished up differently for different people. Whole grain pasta, crackers, and cereal can keep in the cupboard as a staple side dish or even eaten as an occasional entrée.  I frequently have sheepish clients say they eat cereal for dinner. Guess what? I have done that as well topped with a fruit such as a banana or strawberries. As with the vegetables, planning ahead and freezing some grain based foods also works to foster a healthier diet. Freezing wheat free muffins and gluten free waffles for later use is super helpful. Wondering how to buy a loaf of bread, here are some tips.

Milk or milk substitutes are a must have

I’m lactose intolerant, so I keep lactose free milk in my kitchen. And, the great news on lactose free milk it usually lasts longer than regular milk. I also enjoy kefir for my smoothies, including my kale version. If you don’t want to drink cow’s milk, you should still have a milk alternative in your kitchen. Milk alternatives are typically fortified with calcium and will have a similar calcium content to cow milk. Options are: almond, soy, rice, hemp, or the now popular oat milk. And, best of all the packaging of many of these various milks allows for shelf stability without refrigeration. Therefore, you can stock of on these shelf stable milks.

Food staples for healthier eating include eggs

Despite the new bad press, an egg is a wonderful package of nutrients for very few calories. Eggs have high quality  protein and the cholesterol content of eggs has been declining. Today, eggs such as EggLands Best Eggs have omega-3 fatty acids and are a source of vitamin E.  An average egg has only about 180 mg. of cholesterol. If you still want to decrease your dietary cholesterol while eating several eggs, consider mixing a whole egg with an egg substitute like Egg Beaters.

Frozen Meals

Healthy frozen dinners are included in my list of important food staples. I can pretty much guarantee that a Healthy Choice or Kashi brand frozen meal is going to be a healthier option than heading to your local fast food joint. When time is tight or energy is already spent, having a few of these on hand can save the day. Many frozen dinners are now lower in sodium, fat, calories, and preservatives, but high in flavor. I usually recommend the following guidelines when choosing a frozen dinner:

  • it should have less then 700 mg of sodium
  • shoot for 350 calories or less if you are minding your weight
  • it should ideally have some fiber

Don’t forget, you can freeze your own meals as well. Double up your recipe, and freeze the other half. For suggestions on frozen dinners to steer clear of and some better choices, check this link out.

Take away

Fruits and vegetables are always part of a healthy stocked kitchen. They include significant amounts of fiber and plant chemicals to ward off disease and boost immunity. While seasonal issues and availability may make fresh produce difficult to access, frozen fruit and vegetable choices are ideal. The nutritional content of the frozen vs. fresh is equal or occasionally better than the fresh counterpart. Carbohydrate rich foods are also important and often shelf stable. Complex carbohydrates are a source of B complex vitamins and fiber. A well stocked kitchen should have a source of milk-dairy or otherwise. Many milk alternatives are packed in aseptic packaging that is shelf stable.

And, for those times of stress or fatigue when you might be way to tired to cook or be included to overeat-frozen meals are great. The are often quite healthy in the current market and everything is portioned out appropriately to avoid overeating!

Do you have more tips for fast healthy eating?

Sue Rose, MS, RD, LDN

Sue Rose helps readers sort through the maze of nutrition information available to the public. As a seasoned clinical dietitian/nutritionist with decades of experience, her blogs attempt to educate and inform the public at a time when there is so much information it is often overwhelming to understand. Stay tuned for clarity on a variety of topics!


Use this information at your own risk. Although I am a licensed IL dietitian/nutritionist, I am not your dietitian. The information in my blog Chew on This located at is for educational and informational purposes only. It is also my own opinion and subject to change in the future. Please consult with your own medical professionals for individual treatment.