How To Stock A Healthy Refrigerator

It’s easier to make good food choices when you can see what you have and it is simple for you to grab and eat, instead of spending a lot of time preparing your food. That’s why having a healthy refrigerator can help you see the benefits of healthy eating habits. Not sure where to start? Begin with a clean out.  Get rid of out-of-date and processed foods and be prepared to get fresh for a healthy diet. The refrigerator is one of the hardest working appliances in your home- and a clean refrigerator promises to keep food fresher.

Clear it out and begin fresh, wipe the inside with 2 tablespoons baking soda and 1 quart hot water. Rinse with a damp cloth, and then dry with a clean towel. Do not use soap or detergent, because they can leave behind a scent the food will absorb.

Now you are ready to start the stock up. Here are few suggestions to get you started.  

  • Pocket Dial Thermometer - Your refrigerator should be kept between 34 and 37 degrees Fahrenheit, with an optimal temperature of 37 degrees. Be sure to check your thermometer if you lose power and you need to know if your food is safe to eat.    
  • Multigrain bread - Bread kept in the refrigerator lasts longer than on the counter, and multigrain bread offers more nutrients than plain white bread.
  • Crisper drawers - Crisper drawers trap moisture and help keeps fruits and vegetables fresh, but be sure to keep fruits and vegetables separate in the correct “vegetable or high” settings and “fruit or low” settings. Vegetables remain fresh longest in a moist environment. The crispers will work better if they are at least two-thirds full.
  • Lettuce - Either buy lettuce and spinach in the bag or wash, label, and put in a clear plastic container or bag as soon as you get home from the grocery store.
  • Vinaigrette - If you can’t make your own salad dressing, keep a bottle of store-bought vinaigrette instead of creamy salad dressings, which have more fat.  
  • Turkey Bacon - Less fat than regular bacon, cooks quickly and adds savory protein to breakfast.
  • Calcium-fortified Orange Juice or Low-sugar Orange Juice - More nutrients, same taste, same cost for the calcium-fortified choice.  And choosing a juice with lower sugar can be still be a sweet way to get your morning dose of vitamin C.
  • Cheese - Easy to eat and lower in fat than most cheeses, string cheese offers a solid dairy and protein boost for snacking, while Lorraine Swiss makes a great pairing with lunch meats for sandwiches. Look for other 2% cheese to help you cut the fat without cutting the taste.
  • Butter - Use butter instead of margarine and keep your butter covered in a butter dish to keep it lasting longer. You can even freeze sticks you are not using.
  • Low-fat Lunchmeat - Buy minimally processed lunchmeats like turkey and ham that are low sodium content and do not contain any sodium nitrates.  Opened package or deli-style lunchmeat typically keeps 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
  • Eggs - Nature’s nearly perfect food. A good source of protein and so many ways to cook, fry, poach and hard-boil.
  • Canned fruit - If your supply of fresh fruit has been cleared out by refrigerator bandits, a jar of grapefruit, pears or mandarin oranges makes for a refreshing snack or dessert and will keep for a long time without going bad. Choose canned fruits that are preferably canned in their own juice, water or light syrup.
  • Fresh Fruit - Cut up fruit like strawberries and cantaloupe and put in clear containers so you don’t have to prep before you eat. A healthy snack  or side awaits.
  • Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth - Add to rice, mashed potatoes or vegetables while cooking for a rich flavor without butter or oil.
  • Greek Yogurt 2% - Twice the protein of regular yogurt while also containing up to 40% less sugar. Plus you can’t beat its creamier, thicker texture and rich flavor. Add on the probiotics and it’s a refrigerator must-have.
  • Hummus + bags of baby carrots = low-fat, high-protein snack combo
  • Leftovers - Keep labeled and in a clear, microwave safe plastic container so you can see what you have and it’s ready to heat and eat.
  • Low-fat Milk – 1% milk has enough fat for baking, but is also a healthy drink choice.
  • Mushrooms - These fungi are best kept in a brown paper bag or cardboard box in the fridge and also can contain up to 15 different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  
  • Olives - A rich source of healthy monosaturated fats and may even help to protect against heart disease and other chronic diseases.
  • Unsweetened Applesauce - Quick and easy snack or side, and buying in larger containers is less expensive than individual portions.
  • Peanut Butter - Some peanut butters need to be refrigerated, but any way you store it, peanut butter is packed with protein and can be an easy–to-make and eat snack when paired with veggies or multigrain bread. Almond butter and sunflower seed butter are also good choices. Choose nut butters without sugar and reduced salt when available.
  • Salsa – Americans spend more money on salsa than ketchup as a condiment, and salsa offers a serving of veggies and vitamin C. It can even help the leftovers go down easier.

Luckily, most of these are also part of the Mediterranean Diet  – Opa!

Sources:; Martha Stewart Living