By Amanda Li, RD
Fridge staples are essential to making quick homemade meals that are delicious, nutrient dense and tummy-friendly! Registered Dietitian and culinary expert, Amanda Li, shares 10 common ingredients found in the fridge that should be maximized to its full potential!
- Baby Greens– No prep work needed at all since most brands come triple-washed and ready-to-eat. As the name suggests, the leaves of baby greens – be it spinach, kale, arugula, or swiss chard are harvested about 3-4 weeks after planting, resulting in a more tender and milder flavour compared to its mature counterparts. They also boast an impressive nutrient profile, similar to other leafy greens, offering fibre, vitamins C and K, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and beta-carotene. Add baby greens to your salads, sandwiches, omelettes, pizza, smoothies, tacos, and even stir into soups and pasta sauces near the end of cooking. The possibilities are endless with baby greens!
- Eggs – A staple of any well-stocked fridge, there are so many creative uses for these little ovals of joy, either as the star of the meal or as the perfect, protein-packed addition. One of the most nutrient-dense foods around packing all the essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Eggs are super filling and one study even found that women who ate eggs for breakfast felt full longer and lost more than twice as much weight as those who got the same calories from a bagel for breakfast.
- Ground Flax Seeds – This tiny seed is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and lignans, a phytonutrient that has been shown to reduce cancer risk and reduce inflammation in the body. Ground flaxseeds are great to have around in the fridge as they can be used as an egg substitute, added to smoothies, hot cereals, or even as a binder in your favourite meatball recipe. The high fibre content in flax helps keep you feeling more satiated after a meal and can help you keep regular!
- Maple Syrup – We all need something sweet in our lives, and 100% Canadian maple syrup is a great functional and natural sweetener. Beyond pancakes, maple syrup is delicious in homemade vinaigrettes and marinades. Just a light drizzle is often enough to help cut out any bitterness in vegetables, making them more enjoyable to consume for everyone in the family! Maple syrup is also less sticky and thick compared to honey and is low FODMAP-friendly.
- Lemons – This humble citrus is refreshingly tart on its own, and when paired with other ingredients, it can both brighten and balance out the entire dish. Lemons are also great for cooking fish, poultry, and meat, as the acidity in the juice help breakdown and tenderize the protein.
- Carrots – A vegetable that most kids and adults are familiar with, and enjoy eating for the most part. Carrots are a root vegetable that can last for over a month in the fridge if stored properly and are an integral ingredient in the classic mirepoix which is the most powerful culinary trio consisting of carrots, onions and celery. When combined, these three simple ingredients, commonly referred to as “aromatics,” come together to add flavor and aroma to stocks, soups, stews, braises, meatloaves and meatballs. Don’t forget, carrots are also delicious just eaten as a crunchy snack on its own and provides an excellent source of beta carotene which converts into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for good vision and immune function.
- Plain Greek Yogurt: Basically a creamy canvas for your wildest culinary creations! Yogurt can be used as a lower fat substitute in recipes that call for sour cream or mayonnaise, and can even be used in your baked goods to replace some of the oil or butter. Look for yogurts that have added probiotics to give your gut an added bonus!
- Tomato Paste – Tomato paste is a more concentrated form of tomato sauce, meaning there’s way more actual tomato-ey goodness in that little tube and it is bursting with lycopene, an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce cancer risk. It is great for adding a depth of flavour and richness without additional calories, to sauces, stews, curries and even stir-fries. Best part, is that the shelf-life of tomato paste in a tube, once opened is an entire month!
- Olives – Just like tomato paste, olives have a very long shelf-life and they can be thrown into a variety of dishes, including salads, pastas, stews, or even just eaten as a snack. Olives are a fantastic source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and they are perfect when you’re craving something salty, particularly because they are way more satisfying than a crisp cracker in your belly.
- Mustard – Hands-down my favourite condiment because it adds a punch like no other! Mustard is also packed with the immune-boosting mineral selenium and cancer-fighting properties as mustard seeds are actually derived from the same family as broccoli, cabbage, and brussel sprouts. Try adding some Dijon mustard into your homemade salad dressings, sauces, marinades and even as a coating for breading chicken and pork.
Amanda Li is a Toronto-based Registered Dietitian, owner of Wellness Simplified, Professor at George Brown College and a foodie at heart. Upon completing a culinary arts diploma she knew she wanted to bring together her dietetic experience to create a nutrition coaching philosophy that is foodcentric and grounded in teaching individuals a basic life skill – nourishing their body, mind and soul. Her aim is to encourage, educate, and equip individuals with the hands-on food skills to make healthy eating the easier choice!