By Diana Kelly
Ever wish you could peek inside a food expert’s kitchen and see what they always have on hand? We did, too! So we asked 20 top registered dietitians, nutritionists, chefs, cookbook authors, and food bloggers for the delicious items they always keep in stock in their fridge and pantry as a base for easy, everyday healthy meals and snacks.
Here, they shared the must-have fruits and vegetables, proteins, grains, dairy and eggs, canned foods, snacks, pantry items, and frozen foods (in no particular order) that make up their nutritious, vibrant, and flavorful diets. Find out why these 50 superfoods made the cut then add them to your own grocery list. Tell us in the comments or tweet us at @LiveSonima which are your favorites or what you think we missed.
Click here to get a printable version of the shopping list above. Read on for more detail about why these foods made the list.
FRUITS & VEGETABLES
“I love cooking this black kale into my grain salads and Caesar salads. I also love using lacinato kale as the base for my kale-pesto recipe, tossing it into zucchini noodles or spreading it on to flatbread or pizza in place of boring old sauce. Lacinato kale also makes for a nutrient-packed addition to green smoothies, naturally adding vitamins A, C, and K to any drink.” – Candice Kumai, chef, author of Clean Green Eats
“It’s one of our favorite veggies and it’s so easy to add to any meal. It’s mild enough to blend in smoothies without even noticing it’s there and perfect to throw in omelets in the morning. I also like to use in a salad or stack a sandwich at lunchtime. And it’s easy to toss into tomato sauce, stir-fries, soup, casseroles, or on pizza at dinner. It’s packed with folic acid to fight heart disease and cancer; vitamin C to boost immunity; fiber to fight constipation; potent antioxidants to fight cancer; and lutein and carotenes for eye health.” – The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, R.D., and Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D., authors of The Veggie Cure
“The cauliflower craze isn’t going away anytime soon, and for good reason: you can make such a huge variety of naughty foods into nice ones using this versatile veggie. A great example is cauliflower pizza, which replaces the normally nutrient-void bread crust with one made from ground cauliflower. The result is deliciously crispy yet succulent, and a fantastic option for those looking to cut calories and carbs, while gaining extra nutrients at the same time. I also like to use cooked ground cauliflower as a replacement for rice, and pureed cauliflower as a sneaky substitute for cream in savory recipes.” – Julie Morris, a natural foods chef and New York Times best-selling cookbook author
“Avocados provide fats with benefits. Swapping in a sliced avocado instead of mayo on your sandwich or mashed avocado instead of butter in baked goods (do a one-to-one equal swap of butter for avocado) helps you reduce those unhealthy fats that are void of value. Avocados are heart healthy and may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. The greatest concentration of beneficial carotenoids in avocados is in the dark green fruit of the avocado closest to the peel.” – Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., author Read It Before You Eat It
“As a chef, acid is essential in cooking, and adds vibrancy to any dish. Many people only juice a lemon, but often forget about the zest, which adds an incredible freshness to any dish. Zest that beautiful lemon over some grilled meat, into a salad, yogurt, or onto of your fresh fruit dessert for an extra special touch.” – Chef Gabe Kennedy, recent winner of ABC’s primetime show “The Taste”
“We love sweet potatoes because they are loaded with nutrients, are low glycemic, and unprocessed. Our favorite way to eat them is cubed or cut into fries and topped with coconut oil and cinnamon. They are a must on our grocery list because they go great with everything and give us the energy we need to complete our workouts.” – Whitney and Scott, bloggers, HeAndSheEatClean
“Unlike almost all other fruits, bananas can be found at an affordable price all year round. (The average national price is $0.60 a pound!) It’s a versatile fruit. I like to slice it on oatmeal, mix it into a smoothie, bake it into bread or freeze a bunch then blend them to create a frozen treat that tastes like ice cream.” – Nicole Handler, blogger, FitfulFocus
“I always have apples in my fridge. Everyone in my family loves them, they keep well, and they are a favorite snack and breakfast addition. They are also a source of fiber, healthy phytonutrients, as well as being satisfying and versatile.” – Kitty Broihier, R.D.
“I love using local strawberries from Oregon. While the ones I use are on the smaller side, but these bright little berries are so sweet and flavorful! I love caramelizing some pine nuts in a little sugar, and tossing that and the berries with balsamic vinegar over vanilla bean ice cream. I also like adding them to salads or just eating a handful plain.” – Kyra Bussanich, gluten-free baker at Kyra’s Bake Shop in Lake Oswego, Oregon
“Did you know these are actually considered a fresh fruit? They’re naturally sweet, so I love having a couple after dinner as a healthy dessert. I’ll either eat dates alone or spread nut butter on them. They’re great to use in no-bake treats too!” – Tina Haupert, blogger, CarrotsNCake
“Extra-firm tofu contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a great plant-based protein choice. It’s perfect for stir-fries, kebabs, and egg-free egg salad. Or simply season and grill it.” – Lisa Stollman, R.D.N.
Did you know? Popular belief is that soy consumption may be linked to cancer, however science says that a soy diet may actually help reduce the risk of cancer in both men and women.
Beef (Lean or Grass-fed)
“I used to avoid all red meat like the plague. When I got to college, I became severely iron-deficient because of my overly restrictive diet. Now I eat lean cuts of beef that are a great source of protein and other very important nutrients, such as zinc. An easy way to spot lean cuts of beef is to look for ‘round’ or ‘loin’ on the package. Sirloin, eye of round, and tenderloin are all lean cuts. ” – Sarah James-Bedwell, R.D.
“Turkey is an untapped resource. Except for a lunchtime turkey sandwich, turkey is often typecast for Thanksgiving and other holiday dinners. Don’t forget about boneless turkey breasts throughout the year! This lean, relatively inexpensive poultry has 26 grams of protein for a 3-ounce serving. Turkey also supplies all B vitamins, plus folate, biotin, and choline. I like to use it on the grill, add it to stews, or just swap it in anywhere you might otherwise use chicken.” – Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
“Chicken is my go-to. It’s high in protein, low in fat and extremely versatile. I purchase boneless, skinless breasts and either boil and shred them for salads, chop them into tenders for healthy chicken Alfredo, bake them or throw them in the crockpot. No matter what, I know I’ll have a delicious, healthy dish in a matter of minutes.” – Nicole Handler, blogger, FitfulFocus
“Quinoa is a tasty, whole grain that is high in protein and fiber. You can add sautéed chopped vegetables and enjoy as a vegetarian main dish or turn it into a cold salad for lunch. It’s also delicious when cooked with chopped apples and cinnamon and enjoyed hot for breakfast. There’s so much you can do with quinoa!” – Lisa Stollman, R.D.
“Farro is one of the oldest cultivated grains on our planet. It’s making a comeback as one of the ancient whole grains being rediscovered by chefs and health-conscious consumers around the world. It’s a great source of vitamins and nutrients, as well as protein and fiber and I love it because it’s so easy to cook. I’m currently using organic Italian pearled farro.” – Kate Mulling, co-founder, Thrive Market, an online shopping club for natural and organic products
“Oat groats are the unprocessed version of oatmeal, the hulled kernels of the grain which contain more fiber and minerals. You can find oat groats in the bulk section at markets such as Whole Foods or purchase them online. If you can’t find whole oat groats you can substitute steel-cut oats, which are groats that have been sliced to expedite cooking. While oatmeal is largely recognized as a breakfast food, the groats have a wider variety of uses. For best absorption of the beneficial fiber, vitamins, and minerals, soak the oat groats overnight and then cook then in a slow cooker until they resemble brown rice. Keep the cooked groats in the fridge. I like to turn them into apple cinnamon whole grain oat bowls for breakfast or use them as the base of a green energy bowl any time of day. Get creative with oat groats by including them in a stir fry, adding them to wraps, or topping them with a curry.” – Chef Joy Houston, author, The Delicious Revolution
DAIRY AND EGGS
Organic Free-range Eggs
“I like organic-free range eggs because I like knowing that I am supporting local farmers and that the eggs I’m eating are not coming from a commercial farm with abused chickens. Not to mention that these eggs are higher in omega-3 fatty acids and have more vitamins and minerals, like vitamins A, E and B-12, iron, and phosphorus.” – Marjorie Nolan Cohn, R.D., National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
“I love kefir because it’s rich in a diverse group of probiotics (12 probiotic cultures) and each cup provides 11 grams of protein.” – Molly Morgan, R.D., author of Drink Your Way to Gut Health
Unsweetened Almond Milk
“I hated milk as a kid. Had it been this dreamy creamy beverage instead, there would never have been an issue! Low in calories, no sugar, and easy on digestion (and the environment), almond milk can be used just like cow’s milk in any application you can imagine. I especially like it in smoothies.” – Julie Morris, a natural foods chef and New York Times best-selling cookbook author
“I am severely lactose-intolerant. For the longest time, I stayed away from dairy completely. However, not all dairy is off limits to the lactose-limited. Lactose is a sugar and the more sugar in a dairy product, the higher its lactose content. I started reading labels and discovered that hard, aged cheeses, like cheddar, are lower in lactose and might work for my digestive system. I love this as a snack, especially when paired with some pepperoni or grapes, or it can be shredded and added to dishes.” – Nicole Handler, blogger, FitfulFocus
“Icelandic-style yogurt has high amount of protein so I am satiated. I love this for breakfast when I am in a rush.” – Lisa Cain, founder of Snack-Girl, author of Snack Girl to Rescue!
Low-fat Cottage Cheese
“I love that you get 13 grams of protein for about only 90 calories in a half-cup serving. I look for brands that have no artificial ingredients or preservatives so I feel good about serving it to my whole family.”– Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies
Organic Cheese Sticks
“I use these for snacks. I love because I can grab and go. I avoid the fat-free ones because they aren’t filling enough for me. I’d rather have the fat so I can actually curb my hunger. I buy the organic.” – Marjorie Nolan Cohn, R.D., National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
Sheep’s Milk Ricotta
“I like Ancient Heritage Dairy Rosa Cheese, a mildly sweet sheep’s milk ricotta from a local company that I really admire. I have a lot of friends who don’t tolerate cow milk dairy, so this is a great substitute. It’s creamy and absolutely delicious with very little of the pungency that is often associated with sheep’s milk. I stir a couple tablespoons into my pasta sauce, or stir some salt and fresh garlic into the ricotta and spread it on toast or rice crackers, and then top it off with either avocado or olive tapenade. I also like adding chives, garlic, salt, and black pepper to it and use as a dip for crackers as well.” – Kyra Bussanich, gluten-free baker at Kyra’s Bake Shop in Lake Oswego, Oregon
“I’m a fan of Del Monte Canned Peaches with no sugar added. I like that you can have a summer fruit over yogurt or simply on their own for dessert in the winter. These are great when I run out of fresh fruit and can’t make it to the store.” – Lisa Cain, founder of Snack-Girl, author of Snack Girl to Rescue!
“I love Pastene San Marzano Tomatoes, grown in the San Marzano region of Italy. I use a couple of cans when I make meatless chili, or Sunday pasta sauce—adding red wine, herbs, a few sautéed veggies, and then simmering on the stove all day long produces the most flavorful sauce!” – Kyra Bussanich, gluten-free baker at Kyra’s Bake Shop in Lake Oswego, Oregon
Canned Wild Caught Tuna
“We love wild caught tuna that’s packed in cans with no added water or oil. It’s actually really good straight out of the can but also delicious warmed up in a skillet or topped with mustard. This is a must on our grocery list because it’s easy to take when traveling and a great break from chicken while at home.” – Whitney and Scott, bloggers, HeAndSheEatClean
Canned Pumpkin Puree
“Now that fall is in the air, we’re all obsessed with pumpkin again, but you can snag canned pumpkin any time of year. Don’t be fooled by the aluminum packaging. This stuff packs a serious nutritional punch. One ounce of Libby’s 100% All-Natural Pure Pumpkin has 50 calories per serving, 0.5 g fat, 1 g protein, 5 g sugar, and 200% of your daily-recommended amount of vitamin A. I like to start with this all-natural version and then add in cinnamon and nutmeg for something that will taste just like the filling of a pumpkin pie (without all the sugar that’s in the “pumpkin pie mix” cans). Then I add it to smoothies, oatmeal, or make your own easy pumpkin butter.” – Nicole Handler, blogger, FitfulFocus
Canned Organic Garbanzo Beans
“There is a lot of hummus making (and eating) in my household, so having several cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) on standby is a must. When using pre-cooked items like this, I prefer using organic varieties without salt so I have more control over my flavors.” – Julie Morris, a natural foods chef and New York Times best-selling cookbook author
Canned Low-sodium Pinto Beans
“I love pinto beans since they’re a good source of iron, fiber, and resistant starch. Soaking them can be a bit time-consuming, so I keep a canned option in my pantry at all times; it’s perfect for those last-minute bean recipes.” – Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies
Canned Organic Black Beans
“I literally open and eat them! I use beans as a protein source in vegetarian meals or as starch source in meals that have animal protein. Beans are high in fiber, and B vitamins they are super nutritious. I buy low-sodium usually but if I can’t, I always rinse the beans which removes most of the sodium anyway.” – Marjorie Nolan Cohn, R.D., National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
Canned Low-sodium Tomato Sauce
“It’s such an easy, fast, and delicious way to add a finishing touch to a meal. We use it to top chicken, fish, whole-wheat pasta, spaghetti squash, baked potatoes, and turkey meatballs. We’ll use the sauce to make low-fat veggie pita pizza, as a base for soup and ratatouille, too. We often add a little basil, oregano, hot pepper, Parmesan cheese, or other spices for more flavor. Canned tomato sauce has more beta carotene than fresh tomatoes as well as four times the powerful antioxidant lycopene which helps to protect the skin against sunburn and sun-induced skin aging. Lycopene also protect cells from damage and fight against diseases, like heart disease and cancer. “ – The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, R.D., and Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D., authors of The Veggie Cure
Canned Coconut Milk
“I’m in love with coconut milk. It’s a fantastic replacement for heavy cream in pies, puddings, milkshakes, etc.” – Katie Higgins, blogger, ChocolateCoveredKatie
“Popcorn is a go-to guilt-free snack for me, and it’s easy to make at home, too. An air popcorn machine is ideal (no oil needed/less calories!), but even without one, you can easily toss a handful of popcorn kernels with a touch of oil into a big heavy bottomed pot on the stove, and have fresh popcorn in minutes. And then there’s the endless seasoning options: From just a little crumbled Nori (dried seaweed) to something more decadent like truffle oil and sea salt. One caveat: Always buy organic corn to avoid GMO’s.” – Julie Morris, a natural foods chef and New York Times best-selling cookbook author
“I love roasting garlic and making my own hummus with chickpeas and tahini—it’s easy to make and tastes fresher than the store bought varieties. The garbanzo beans are a good source of fiber, folate, B9, protein, and magnesium.” – Kate Mulling, co-founder, Thrive Market, an online shopping club for natural and organic products
Dark Chocolate Bars
“When shopping for dark chocolate, go for 85% or darker. The higher the cacao percentage, the more antioxidant-rich flavonoids it contains that are good for your heart! I’ll break off pieces to eat plain or use them in recipes. ” – Katie Higgins, blogger, ChocolateCoveredKatie
“I think that dried fruit doesn’t get the love it deserves. It suffers from an image problem, I guess, but it’s still got much of the same nutrients as the fresh stuff, and it’s super tasty, too. I love all kinds dried fruits, from apricots to unsweetened cranberries to prunes. I make sure to control the portion size carefully (2 to 3 prunes or apricots per day, that’s it!) to keep calories in check. I also use dried fruit in salads, baked goods, granola, homemade trail mix, on top of yogurt and sometimes in savory dishes like grain-based sides or in a sauce for roasted meat and poultry.” – Kitty Broihier, R.D.
Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
“Sweet or savory, coconut oil is the perfect healthy fat that provides clean, slow burning energy. I put it in my morning smoothies or oatmeal, but my favorite is to use it to fry my eggs for a guilt-free breakfast with a delicious nutty taste. Try it as a substitution for any other traditional fat.” – Chef Gabe Kennedy, recent winner of ABC’s primetime show “The Taste”
“Table salt is generally harvested from mines and requires massive processing, which strips it of its natural minerals and adds unhealthy flowing agents to keep it from clumping. Sea salt offers salt made from evaporated seawater, which leaves the trace minerals intact. Herbamare is an organic seasoning salt product that is combined with flavorful veggies and greens such as celery, leeks, onion, chives, parsley, lovage, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and kelp. It is a tasty and healthy alternative to spice mixtures that often hide gluten or MSG.” – Chef Joy Houston, author of The Delicious Revolution
“I use honey all the time. It is my go-to when I am looking for a touch of sweetness that isn’t overwhelming. It is perfect for dressings, glazes, sauces, or just as it is. Make sure you buy real honey. I prefer a local honey so I can support my neighborhood bees. Honey may also help suppress a cough and is naturally loaded with antioxidants.” – Chef Gabe Kennedy, recent winner of ABC’s primetime show “The Taste”
“I like a Dijon mustard that balances heat and acidity. Sir Kensington’s Dijon Mustard is made from organic white vinegar and number one grade mustard seed. The density of flavor is mellowed with a splash of Chablis wine. I find it perfectly tangy and think it goes with just about everything. It’s also great in salad dressings and marinades.” – Kate Mulling, co-founder, Thrive Market, an online shopping club for natural and organic products
“Hemp seeds are an easily-digestible, complete protein with all the essential amino acids, plus have the added bonuses of containing omega 3’s, fiber, vitamin E, and minerals like iron. I sprinkle hemp seeds on everything, from soups and stews to salads and roasted vegetables. I can’t get enough of their nutty flavor and soft chew.” – Julie Morris, a natural foods chef and New York Times best-selling cookbook author
“I like Barney Butter Almond Butter because it’s made in a dedicated facility that guarantees it’s truly free of peanut particles and contaminants, making it perfect for peanut-free environments like schools. I always have a jar or two of this in my pantry and eat it with apples or celery for a little protein between meals.” – Kate Mulling, co-founder, Thrive Market, an online shopping club for natural and organic products
Frozen Organic Blueberries
“Frozen berries are often less expensive than the fresh variety and contain all the same great nutrients. Plus, they last so much longer in this form! I love using antioxidant-rich frozen blueberries in my superfood smoothies, or letting them thaw and pureeing them into sweet sauces and salad dressings.” – Julie Morris, a natural foods chef and New York Times best-selling cookbook author
“I love having frozen edamame stocked up in my freezer. I add shelled frozen edamame to a lemon-edamame barley bowl recipe for a serving of plant-based protein in my dish. Edamame is a good source of protein, vitamin K, and other vitamins and minerals.”– Candice Kumai, chef, author of Clean Green Eats
Frozen Organic Potatoes
“I like to use organic frozen potatoes because they’re great for a quick addition to dinner and our kids feel like they’re having a French fry ‘treat.’ I look for a simple ingredient list in a frozen potato product: organic potatoes, sunflower oil, and sea salt.”– Molly Morgan, R.D., author of Drink Your Way to Gut Health
“I load up frozen veggie bags when they are on sale. I throw a whole bag in my lunch (it keeps my food cold) and I make myself a lunch with it, I’m not big on sandwiches and prefer leftovers for lunch so this is a great way to easily assemble a hot meal with my protein or starch from the night before.” – Marjorie Nolan Cohn, R.D., National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
“It’s the easiest way to boost nutrients and fiber, and we don’t have to worry about it going bad. Even if we order in—anything from Chinese food to Italian food—we defrost frozen broccoli and mix it right into the meal. We’re able to fill up on more veggies and less of the rest of the meal, so it helps to keep calories in check as well. It’s also great to toss on salads and in soups, casseroles and stir-fries, or simply have steamed at the side of any meal. Broccoli helps to lower cholesterol, is packed with powerful phytonutrients that fight inflammation and chronic diseases, including breast cancer.” – The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, R.D., and Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D., authors of The Veggie Cure
“It’s a terrific source of omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein. In addition, it’s such a versatile option that can be enjoyed on everything from salads to wraps to main courses. I typically like wild caught and vacuumed sealed salmon in individual portions, which are perfect for times you only want to prepare one portion at a time.”– Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies