12 Foods I Always Keep in My Kitchen


I consider eating good food one of the top 3 things we can do for our health, along with being active and having good loving relationships in our lives.

As an integrative and functional medicine physician, food is also the primary “tool” I use in my practice.

By helping my patients to change their diets, they transform their health – losing weight, eliminating aches, pains, and chronic diseases – and this allows them to transform their whole experience of life.

Cooking for my family and friends is one of my great life pleasures. I also love preparing food with them. Not only is the social part of it deeply nourishing, but the snoopy, curious part of me loves seeing what other people keep in their fridge and pantries, and how they roll out their cooking style in the kitchen.

Refrigerator Rights

Not long ago I was hanging out with my friend Dr. Mark Hyman over at his house. We were preparing dinner together – one of my fave things we share is cooking together – when he said, “I just want you to know you always have refrigerator rights here.”

Refrigerator Rights refers to friends and family with whom we are so comfortable that we’re cool with them coming into our house and helping themselves to what’s is in the fridge. Refrigerator rights = you’re family. It also refers to the importance of sharing food as friends, family, and community.

In this blog, I’m giving you refrigerator rights – well, at least a virtual glimpse into my fridge and cupboards! Because you might be curious and snoopy about fridges and pantries like I am – or you just may have no idea where to start in stocking a healthy kitchen.

My Top 12 Kitchen List

These are the top 12 foods that I always have on hand in my kitchen. They are my go to’s in preparing meals. They are my quick snacks. They are what I’ve got on hand when I’ve got to throw down a meal when guests arrive. They are the core of how I nourish myself and the people close to me who share refrigerator rights in my house. They are also the top superfoods I eat every day – the powerhouse foods that are packed full of nutrient goodness without any junk – the ones that help you get healthy and feel great now, and stay healthy, always.

1. Almonds, Almond Butter, and other Nuts and Seeds: Rich in protein, calcium, magnesium, and good quality fats, almonds and walnuts are especially effective at lowering cholesterol (as part of the Portfolio Diet), and keeping our energy steady. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are rich in healthy oils, protein, zinc, and numerous other minerals as well. I eat them raw, dry roasted, as s small handful for a snack, chopped into green leafy and kale salads, on cooked grains, as crusts for breading fish and chicken, and here’s even a Paleo Almond-Chocolate Scone created by my daughter, The Flexible Foodie. A typical serving size when eating them as a munch is about 1 handful.

2. Dark Leafy Greens: I eat dark leafy greens more than 12 times each week, 1-2 cups per serving of kale, collards, and salad greens, and slightly less volume per serving of broccoli and Brussels sprouts just because they are more hearty. Juicing is fine once in awhile (apple-carrot-ginger-kale is my preference), but frankly, I prefer eating leafy greens as a vegetable where I get their full benefits of fiber that I chew and that keeps my digestion and elimination completely regular, and also their taste and texture which I find gets lost in juicing them.

I steam and sautée kale, use it in soups, and make a killer kale salad. Collard greens are usually done sautéed though I’ve made a hearty winter version of “Stuffed cabbage” using parboiled whole collard leaves that’s super satisfying. And I love steaming, sautéeing, and baking broccoli and Brussels sprouts. I also use spinach, arugula, romaine, mixed field greens, and butter crunch lettuce amongst the lettuces in my daily green salads.

3. Fermented Foods (Sauerkraut, kimchi, miso): While we can debate about the best probiotic strains and brands to use, for daily health nothing beats lacto-fermented vegetables for fostering healthy gut flora. I eat about ¼ cup of ‘kraut or kimchi several times per week, just as a side or condiment to lunch or dinner – or sometimes even if I am having a “dinner for breakfast” kind of meal as I sometimes like to do. I use miso (organic, non-GMO soy or you can get garbanzo and other misos if you don’t use soy) in salad dressings, soups, and a delicious sauce with tahini (sesame seed butter) and lemon – so delicious. You can make your own fermented vegetables or purchase them from any of the fantastic small, often local, companies out there supplying the market.

4. Fresh or Frozen Berries: Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and others are packed with antioxidants. Oxidation is like rust to your body. Antioxidants keep your cells healthy by scavenging around for damaging free radicals. And frozen berries are just as good for you as fresh so you can get them all winter long! In the summer I eat ½ cup of fresh berries most days, and in the colder months I add frozen berries to shakes and smoothies.

5. Good Quality Oil: Olive oil, coconut oil, organic butter. Good quality fat does not make you fat. Quite the contrary in fact – it gives your body the healthy fuel you need to produce energy. And it takes energy to burn fat and calories! Olive oil keeps your cholesterol and blood pressure healthy, preventing heart disease while being oh so delicious on just about everything (try this Olive Oil Cacao granola for a surprising treat!) while coconut oil provides important medium chain triglycerides and butter gives you vitamin D which so many of us are lacking enough of in our diets. I also keep avocados on hand both because they are so versatile and delicious added to salads, alone, on top of eggs, in a shake or dressing to thicken it, and they are rich in healthy fat. I recommend about 2 TBS or more of healthy oil per day.

6. Good Quality Protein: Organic, free range, antibiotic-free eggs, chicken, red meat, fresh fish (all of these get purchased a couple of times/week) and cans of sardines. Protein is the mainstay of my diet, along with vegetables. I make sure to have some protein at every meal. While I was strictly vegetarian for 15 years (vegan for many of those), I have found that as I’ve gotten older, my body needs some animal protein to feel optimal. So now I consider myself a flexitarian. I eat what I need to as long as it is healthy and ecologically sustainable. Each of us has different nutritional needs.

I still have a primarily plant-based diet, using animal protein in small amounts usually at least once daily, to keep my energy steady, my moods balanced, and my thinking sharp and clear, without having to eat the volume of food I felt I needed to really get satisfied as a vegetarian. Animal products are where I invest in quality in order to avoid hormones, antibiotics, and other harmful chemicals associated with conventional animal farming. A serving size is 1-2 eggs, or about 4 oz. red meat, and up to 6 oz. fish or chicken – about the size of the palm of your hand.

7. Beans and Legumes: Garbanzos, lentils, and black beans especially. I don’t eat beans in large amounts because they are very high in carbohydrates (starch) compared to other forms of protein, but they are incredibly heart healthy. In fact, cultures with the greatest longevity often include legumes and beans as a regular part of the diet. I often add garbanzo beans to my salad, I eat hummus and vegetable sticks as a snack, and sometimes make Mexican-style eggs for breakfast, brunch, or even a quick dinner, with black beans and avocado. A typical serving is about 1/3-1/2 cup cooked beans, or a cup or bowl of lentil soup or salad.

8. Onions, Ginger, and Garlic: While it’s said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, quercetin found in onions does the same thing! In fact, all of these seasoning foods are not only incredible taste enhancers, but add nutritional value to your food by making it more digestible while boosting your immunity, too! I also keep a wide variety of other seasoning spices in my pantry to create a variety of flavors at different meals, and for their health and digestion promoting qualities. These include cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, oregano, thyme, cardamom, and powdered garlic in addition to fresh.

9. Root Vegetables and Squashes: From carrots, beets, and parsnips to sweet potatoes and winter squashes, these hearty vegetables are a bit higher in their sugar content so should be eaten with moderation by those with blood sugar problems, but for most of us, they are a vitamin A rich, healthful and yummy addition to our diets that promote healthy immunity, eyesight, and elimination.

10. Whole Grains: Generally a variety of brown rices, millet and quinoa. There is tremendous controversy over the health of grains in our diets. Here’s the thing – grains have been part of the human diet for tens of thousands of years. Cultures in which there are many nonagenarians and centenarians also include grains in their diets. Grains provide us with fiber for healthy elimination and nutrients, such as B-vitamins that helps us to keep our moods calm.

Some people, however, do not tolerate grain well because of food sensitivities (i.e., gluten cross reactivity), or sensitivities to specific grains. Others who are struggling with blood sugar and weight issues find that avoiding grains is more healthful for them. But for most of us, a small amount of whole grain once or twice daily is absolutely healthy and appropriate. It’s when we start to fill our diets with processed grains and flour products that we run into trouble with our health and weight. A typical serving of cooked whole grain is about 1/3-1/2 cup. I don’t eat grain at every meal, but do eat whole grains usually once each day. I also rarely eat grain at breakfast because grains don’t provide the same kind of sustained fuel as protein – instead it is typically a small part of my evening meal.

11. Lemons: I have lemon water to start my day each morning — plain and simple. I also use fresh lemon juice in my salad dressings (I always use homemade) and on my greens. Lemons are great in that kale-ginger-apple-carrot juice, too!

12. Dark chocolateIt’s true — I pretty much always have a bar of 72% or more, fair trade, nice quality dark chocolate in my pantry. One or two squares are a healthy go-to when I want something a little sweet, or when I have unexpected company and want to put out something a little special. Studies show that a small amount of dark chocolate on a daily basis actually helps women keep the unwanted weight off, and our moods happier! Who’d a thunk? And grated dark chocolate sprinkled over fresh berries? Now that’s the good life!

What are the staples in your kitchen? Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Paleo? Flexitarian?

To your good health,

AJR-Sig

 

 

 

 

 

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lisa

ALWAYS love your info Aviva! THANK YOU! Do you have any good recommendations and or websites that might incorporate your food ideas into a daily meal plan ? Menu / meal planning is always a tuff one for me!

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    Becca

    Lisa, There are so many whole foods meal planning websites out there now, it would be hard to recommend just one. My suggestion is to type whole foods meal planning into an internet search engine and find out if any meet your particular needs. Some even have printable meal plans with included shopping lists for every week of the year. Best wishes, Becca Sarich, CNM, a member of Aviva's clinical team

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The Healthy Apple

LOVE this list, Aviva. These are my favorite foods too! xoxx Have a lovely Autumn!

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    Linda

    Yes my kitchen sounds very similar

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    Doug Drago

    Hi! Great list! As far as seeds, I like to add sesame, hemp, and chia.....But chia is my fav as being quick to add to water for a daily dose of anti-inflammatory Omega 3. And goji can be grown to add that other berry...providing a complete amino acid profile....

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jonnie

Oh!! This is si so great. I wish i had a cookbook from you for family friendly ( small kids ) ideas. Would you direct me to your favorite recipes and books? peace! Jonnie

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    aviva

    Hi Jonnie, I actually use a lot of Martha Stewart and William Sonoma recipes that I modify to healthier ingredient options. I also have this little book that I love called Olive Oil by Claire Ferguson, that has yielded some absolute winners! I've been cooking for so long that I simply make up a lot of recipes as I go along. I promise to post more of them!! :) Aviva

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lu

would love the recipe ofr the Paleo Almond chocloate scone...thans

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    tracy

    Our mistake. The recipe on her blog is a cookie - though she makes a similar type of scone. Here's the link to her blog: http://theflexiblefoodiedotcom.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/gf-chocolate-chip-coconut-cookies/

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Stephanie Lynn Tanner

What a fantastic list. While I **know** all of this stuff, it's so easy to get off track (especially as a busy mom/nursing student/business owner). I plan on printing this out and checking in with it daily!!

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Kate Lindsay

I love all of these too and would also include bone broth to my list; plus ghee (clarified butter), spirulina (used in smoothies), and apple cider vinegar (for dressings and broth starter). Thank you Aviva!

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Angeline Montoya

Love this post! Thanks for sharing. I love checking out people's fridge and pantry and must admit I like checking out people's carts at the grocery store or farmers markets. I just love food and different preparations/recipes and love to talk about it! I'm the main one in the kitchen (making food or herbal creations), but I will sometimes have my 3 yr old washing veg or cracking eggs for me. My 10 month old is usually gnawing on a raw carrot or other veg, though most recently he occupies himself by taking all of the bowls out of the bottom cupboard. And last night was a treat! After we put the boys to bed, my husband and I were both in the kitchen - he was making hot salsa with all of our leftover hot peppers and tomatillos from the CSA and I was pickling radishes. Highlight of my day! Just wanted to share :) have a great day!

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Melissa

Great list! I always have fresh Turmeric root in my kitchen and grind it into and on top of dishes. Also noticed your new women's herbal program, you should totally consider having a scholarship contest!

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Ysha Oakes

Beautifully done article, Aviva (as usual!).

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Stephanie

Great list, Dr. Aviva! Is there a recipe online for your daughter's Paleo Almond-Chocolate Scone? I Googled for her website, and looked through the recipes, (there are some great ones!), but I did not see that one. Thank you!

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    tracy

    Our mistake - this recipe is her cookie! http://theflexiblefoodiedotcom.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/gf-chocolate-chip-coconut-cookies/

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Alice Read

Really useful, especially with the portion sizes. The good oils shouldn't be cooked though as they have a lower boiling point than other vegetable oils and so can actually be harmful if cooked too fiercely-great raw though.

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Kelli Gray-Meisner

Great List! I would only add Ghee & Broth (bone & vegetable) & good quality sea slat :) Kelli

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Ellen U

I'm vegetarian and find it difficult to get enough protein in my diet. I'm not a huge fan of soy and, like you said, beans can be high in starch. Any advice or recommendations?

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    aviva

    Hi Ellen This is such a tough call -- and having been there myself, eventually added eggs, and then meat into my diet. Philosophically, I find this tough and am so grateful for the animal protein when I do eat meat (fish, chicken, eggs, red meat) a few times/week. As a vegetarian, eating nuts, nut butters, sesame tahini, and emphasizing lentils and garbanzos can meet your needs. Soy, if organic, is non-GMO and also a high protein source -- particularly tofu and tempeh -- so maybe incorporating it occasionally can give you variety. Finally, protein shakes made of pea, hemp, and or rice protein powders -- while not "whole foods" in the sense that they are extracted and powdered, are excellent adjunct protein sources. Oh, and of course, whey protein is also a high protein source, if you eat dairy, as are parmesan and feta cheese, for example. Bon appetit, Aviva

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erin

Great list! (except the problem is between Dr Mercola and me there's never much chocolate because we eat it all! : ) XO

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Claire Graham Kellerman

That about sums up my fridge! What a great and clear list, so inviting. On Sundays and Wednesdays, some time is dedicated to creating salads in mason jars with dressings at the bottom & some grain or veggie side dish or cooking up chick peas to add to salads. I buy sliced turkey from the Whole Foods deli or Mana Health Foods Deli, because the packaged turkey slices - even from organic Applegate - have carrageenan in them and carrageenan causes inflammation among other problems. When the deli slices the whole turkey breast there is no carrageenan, even from Applegate. I called and asked and they said carrageenan is needed to keep the solidity of the packaged slices. I said: find another way."I buy organic. I trusted your company!" They said they would try to find another way. Also, I love sunflowers seeds with chlorella and herbs and seasalt on them in bulk section, and DNA Bars on Facebook for 13 grams protein, no refined sugar, roasted quinoa and chocolate MIND BLOWER bar is my fave!!! So nice. They are covered in dark chocolate and my blood sugar sails on smoothly, no dip, no high, just pure deliciousness.

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Gemma Rose

Hi Aviva- thanks for this list, I find I eat most of this daily as well! I mainly wanted to comment that I was also a vegetarian for about 15 years and how hard it was for me philosophically (cause I love animals so much) to realize from the help of doctors and my own intuition, the importance of incorporating small amounts of (organic and sustainable) meat and fish in my diet. I try to be mindful with gratitude each time I do eat meat, which seems to help. As a result, my moods are more stable, I have more energy and feel much more grounded. I feel it's important for health experts who are vegan/vegetarian to acknowledge that it may not be a healthy diet for everyone. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us! Love, Gemma

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Phyllis Evan

I used to eat very much as you describe but several years ago I went to a workshop with Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn. Since that time I have gone whole foods plant-based with no added salt and no added oil. So far I feel very good and the extra 20 pounds I was carrying around just kind of went away. It seems to be agreeing with me. And of course there are the ethical and environmental considerations But I also went to a workshop with you and was also very impressed How can I or will I know if remaining strictly vegan or eating ethical animal foods is right for me? Phyllis

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