5 must-have items for a healthy kitchen

Always finding an excuse to get takeout for dinner, or chowing down on some processed food because it’s quick and easy?

But know this: Just by keeping a few things handy at home, it can be just as quick and easy to eat (and drink) better. To ensure a solid foundation of healthy habits, add these five kitchen must-haves to help you stay on track.

5 must-have items for a healthy kitchen

5 items a healthy kitchen can’t live without

If your kitchen cabinets look like mine, they are filled with utensils, cooking gadgets and serving platters that — if I’m lucky — get used maybe twice per year. The mushroom slicer, bread machine and apple peeler all seemed like good ideas at the time, but now just take up precious storage space.

There are, however, five items that my kitchen — and every healthy kitchen — should not be without. They play an invaluable role in helping maintain a healthy lifestyle, plus are easy to store and to clean, as well as are affordable.

1. Hand blender

Immersion hand blenders can be a great substitute for food processors.

Unlike a food processor, which has many attachments, the hand blender is only one item — meaning it’s easy to clean, plus very simple to store. This small appliance is perfect for pureeing soups, making fruit smoothies or purees, salad dressings, pestos — and even chopping nuts.

Cook broccoli and potatoes in chicken broth, season and puree, and you’ll have an healthy instant version of cream of broccoli soup.

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Cuisinart immersion hand blender-1

2. Slow cooker

Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S Programmable Cook and CarryIf you don’t have one, get one! If you have one and don’t use it, now’s the time to start.

The slow cooker is known for its one-pot meals. It cooks on a low heat over a period of hours and contains protein, starch and vegetables so no other sides are needed. It is ideal for making for hearty comfort foods like soups, stews and chiles.

Add the ingredients in the morning, and by the time you’re ready for dinner, everything is cooked perfectly and ready to eat.

>> One easy way to stop mindless snacking

3. Sharp knives

Using the proper knives makes cutting your fruits and vegetables (and any other foods) easier and safer.

Keeping your knives sharp is the safest way to prevent you from cutting yourself. Sharpening them at home is important, but I recommend getting them professionally sharpened once or twice per year. For a small fee, retailers like Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma, as well as some local hardware stores, will sharpen them for you, so find out what services are available nearby.

Your set should consist of a paring knife, bread knife, chef’s knife, carving knife and chopping knife.  You can find a quality set for under $100 online, or at shops like Bed, Bath & Beyond or Target.

Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Cook's Knife

4. Plastic snack bags

Portion control is key when it comes to enjoying the foods you love and maintaining your weight.

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ziploc-snack-bagsSmall (6-1/2 x 3-1/2 inch) snack bags are the perfect size for enjoying some of your favorite snack foods without the fear of overindulging. Having them packed and ready will help you stay on track and focused.

>> 7 easy ways to eat fewer sweets & treats

Trail mixes, nuts, whole-wheat pretzels and veggies are ideal for snack bags. They easily fit into your purse, laptop bag, glove compartment or desk drawer, making easy snacking and portion control more obtainable.

5. Water bottles

Most of us have water bottles at home, but are we using them?

Drinking from a glass is more than adequate, but using a water bottle offers a greater chance of meeting your water goal. Why? Glasses tend to be smaller, are not transport-friendly, and can break. Water bottles are larger, more durable, can be carried around the house without the concern of a spill, and can easily be thrown in the car when you’re on the go.

>> Don’t dry out: Be sure to drink enough water

You can find a variety of no-leak, no-spill water bottles that are BPA-free and dishwasher-safe at stores like Target, Wal-Mart and your local supermarket.

To determine the number of ounces of water you should have per day for your size, take your weight in pounds and divide by two (example: 150 pounds / 2 = 75 oz. water).

Thermos 24oz BPA Free Hydration Bottle

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