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The Most Useful Food Tips You May Read All Day

As I was baking this morning to use up some pantry staples, this idea popped in my head of things that would be super helpful for people to know in regards to meals and food prep.

As I was baking cookies and pumpkin cream cheese muffins this morning to use up some pantry staples and eggs that needed attention, this idea popped in my head of things that would be super helpful for people to know in regards to meals and food prep. You’ll notice I didn’t take pictures to share of the disaster that was my kitchen by the time the last tray was put into the oven. Lesson one: when you use your kitchen, you are going to make an appropriate mess. Flour is messy, especially when – like me –  you don’t bake alot. There may be drips as you put bowls in the sink.  Things like this are important to know.  It’s not like I’m on a tv show and have a staff to clean the messes. I do that. Here are some of my other favorite kitchen related tips:

Wear something appropriate – DO wear red when working with tomatoes in any capacity, and DON’T wear black when dealing with flour and baking. Unless you plan to do laundry soon after your kitchen escapades are over.  PS I had a black fleece sweatshirt on today. Wow, that flour can fly. 😉

Keep important items on hand that transform ingredients. For me, this means flour, sugar (white and brown), baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, salt, oatmeal, olive oil, vinegar, and canned fruits and veggies. Include the spices you love, too – I like lemon zest, ginger, cinnamon, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, cumin, cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning, poultry seasoning, and dried cilantro. Others come and go, but these are some that I use most often.

Keep options like frozen veggies (no sauce), chicken and beef broth/bouillon cubes, popcorn, oatmeal, and canned beans, mushrooms, beets and a variety of canned tomato products on hand. Visit them regularly to be sure you have them rotating properly by date and use the oldest first. And pay attention to what you use most so you make sure to keep them on hand. We all have our favorite dishes. Many of mine involve beans and tomatoes, so come on over any time and I’m going to have those handy.

Fresh out of the oven, my pumpkin cream cheese muffins. I got a can of pumpkin for less than $.50 and had low fat cream cheese on hand. Perfect way to use up a couple eggs that needed attention, too. The recipe called for about half the pumpkin – silly – so I used it all and reduced the amount of oil it called for. More veggies, less fat. Yum.

Make sure every food group is  in the house, whether in the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry. My favorites in addition to what is listed above include peanut butter, cheese (reduced fat feta, cream, and block cheeses), eggs, seasonal fruits and vegetables (Right now I have envy and honey crisp apples, navel oranges, avocado, and onion. I just used up a bag of carrots, celery, and head of cabbage, too.), mini bagels and English muffins (both of which I keep in the freezer until I’m ready to toast and eat), rice and pasta. I also keep a variety of tea and extra coffee/filters on hand because I do not want to wake up and realize there’s no coffee in the house.

Half your plate filled with fruits/veg and at least 3 food groups per meal for balance. Makes planning easier!

If you do travel a lot like I do in spurts, the grocery store needs to be top of mind within a day or two of getting home to pick up yogurt, milk, cream for the coffee (sometimes I buy this right before I go out of town if I’m almost out), chicken/lean meat/fish, and additional fresh fruits and veggies to round out the supply.

This may be a snore on instagram, but wash, cut, and eat? That’s a treat.

Put the camera/phone down. Not every meal needs to be Instagram ready or Pinterest snazzy. Simple is fine. Ugly is acceptable. Today I washed an avocado, cut it in half, and ate it with a spoon. Guess what? It was delicious. Was it cheating because I didn’t make something else out of it? Nope. That’s the beauty of some things that are ready to eat – fruits, veggies, yogurt, my favorite low-fat chocolate milk. Sometimes the best food treats are the ones that you just wash and eat, or pour and drink.  Nutritious? Check. Easy? Check. Delicious? Yep. When you see the lovely food images and then the ones that didn’t turn out right and they are labeled #fail, think again.  It’s not a fail.

Get a load of the cookies I just made on my tower of tastiness (cookie sheets that stack). Some turned out way crispier than others, and they have a weird shape. I don’t mind. That just makes it more fun to pick which one I am going to eat. When you don’t make cookies that often, these things happen. Still yummy. Still a treat.

In addition to food, equipment is key. Can opener, measuring cups, bowls with lids that can go from freezer to microwave, muffin tins, cookie sheets, casserole pans, and pots for soup making and egg boiling.  These are just a few examples. What else do you like to use regularly?

Oh – and for those of you thinking it, yes dietitians like me like to bake, too. Moderation is key, the actual ingredients you use matter, and portion sizes of cookies and baked goods can be smaller than the recipe calls for. The cookie recipe I made said I’d get 24. I got almost half again as many as that.  Some rules are meant to be broken.  …And did I mention the exercise I do every day? #balance

If you do these kinds of things and think about the set up in addition to the actual eating of meals, regardless of what the week throws at you or how hectic life gets, you don’t have to worry so much about making sure you are eating decently and taking care of yourself. It’s not that we always have to do everything completely different. It may just be that we need to give a pinch more thought to what we already do.

What’s going to be your tweak this week?

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.