Joy Bauer

From fridge to pantry: 3 easy ways to improve your health

Oct. 8, 2012 at 9:18 AM ET

If you’re concerned about your well-being -- and who isn’t these days -- here are three easy things you can do to improve your health.

Eat a Morning Meal that Includes Protein.

Research shows that starting your day with a high-protein breakfast curbs appetite later in the day and boosts weight loss. Protein foods also increase attention and focus and can even rev up your metabolism. Add protein to your morning meal with eggs, low-fat yogurt, reduced-fat cheese, or nuts/nut butter.

Add Produce to Every Meal

Meeting this goal can be as simple as enjoying a piece of fruit with breakfast, a bowl of vegetable soup or a handful of baby carrots with lunch, and a vegetable side dish at dinner, like broccoli or spinach. Produce is busting with good-for-you nutrients and automatically increases the health quotient of a meal.

Start Shopping

Stock these top foods in your fridge, freezer and pantry at all times. These stellar picks will shower your family with the good stuff.

FRIDGE

1. Reduced-fat cheese (sometimes labeled “made with 2% milk” or “part-skim”): Cheese is rich in calcium and offers filling protein. Choosing low-fat varieties over full-fat (whole milk) cheeses keeps calories and unhealthy saturated fat to a minimum.

2. Baby spinach: This bagged leafy green is the ultimate convenience food. It’s ready to use right out of the bag, and goes from raw to cooked in about 2 minutes. As an amazing bonus, baby spinach is actually more nutrient-rich than the full-grown kind because the young leaves are more biologically active!

3. Bell peppers: One bell pepper has twice as much vitamin C as an orange. Kids love the sugary-sweet taste of sliced red peppers - it’s sort of like a nutritionist’s candy.

FREEZER

1. Frozen vegetables: Because they’re picked at the peak of ripeness and flash-frozen to lock in vitamins, frozen veggies are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. And, if you are cooking for only one or two people, you can prepare just the amount you need and stash the rest of the bag back in the freezer, minimizing waste.

2. Frozen berries: The end of summer signals the end of berry season. Get your fix during winter months by picking up bags of frozen berries, which are more affordable AND more delicious than under-ripe, out-of-season fresh varieties. Add your favorites to smoothies and oatmeal, or mix them with creamy part-skim ricotta for a yummy berry dessert.

3. Nuts: Storing nuts in the freezer keeps them fresh longer since they are rich in healthy fats that can go rancid. I’m a nut-a-holic, so they wouldn’t last long enough in my house to go bad – but I still keep them in the freezer because it makes the nuts extra crunchy and totally delicious! Feel free to stock your favorites: All nuts are top sources of heart-healthy fats, which help lower cholesterol.

PANTRY

1. Canned beans: In addition to being budget-friendly, canned beans are a terrific vegetarian protein that’s rich in iron, potassium, magnesium and other important nutrients. Opt for low-sodium or no-salt-added brands; if you buy the regular kind, rinse the beans thoroughly to reduce the sodium content by 40 percent.

2. Canned/pouch wild salmon: This pantry item is a top source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats and significantly less expensive than fresh fillets, making it a great buy for people looking to increase fish intake without spending a bundle. You can use it in place of standard tuna to make a quick salmon salad with low-fat mayo, minced onions, and seasonings.

3. Bottle of balsamic vinegar/olive oil: Balsamic vinegar is a terrific, flavorful condiment that’s virtually calorie-free, and research shows adding it to meals can help blunt the rise in blood sugar that occurs after eating (especially great news for folks with diabetes). Use unlimited balsamic and 1 to 2 dashes/teaspoons olive oil to dress a salad. It’s an incredibly simple, low-salt dressing for people who need to limit sodium because of high blood pressure.

It’s Healthy Week! Learn the small steps you can take in your life to go healthy and "like" us on FacebookAnd then follow up on Twitter twitter.com/healthyatnbcu 

For more smart, manageable healthy living tips, follow Joy on Facebook and Twitter, and visit her website at Joybauer.com.

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