40 Things Healthy Cooks Always Have in Their Kitchen
By Dana Leigh Smith & Stephen Perrine
Would Federer face down Djokovic with a worn-out old racquet? Would Adele take the stage with a cheap karaoke machine? Would Warren Buffett pick a stock by closing his eyes and throwing a dart? Not bloody likely. When people pride themselves on excellence, they take care to have the finest equipment, the most reliable tools, and the essential, cutting-edge techniques at their fingertips.
So why should you settle for anything less?
Sure, winning Wimbledon, topping the pop charts, and amassing one of the world’s great fortunes are all noble endeavors. But are any as important as fueling your body with the absolute best possible food? After all, study after study shows that healthy home cooking—like with the all-new Zero Belly Cookbook!—is the fastest way to weight loss success. There’s no easier way to control the quality of your food and the number of calories going into your mouth than throwing on an apron and chef’s hat.
So before you spend another dime on a workout gadget or a meal-delivery system, take a moment to ensure that your kitchen is up to snuff. To make perfect flat-belly meals you don’t need to buy a million different things—just a handful of the best. Use these tools and pantry staples below to start cooking up a storm of weight loss today! Once you’re armed and ready, also be sure to scope out the 50 Best Supermarket Shopping Tips Ever!
First thing’s first: Your healthy cooking arsenal won’t be complete without these handy items!
Blenders are a game-changing appliance that every time-strapped dieter needs. Not only can they bring together your morning smoothie in seconds, they can also be used to mix up healthy soups and protein shakes.
How many times have you shelled out cash on fresh fruits and veggies, only to find them rotting in your refrigerator before you were able to enjoy them? It’s beyond frustrating—and a waste of money. The solution: BluApple, a gadget that absorbs the ethylene gas in your fridge that’s responsible for rotting your apples and berries. A pack of two sells for $10. Yes, really. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive, as you may have seen in our 27 Healthiest Snacks Under $1!
We love citrus zest because it’s calorie-free but gives food a huge punch of flavor. Thing is, you need a zester to, well, zest things. (Along with lemons, limes, and oranges, you should throw tangerines into your zesting mix; they have major antioxidants that help with things like hair loss!) Fun fact: You can also use it as a superfine grater for calorie-dense foods like chocolate or cheese. When things are finely grated, you wind up using less.
With a good pair of kitchen scissors, it’s fast and easy to cut the fat off chicken, cube meats for stir-fries and to snip herbs. Once you have a pair, you’ll wonder what took you so long!
With a handheld chopper, cutting fruits, veggies and nuts becomes way less of a chore. (It also helps speed up that Blue Apron prep work!) And the easier it is to make healthy recipes, the more likely you will be to stick to a smart weight loss plan. A mini food processor—the two-cup kind from Cuisinart—also does a similar job.
An obvious staple, but it’s still worth saying! Plus, eyeballing ingredients and portion sizes isn’t the best idea when you’re trying to whittle your middle—especially when it comes to more calorie-dense foods like pasta, nut butter, and cheese. Measuring cups and spoons ensure that you’ll stick to the correct serving size every time.
Not only are storage containers great for saving leftovers and packing up healthy work week lunches, they’re perfect for keeping semi-prepared ingredients like chopped fruits and vegetables fresh. If you wash, slice and store meal-starting ingredients ahead of time, it will be far easier to get a healthy meal on the table.
Fresh lemon, orange, and lime juice make great additions to a variety of dishes—and are virtually calorie free. The only downside? Dealing with astringent juices and escaping seeds. Our advice: Instead of squeezing the fruit with your hand, pick up a handy lemon squeezer or mini manual juicer. It catches the seeds and pulp for you, making the task easy-peasy-lemon—you get the idea.
Give the gift of healthy cooking inspiration with the Zero Belly Cookbook!
If you usually use a few pads of butter or a couple tablespoons of oil to grease your pan, you may be adding hundreds of unnecessary calories to your otherwise healthy dish. Nix the need for the grease and cut fat from your plate by investing in a cast iron cookware set. Yes, nonstick pans serve the same purpose, but they can release potentially cancer-causing toxins into your food. While the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t suggest forgoing nonstick cookware altogether, they also don’t yet know the long-term health effects of nonstick chemicals, so it’s better to err on the side of caution and stick with cast iron. Pick up a variety of different pieces so you’re prepared for any culinary adventure that lies ahead.
Eating garlic can help boost your immune system, help ward off heart disease, fight inflammation, and lower blood pressure. And not to mention, just about everything tastes better when paired with the aromatic vegetable. Our only complaint: Mincing it up can be annoying. With a simple squeeze of a handle, a garlic presser chops whole cloves for you—love that!
This kitchen gadget-of-the-moment makes spiral cuts, shoestrings and "noodles" out of your favorite veggies. If you’ve been jonesing for some pasta since going Paleo or gluten-free, you’re going to love all the yummy dishes you can whip up with this. Zucchini and carrot "pasta" anyone? How about some homemade curly sweet potato fries? Or check out these Exclusive, Amazing Spiralizer Recipes!
Nothing amps up the taste of a meal like fresh herbs, but popular varieties like rosemary, thyme and basil will often go bad before the whole lot can be used up. Fear not, healthy chefs, all hope is not lost! There’s an easy way to stop wasting your money on herbs. By allowing the plants’ stems to draw in fresh moisture from the bottom of the vat, an herb keeper can extend the life of your spices (and asparagus, too) by up to two weeks. We like CHEFS Glass Fresh Herb Keeper ($20).
If you typically use your cutting board to chop both raw meats and produce, make sure it’s non-porous so no bacteria can hide out below the surface and contaminate other foods with potentially dangerous bacteria. We’re fans of Epicurean’s Eco Plastic Cutting Boards ($20). Not only do they keep the yuck out, they’re made from recycled milk jugs—so they’re eco-friendly, too! Pick one up and then get cookin’ with one of these 35 Best-Ever Chicken Recipes for Weight Loss!
The last thing you want to do after a crazy-busy day is whip up a culinary masterpiece over a hot stove. If you invest in a crock pot (aka a slow cooker), though, you can still make a homemade, healthy meal without all the late-night labor. All you’ll have to do is throw your recipe ingredients into the pot and punch in the cooking time before heading to work. These 35 Healthy Crock Pot Recipes are sure to fuel your culinary inspiration.
Red Serving Plates
In a study published in the journal Appetite, subjects consumed less snack food and soda when their plates and cups were red. The reason: Researchers believe that the color red reduces the amount we’re likely to eat by subtly telling the mind to stop noshing. We can’t be sure if it will work with serving bowls and platters, but it’s worth a shot if it may cut some calorie from your meals without sacrifice!
Although there are a number of flat belly healthy oils we love, adding too much of the stuff to your pan or salad bowl can add excess calories your body doesn’t need. A spritzer makes it easy to mist an entire dish without overdoing it. The best part: Unlike the kind you buy at the store, you can fill it with any oil you like. (We’ve got some great oil suggestions coming up below!)
Many recipes will say to cook your meat until the juices run clear or until it no longer appears pink. However, the only sure-fire way to know if your turkey or roast is fully cooked and free of disease-causing bacteria is to check the internal temperature with a thermometer. For the most accurate reading, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, away from bones or fat.
Load up your fridge and pantry with these healthy fat-burning foods to cook your way skinny.
Whole Wheat Pasta
Unlike white pasta, whole wheat contains all three parts of the grain, so it’s ultra fiber-filled. And speaking of better-for-you carbs, take a moment later to run through this list to see if you’re guilty of any of these 20 Worst Carb Mistakes of All Time!
Oatmeal—which costs less than a quarter per serving—is packed with fiber, a nutrient that's been shown to improve health and accelerate weight loss. It’s also one of the very best sources of resistant starch (RS), one of the best flat belly nutrients on the planet. What makes RS such a power player? It digests slowly and triggers the release of appetite suppressing digestive acids. In fact, one study found that swapping just 5 percent of daily carbohydrates for resistant starch could boost your metabolism by a whopping 23 percent!
Quinoa is the only grain that’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids, says registered dietitian Jackie Newgent. Packed with the hunger-busting combo of 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber in just one cooked cup, it’s an ideal protein source for carnivores and vegans alike. Toss quinoa into a stir-fry, add it to chili or use it to bulk up a bowl of soup.
Green tea is crawling with catechins, flat belly crusaders that blast away belly bulge by triggering the release of fat from fat cells. But that’s not all: They also speed up the liver’s capacity for turning that fat into energy. To boost your cup’s weight loss potential pair it with a fresh lemon wedge. The vitamin C from the fruit increases catechin levels after digestion by a whopping 60 percent, likely thanks to their acidity, which have been shown to help catechins thrive.
Make the most of the benefits from tea with The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
This green creamy fruit is a great source of oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat that's been shown to quell hunger pangs. Keep them in your kitchen so you can amp up the flavor and fat-fighting power of everything from tacos and sandwiches to smoothies and omelets! Seriously, there are so many insanely-delicious, healthy, and almost too-pretty-to-eat avocado dishes that we rounded up the 30 Best Avocado Recipes on Instagram!
Orange tubers make the list because they’re high in fiber and have a low glycemic index, which means they’re absorbed slowly and keep you satiated long after you’ve put fork to mouth. Roast, zap or mash ‘em and cover them with sweet or savory spices. They’re super versatile, as seen in these 20 Sweet Potato Recipes for Weight Loss.
Popeye's favorite vegetable is a must-have because it’s rich in muscle-building iron and appetite suppressing thylakoids. Spinach is a great addition to soups, perfect as a bed of salad and a stealthy flavor-free nutrient-booster in weight loss smoothies.
Lemons add calorie-free flavor to everything from tea and detox water to chicken dishes and desserts. They also double as a colorful dinner table centerpiece—just toss a dozen or so into a large glass bowl or hurricane.
Grapefruits are rich in phytochemicals, a bioactive compound that burns fat. In fact, one study published in the journal Metabolism found that those who ate grapefruit for six weeks lost a full inch off their waistlines. Impressive stuff! Stock up to slim down.
Eggs might just be the easiest, cheapest and most versatile way to up your protein intake and boost your health. They’re loaded with amino acids, health-boosting antioxidants, and bicep-building iron. And thanks to the choline in the yellow center, eating eggs can also help zap excess flab and protect your brain from cognitive decline. Do you already eat eggs on the reg? Find out the 12 Things That Happen To Your Body When You Eat Eggs!
University of Tennessee researchers found that people who ate 18 ounces of greek yogurt a day lost 22 percent more weight and 81 percent more belly fat than those who didn’t. Start your morning by stirring some berries into a container of plain yogurt, use it in recipes instead of mayonnaise, sour cream or butter, or add a small greek yogurt to your snack time lineup.
For more delicious flat-belly food ideas, snag a copy of the all-new Zero Belly Cookbook!
Packed with protein and lower on the calorie spectrum than the competition, almonds make a great snack and also fare well as a crunchy addition to salads, overnight oats and breakfasts. These bite-size nutritional powerhouses are must-haves for your roster of foods that will help you stay slim.
Eat This! Tip
Nosh on almonds before heading to your Crossfit class. A Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition study discovered that the tear-shaped nut helps exercisers burn more fat and carbs during workouts. It’s all thanks to their high L-arginine content.
A 3 oz. cooked chicken breast contains only 142 calories and 3 grams of fat, but packs a whopping 26 grams of protein—more than half of the day’s recommended allowance. Why shell out cash for the organic stuff? A recent study comparing conventional, antibiotic-free, and USDA Organic chicken found that inorganic arsenic concentrations were four times higher in conventional chicken meat than in USDA Organic chicken.
Oily fish like wild salmon, sardines and mackerel are chock full of heart-healthy, inflammation-reducing, cancer-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. Whatever you do, though, don’t buy tilapia. Most people buy it because it’s affordable–but you get what you pay for. Compared with other fish, farmed tilapia contains relatively small amounts of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. It gets worse: Because farmed tilapia is fed a diet of corn and soy instead of lake plants, they’re proportionally sky high in omega-6 fats, which can harm the heart, brain and even affect your mood.
All beans are good for your heart, but none can boost your brainpower like black beans. That's because they're full of anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds that have been shown to improve brain function. A daily half cup serving provides 8 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fiber. It's also low in calories and free of saturated fat. Wrap some into a breakfast burrito, use them to make homemade veggie burgers, soups, and salads or mix a cup with a low-sodium salsa a pair it with some healthy chips! The options are practically limitless.
One of our best fats for weight loss, olive oil is a staple ingredient in the belly-slimming Mediterranean diet. Its effectiveness comes from its high concentration of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which has been connected to lowering elevated cholesterol levels—a factor in insulin resistance, excess weight, and obesity.
Cinnamon is one of those spices that evokes memories of the holidays for just about everyone, so we’re sure this is one spice you’ve already got stocked in your kitchen—and that’s great news. The warm, sweet spice is one of the world’s most powerful superfoods! U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists say that cinnamon can help reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease. The spice has also been shown to increase alertness. To reap the benefits sprinkle it in your coffee, add a dash to your cereal or oats or add a pinch to a batch of vegetarian chili.
If homemade baked goods are your dietary kryptonite, we get it. Warm, gooey cookies are hard to say no to! The goods news is, simply swapping out sugar for unsweetened applesauce can save you hundreds of calories. While one cup of the white stuff has more than 770 calories, the same amount of unsweetened applesauce has about 100 calories. Depending on how big your cookies are that could easily save you between 20 and 80 calories a pop! While we don’t endorse eating cookies in excess, if your sweets have been healthified (like these 15 Healthy Holiday Cookies You’ll Be Super Proud Of, eating one or two extra likely won’t do too much damage to your waistline.
Eat This! Tip
If you’re swapping out sugar for applesauce, a 1:1 ratio works fine; but for every cup of applesauce you use, reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by 1/4 cup.
Everyone's nuts for coconuts—and rightly so. Though it's a fat, coconut oil is known for actually helping you slim down. A study of 30 men in the journal Pharmacology found that those who consumed 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (one of The 20 Best Full-Fat Foods for Weight Loss) a day shrank their waists by an average of 1.1 inches in one month. The tropical fat can be used for sautéing, stir-frying and baking. However, it doesn’t fare well under high heat so don't deep-fry with it.
Capsaicin, the compound that gives cayenne its signature fire, has been shown to scorch stubborn belly fat, ward off hunger and boost the body’s ability to convert food to energy. Keep the stuff handy so you can add a hit of heat to chili, stuffed peppers, wild salmon and healthy chicken recipes.
We love frozen veggie medleys because they serve up a variety of nutrients and can be used on your own schedule without fear of waste. To make sure you’re picking up a good-for-you bag look for varieties free of added sodium, sugar, and chemicals. Although they may not taste the best solo, frozen veggies make tasty additions to thick soups, stir-fries, fajitas and omelets. Adding satiating nutrients to your plate doesn't get much easier. In need of more easy mid-week meal ideas? Look no further than these 20 One Pot Dinners for Weight Loss.
Fresh berries tend to be slightly more expensive than their frozen counterparts and are prone to growing mold quickly if they aren't prepped perfectly. Add them to smoothies, oats, Greek yogurts and chia pudding.
Fresh tart cherries are delicious in the summer months but hard to find during the fall and winter, which is why we suggest buying frozen. What makes them worthy of being named a must-buy? They’re powerful fat-zappers! A 12-week study by the University of Michigan found that rats fed antioxidant-rich tart cherries showed a 9 percent belly fat reduction over rats fed a "Western diet." They’re also rich in anthocyanin, a flavonoid that reduces inflammation, heart disease, stroke, and even some types of cancer.
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