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9 Healthy Foods for a Diet-Friendly Fridge

Must-have items for quick, healthy snacks and meals.

6. Jar of Marinara or Pizza Sauce

Armed with a jar of marinara or pizza sauce, you're on your way to several quick and healthy snacks or meals. Use it for:

  • Design-your-own pizza using whole-wheat pitas, bagel halves, or tortillas.
  • All kinds of pasta dishes.
  • Italian-style hot sandwiches or panini.
  • Topping for meat loaf or casseroles.
  • Bread dip or enchilada sauce.

Tomatoes are packed with important nutrients, and your body can absorb more of their phytochemicals if the tomatoes are cooked and eaten along with a little healthy fat. That fits the description of most bottled marinara and pizza sauces. Tomatoes contain all four carotenoid phytochemicals: alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene, which work together for even more nutritional pop. They also have three high-powered antioxidants thought to work together: vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene.

7. Prepared Pesto (Made With Olive Oil)

Pesto, made with basil, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and some type of nut, is a tasty way to work a little olive oil into your day. Along with the healthful monounsaturated fats, olive oil contributes more than 30 phytochemicals, many of which have antioxidant/anti-inflammatory action in the body.

Pesto makes a great spread for sandwiches and pizzas, or a tasty sauce for all your favorite hot or cold potato and pasta dishes (choose whole-grain pasta for added nutritional punch). You can even add pesto to goat cheese or light cream cheese and serve with whole-grain crackers for an impromptu appetizer. More good news about pesto: it's strongly flavored, so a small amount can help perk up your dishes while keeping calories under control.

8. Almond Butter

Nuts in general contain "smart fats" (mostly monounsaturated fat and a little polyunsaturated fat, including plant omega-3 fatty acids for some nuts). Most nuts also have phytosterols, which in sufficient amounts can help lower cholesterol and enhance the immune system, and may decrease the risk of some cancers. Some of the vitamins and minerals many of us are lacking, like vitamin E and magnesium, are also be found in nuts.

One of the most studied nuts is the almond. Almonds have phytochemicals that can help lower cholesterol; vegetable protein that may lower "bad" cholesterol (LDL); and monounsaturated fat that may increase "good" cholesterol (HDL). To top it all off, almonds are rich in antioxidants.

An easy way to work almonds into your day is with almond butter. Use it anywhere you would use peanut butter: spread on whole-grain toast, bagels, or crackers; as a dip for fruits and veggies; or for cooking everything from cookies to sauces and dressings. Remember, though, that nut butters are high in fat (albeit the healthy kind), so be sure to practice portion control.

9. Iced Green Tea

One of the best ways to cut calories is to avoid beverages that contain them. Your body will thank you even more if you choose no-calorie drinks that can also give you some health benefits. Here's where green tea comes in. Tea contains phytochemicals that are thought to have a host of health benefits. For example, tea has catechins, which are thought to not only have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, but also to stimulate the immune system and possibly boost weight loss. Both green and black tea have healthy properties, but green tea is thought to be especially beneficial.

The phytochemicals in green tea have a half-life of just a few hours, so I make it a habit to drink a cup of green tea in the morning and another toward the end of the day. Having ice-cold green tea in the refrigerator makes it easy to enjoy a glass in the afternoon when you're looking for a little refreshment. There are all sorts of flavored green teas available (like tropical green tea, pomegranate green tea, etc.). Find a few flavors you like, and keep some brewed and ready to drink in your refrigerator.


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