As I have said over and over again, there are no good foods and no bad foods. If you came to my house you would see ice cream in the freezer, chips in the pantry and butter in the fridge. But you would also see frozen fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, whole grain bread and chicken breast & thighs. I keep a wide variety of foods on hand at all times not only for snacking, but also so I always have items on hand to make a quick meal in a pinch. And speaking of cooking, it’s not hard and can actually save you time and money. Cooking allows you to be creative and experimental, and it is a great way to have some fun and interesting family time. Here the items that everyone should have in the pantry, fridge and freezer:

Pantry Essentials: As soon as I open one of these items, I buy a new one so that I never have an empty spot on the shelf.

  • Bottled Water
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Low Sodium Broths
  • Canned Tuna in H2O
  • Canned or Dry Beans
  • Nut Butters-Peanut & Almond
  • Oils-Olive & Canola
  • Vinegars
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Black Pepper & Sea Salt
  • Salsa
  • Dried Herbs-Bay Leaves, Dill, Sage, Thyme & Italian Blend
  • Spices-All Spice, Cinnamon, Chili Powder, Crushed Red Pepper & Garlic Powder
  • Almonds, Walnuts & Mixed Nuts
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown Rice
  • Pasta
  • Chocolate

Cold Storage: Just like your pantry, there are some staples that your refrigerator and freezer should never be without.

  • Eggs
  • Chopped Garlic in H2O
  • 2% Cottage Cheese
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Lower Fat Cheeses-Mozzarella, Feta, Fresh Parmesan
  • Butter & Margarine
  • Milk or Dairy-Free Alternative
  • Lemons & Limes
  • Baking Soda
  • Bagged Salad
  • High Quality Deli Meat-Turkey Breast, Roast Beef, Ham
  • Frozen Jumbo Shrimp (unbreaded)
  • Frozen Vegetables-Broccoli, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Summer Squashes, Chopped Onions & Peppers.**
  • Frozen Fruits (Berries, Peaches, Bananas, etc.)
  • Fresh Ginger (wrap and keep in the freezer)

(**Note: Did you know that frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh and may even be more in some cases? As soon as a vegetable is picked, it starts to lose some of its nutritional goodness. If it is going to be used as a frozen vegetable, it undergoes flash freezing as soon as it is picked so it retains all of its vitamins and minerals.)

Protein Purchasing 

Although you can freeze most meats, poultry and fish, it always best to buy it fresh. Spending too much time in cold storage (unless vacuum packed), can affect quality. If you are going to buy steak, make sure the taste is worth every penny. Here are some things to think about when you are at the “protein” counter:

Red Meats

  • Choose leanest cuts of beef-Eye of the Round Roast and Steak, Sirloin Tip Side Steak, Top Round Roast and Steak, Bottom Round Roast and Steak and Top Sirloin Steak
  • Select beef that has the least visible fat or marbling
  • Look for the words “choice” or “select”
  • Buy ground beef that is at least 90% lean


  • Don’t pay extra for skinless chicken-It is ok to cook with the skin on and remove it before eating. The amount of fat it adds is minimal, but the flavor and moisture are enough to make you think you’ve gone to chicken heaven.
  • Opt for ground poultry that is white meat only


  • Check out the leanest cuts of pork-Tenderloin and Boneless Loin Roast and Chops


  • Only buy fish that doesn’t have a fishy smell
  • Make sure fish looks moist and doesn’t have any browning on the edges
  • Shellfish (i.e. lobster) should always be alive and kicking

Just like we clean out our closets periodically, it’s a good idea to “food” clean our kitchens. Get rid of the old (your local food bank or shelter would love the donation) and restock with the basics. Make your shelves look pretty and group like items together with earliest expiration dates in front. Your Rise coach is always available to answer not only your nutrition questions, but also any food related ones.


Written by Joanne Perez, MS, RDN, LD. Joanne is a Rise Coach and Registered Dietitian. She has over 20 years of experience in nutrition counseling and wellness. Joanne loves running, going to the beach and spending time with her kids.  Want to work with Joanne or another Rise coach like her? Get started at