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What Healthy Ingredient Do You Cook With Most Often? 

You mean to eat well. You truly do. But it’s no easy feat. Here, Real Simple readers share the go-to foods that keep them going. 

Healthy cooking illoChristopher Silas Neal


I’ve always been a meat-and-potatoes girl and somewhat averse to vegetables, but zucchini is the exception. It’s one of the few green foods that everyone in my family will actually eat. I like it grilled with Italian seasonings or steamed with celery and tomatoes—a preparation I learned from my late mother. My daughter prefers sautéed zucchini with grated Parmesan on top. My son likes it sautéed with onions and peppers. We find it an uncommonly versatile vegetable.

Catherine Lepone
Los Angeles, California

Fresh garlic. I like to use whole cloves in tomato-based sauces. Garlic is particularly tasty in combination with the basil, thyme, oregano, and parsley that I grow in my herb garden. I also savor it minced in a dish of Brussels sprouts and bacon—or in a Romano cheese and chive omelette. Garlic has so many benefits: It is thought to promote heart health and build your immune system. But best of all, it gives even the simplest foods a kick.

Sherry Mendel

Mercer Island, Washington

Recently I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease. People with this ailment cannot tolerate gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Eating most carbohydrates was no longer an option, so I had to find a substitute—fast. Fortunately I discovered quinoa, a gluten-free grain that can be cooked like rice or made into pasta. I was so thrilled to learn that I wouldn’t have to live without spaghetti and meatballs.

Amy Fink
Washington, D.C.

To give my family a dose of protein, I regularly turn to canned black beans. My favorite recipe using this pantry staple is a twist on French-bread pizza. I slice a baguette in half, sauté a can of beans with garlic and onion, and add diced jalapeños for heat. In place of tomato sauce, I use salsa, then sprinkle pepper Jack cheese on top. The entire dish can be prepared in 15 minutes, which is a relief, since I don’t have much time to get dinner on the table.

Anna Nathan
Cary, North Carolina


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Quick Tip

Aluminum foil and plastic wrap in a drawer

The flan can be baked up to 3 days in advance; refrigerate, loosely covered with plastic wrap. Unmold just before serving.