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Nutrition 101

Stock a Healthy Refrigerator

What to put in the fridge to guarantee nutritious eating.

By Jane Kirby
Stocked refrigeratorGregor Halenda
Healthy eating would be a lot easier if someone would clean out the refrigerator, get rid of the junk, and stock the shelves with nutritious choices. If high-fat, high-salt, low-fiber foods aren't in sight (Chubby Hubby, anyone?), they are more likely to be out of mind―and out of mouth. But until you find a nutritionist-slash―personal assistant to do the job for you, take a peek into this healthy refrigerator. Look at it again before you head to the supermarket―it might keep you away from the Cool Whip.

Dairy and Staples

Keep tubs on hand, plus bags of baby carrots. The combo is a low-fat, high-protein snack alternative to hunks of cheese or a fistful of cookies.

Replace mellow, soft cheeses with sharp, harder ones. A small amount packs lots of flavor, saving you both dollars and fat grams. Look for aged Cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Keep eggs in their carton on a lower shelf to guard against the loss of carbon dioxide and moisture. The shells may look impermeable, but they are covered with tiny holes that can absorb odors and flavors.

Butter and margarine
Use real butter where it counts, but sparingly. Keep sticks in a covered dish. (Freeze sticks you're not using.) When it comes to margarine, soft kinds in tubs and those labeled "trans-fat free" are the only healthy butter substitutes.

Chicken broth
Buy it in resealable cartons. Use it to cook rice, mash potatoes, or saute vegetables for rich flavor without butter or oil. (Add broth to a warm skillet with the vegetables; cover and cook until tender.) Look for low-sodium or organic broth.

As with milk, go for low-fat instead of nonfat to enjoy more flavor. You can bake with it or drain it through a coffee filter for yogurt "cheese."

One percent milk has enough fat for baking but isn't unhealthy to drink. Buy milk in opaque containers to protect it from light, which can reduce the vitamin content.

Orange juice
Select juice that is calcium fortified. There's barely any difference in taste, and drinking one glass will give you a third of your recommended daily allowance of calcium.
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The Parmesan crisps will be pliable right out of the oven but will firm up and get sticky as they cool. Remove them promptly with an offset spatula and let them cool on a plate. They can be made up to 1 day in advance; store at room temperature, tightly covered. The soup can be made up to I day in advance; refrigerate, covered.