22 Healthy Fridge Items to Stock Up on for Healthier Living

Up your chances of healthy eating by keeping these foods in the fridge.

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Refrigerator shelf with oils, condiments, water pitcher, and leftover foods in airtight containers. Two produce drawers filled with bell peppers, carrots, and lettuce.
Photo: Gregor Halenda

Healthy eating would be a lot easier if someone (else) would clean out the refrigerator, eliminate junk, and stock the shelves with nutritious choices. If high-fat, high-salt, low-fiber foods aren't in sight, they are more likely to be out of mind―and out of your mouth. But until you find a nutritionist or personal assistant to do the job, follow our tips and learn how to stock a healthy refrigerator.

The Best Dairy Products


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.) For margarine, soft kinds in tubs and those labeled "trans-fat free" are the only healthy butter substitutes.


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.

Everyday Food and Drink Options

Chicken Broth

Buy it in resealable cartons and look for low-sodium or organic broth. Use it for cooking rice, mashed potatoes, or sautéed vegetables with rich flavor without butter or oil. (Add broth to a warm skillet with the vegetables; cover and cook until tender.) And you can even upgrade boxed chicken broth with some fresh additions.

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.


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. Try a quick homemade hummus recipe for a healthier (and cheaper) option without a ton of additives.


Keep filtered water or seltzer in the refrigerator, and you'll always have a cold, refreshing, healthy drink on hand. (Soda consumption in the United States surpassed milk consumption in 1994 and is still trending upward.)

The Healthiest Condiments

Salad Dressings

Your healthiest bottled-dressing options are vinaigrettes made with olive oil, but if you have a weak spot for creamy dressings, you can make them last longer (and eat fewer calories) by thinning them with milk, mild rice vinegar, or herb tea. Tossing a salad with dressing before serving it is the key to using less.


Go for low-fat mayonnaise rather than the low-cholesterol kind. Regular mayo doesn't have a lot of cholesterol, to begin with, but it does have a great deal of fat. Alternatively, try making homemade mayonnaise.


Olive, canola, and sesame oil are your healthiest options. If you have all three, you'll be ready for just about any kind of cooking. All are best kept in the refrigerator because they oxidize when exposed to heat and light. Oxidized oils taste rancid and may release free radicals, which are linked to many health risks. Chilled oils may become cloudy, but they'll clarify at room temperature.

Quick and Easy Meal Staples


Spoon leftovers―even from take-out―into a microwave-safe glass or plastic container. Some take-out trays and yogurt tubs are made from plastic that can leach chemicals into food at high temperatures. Avoid reheating in plastic containers that aren't designated microwave-safe.

Bagged Lettuce and Vegetables

Consider bags of baby spinach and other salad greens a shopping-list staple. For the lengthiest shelf life, buy pre-washed greens in single-variety bags (the fragile leaves in salad mixes spoil first and can ruin the whole package). Combine them with more economical lettuce, such as iceberg, as needed.


Put produce in its place. That generally means either out of the fridge entirely (tomatoes and tropical fruits) or in one of the bottom bins, where the humidity is controlled. When vegetables lose moisture, they get limp and may lose vitamins. Spinach can lose as much as 50 percent of its vitamin C if left out overnight.

Healthy Freezer Foods

Prepared Foods

Packaged meals come in sensible portions―but with sky-high sodium content. (The bulk of the sodium in the U.S. diet comes from prepared foods, not from what we use in cooking or sprinkle on at the table.) With homemade frozen foods, wrap tightly, label, and date. Meals stored in the freezer should be used within three months.

Whole Grains

Brown rice, whole-wheat flour, and oatmeal are the best grains to stock, but they should be kept cold. Unlike refined grains (the white ones), whole grains contain the outer bran plus the inner seed, or germ. The germ contains some fat. And, like cooking oils, that fat can oxidize at room temperature.

Sweet Snacks

When frozen, marshmallows get caramel-chewy, and grapes taste like cold gumdrops. Either will give you satisfaction without giving you fat.


When bananas are too speckled to pack in lunch bags, throw them into the freezer unpeeled. The skins will blacken, but the fruit will stay sweet and ripe inside. Blend one with orange juice, berries, and yogurt (no need for ice) for a breakfast smoothie.


Freeze an assortment (peanuts, pistachios, almonds, and walnuts), all loaded with antioxidants. Don't worry about the fat. Nuts are mostly made up of monounsaturated fats (the good kind). Like oils, nuts should be kept cold and out of the light to remain fresh.

Ice Cream

A University of Pennsylvania study found that the larger the container, the more careless we are about indulging. Buy ice cream in four-ounce individual servings or pints.


Here is the healthy, high-protein snack that will break you of the potato-chips-before-dinner habit. Edamame (soybeans in their pods) are the best-tasting tofu alternative. Drop them frozen into boiling water for a few minutes, drain, and salt. Serve warm or chilled (with a separate bowl to collect the discarded pods).

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  1. Perumalla Venkata R, Subramanyam R. Evaluation of the deleterious health effects of consumption of repeatedly heated vegetable oil. Toxicol Rep. 2016 Aug 16;3:636-643. doi: 10.1016/j.toxrep.2016.08.003. PMID: 28959587; PMCID: PMC5616019.

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