As a dietitian, I know that healthy eating boils down to two words: meal prep! Without a plan and some advance preparation, we resort to the easiest—and usually least healthy—food choices, like ordering takeout, hitting the vending machine, or grabbing a prepared meal at your local supermarket. But eating more than a few meals each week that are prepared away from home not only diminishes the quality of your diet, it also increases your odds of gaining weight. This explains why one of the most impactful ways to eat right and lose weight is to make entrees and snacks right in your very own kitchen
If you’re looking to prepare and cook healthier meals in less time, here are eight kitchen tools that nutritionists swear by that can help.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the Instant Pot, the one-pot-wonder that whips up just about anything you can think of–but faster. Technically, it’s a seven-in-one multi-cooker that functions as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, steamer, rice cooker, and more that cooks food significantly faster than those other appliances.
Vitamix Explorian Blender
“I use my Vitamix blender for everything from smoothies and soups to pesto, nut butters, hummus and other dips, and salad dressings,” says Katherine Brooking, RD, co-founder with me of Appetite for Health. The motor is powerful enough to blend just about anything to whatever texture you want, making it a great option for green smoothies or veggie-based soups. Vitamix blenders are among the most expensive, but they get great reviews for ease of use, power, and reliability.
OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner
With a salad spinner to wash, clean, and dry your leafy greens, you might be inspired to eat more greens–and you won’t need to buy pricey bagged salads anymore. “My salad spinner saves time when making salads, as you don’t have to rinse and pat your greens dry by hand,” explains author and culinary consultant Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, founder of the blog Simple Cravings. Real Food.
Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus Food Processor
Need oat or nut flour, minced herbs, or chopped veggies? “I like the mini food processor because it’s easier to use than the larger, more cumbersome food processors,” says dietitian and gluten-free blogger Kitty Brohier, RD. “It’s perfect for those little jobs I’d rather not do by hand like mincing bunches of herbs and making homemade protein/energy bars,” she adds.
AdeptChef Silicone Basting Brushes
A food brush is a great way to help ensure you don’t overdo butter or oil when cooking, says Patricia Bannan, RDN, author of Eat Right When Time Is Tight. You can also use the brush to add herbs and spices to foods. Bannan suggests getting them in a few colors and designating a specific color to foods that are considered high-risk for foodborne illness (i.e., raw meats) to avoid cross-contamination.
Global Vegetable Knife
If I could save only one item from my kitchen it would be my Global 7-inch veggie knife that I use every day to make prepping produce a cinch. Global knives are extremely durable, have a lifetime warranty, and feel balanced in your hand. The razor-sharp blade will slice and dice everything from melons to potatoes to pumpkin with minimal effort. The blade and handle are also designed to work equally well for lefties (like me!).
A zester helps amp up the flavor of foods without adding extra fat or sugar, explains chef, nutritionist, and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families, Michelle Dudash, RDN. “I love to add lemon zest to seafood, and citrus zest is great to add to baked goods or to use in a marinade or vinaigrette.” You can also easily grate carrots, hard cheese, chocolate, nutmeg, and ginger with the tool.
Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender
If you want a compact tool that can stand up to larger (read: pricier) conventional blenders, you’ll want an immersion blender. The portable, hand-held tool allows you to blend right in the bowl, cup, pot, or pan you’re using, so there’s no extra cleanup. Use it for smoothies, tomato sauce, hummus, pesto, and veggie-based soups.