fridge, freezer and pantry staples
Kids, Nutrition, Tips / How-Tos, Toddlers

Healthy Kitchen 101: How to Choose and Organize Nutritious Fridge, Freezer and Pantry Essentials

When it comes to feeding our kids, many of us parents tend to fixate on the big ideas: how to encourage mindful eating habits, how to model a positive relationship with food or how to navigate picky eating without losing our minds. 

best baby and kids meals

While these big-picture goals are definitely worth pursuing, it’s often helpful to remember that the little things matter too! In fact, you can make a big difference in what your family eats through just a few simple changes. 

Here’s how:

  • Start by stocking your fridge, freezer and pantry with wholesome foods. To make it easier for you, Nurture Life’s registered dietitians have put together lists of their favorite staples for each area in the kitchen. You’ll find these lists just below.
  • Once you’ve chosen some nutritious pantry essentials, check out the 6 organization tips that follow! These tips highlight how to organize your fridge, freezer and pantry to subtly (yet successfully) encourage healthier eating choices for the whole family. 

Lists of Fridge, Freezer and Pantry Staples

Here’s what Nurture Life’s registered dietitians recommend for the fridge, freezer and pantry.

In the Fridge

For varied flavors and plenty of nutrients, fill your fridge with lean proteins, in-season produce and minimally processed dairy. You can mix and match these ingredients to create healthy, balanced meals.

If you’re looking for a quick, ready-to-serve fridge option rather than individual ingredients, browse the Nurture Life menu! Our kid-friendly meals are made with wholesome ingredients and a balance of the nutrients your little ones need to play and grow at every age.

Fridge Staples List

Protein Produce Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Fresh shellfish and fish* 
    • Salmon
    • Cod
    • Tuna
    • Shrimp 
    • Scallops
  • Boneless, skinless poultry
    • Chicken
    • Turkey
  • Lean beef 
    • Skirt steak
    • 90% lean ground beef
  • Lean pork
    • Pork loin
  • Soy foods
    • Tofu
    • Tempeh
    • Edamame
  • Prepared legumes
    • Cooked lentils
    • Garbanzo beans
    • Black-eyed peas

*Choose sustainable seafood as much as possible. To see what is available in your area, click here.

Especially kid-friendly veggies:

  • Baby carrots
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Pea pods
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery sticks

Fresh fruit:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Clementines
  • Grapes
  • Grapefruit
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries
  • Milk*
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheese
  • Kefir

*Select whole milk for children 12-24 months, and 1% or 2% for 2 years and up (based on your pediatrician’s recommendations)

In the Freezer

Frozen foods often get a reputation as “unhealthy” (or less healthy), but they’re actually a great way to boost the nutrition of your family’s meals. Since frozen foods are picked at peak ripeness and then flash-frozen, they maintain their nutrition and taste, even out of season.

Freezer Staples List

Frozen Fruit Frozen Veggies Frozen Proteins
  • Mangos
  • Berries
  • Peaches

Look for no added sugar.

  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Riced cauliflower
  • Mixed veggies
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Shrimp
  • Edamame

If you order Nurture Life meals, you can also freeze them so that they last longer. Get tips on safely freezing our baby, toddler and kids meals here.

In the Pantry

The pantry is often where things get tricky, but you don’t have to settle for salty and sugary snacks! Below are some nutritious, palate-pleasing options for both meal prep and snacking.

Pantry Staples List

Condiments, Cooking Oils and Fats
  • Cooking oils
    • Olive oil
    • Avocado oil
    • Coconut oil
    • Grapeseed oil
    • Sesame oil
    • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Vinegars
    • Balsamic
    • Apple cider
    • White wine
    • Rice
  • Herbs and spices*
    • Basil
    • Thyme
    • Oregano
    • Dill
    • Paprika
    • Chili powder
    • Cumin
    • Turmeric
    • Onion powder
    • Garlic powder

*Select spice blends with no added salt.

Starches and Whole Grains
  • 100% whole grain bread, cereal and pasta*
  • Whole grain brown rice
  • Ancient grains
    • Quinoa
    • Farro
    • Millet
    • Freekeh
  • Fresh, skin-on potatoes
    • Sweet
    • White
    • Red 
    • Purple 
  • Quick-cook oatmeal 
  • Old-fashioned oats

*Look for products with simple ingredients and 3+ grams of fiber per serving.

Nuts, Nut Butters and Seeds
  • Raw nuts
    • Peanuts
    • Almonds
    • Walnuts
    • Cashews
    • Pistachios
    • Pecans
  • Natural nut butters
  • Seeds
    • Chia
    • Flax
    • Pumpkin
    • Sunflower

Pick nuts and nut mixes that are raw, unsalted and unsweetened. Go for single-ingredient nut butters with no added palm oil, sugar or salt.

Legumes
  • Beans
    • Black
    • Kidney
    • Cannellini (white)
    • Garbanzo (chickpeas)
    • Navy
    • Pinto

Choose dry beans or canned beans with no added salt.

Miscellaneous Canned Goods
  • Fish*
    • Salmon
    • Tuna
  • Diced tomatoes (no salt added)

*Choose “packed in water,” not oil.

Snacks
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Low-sugar trail mix
  • High-fiber cereal
  • Turkey jerky
  • Salmon jerky
  • Dried fruit
  • All-natural fruit leather

6 Tips for Building a More Health-Conscious Fridge, Freezer and Pantry

You may have heard that the best diet is the one you’ll stick to—so make your family’s healthy eating habits stick by thoughtfully organizing your pantry, freezer and fridge essentials. More than just a new year’s resolution, these tips for revamping your kitchen are a great way to begin every season of the year!

  1. Start fresh.
    You might be surprised just how much shelf space is wasted on expired condiments, sauces and other assorted “stuff.” Make it a family event to clean out your fridge, freezer and pantry together, pitching anything that’s past its prime and donating unexpired non-perishables that you no longer need.
  2. Stock up wisely.
    As you’re refilling your kitchen with items from our pantry staples list, be selective with what you buy. An overstuffed fridge, freezer or pantry can quickly become overwhelming, and you may end up forgetting what you bought in the first place.
  3. Put healthy food first.
    We don’t mean just in your mind, either! Make whole, non-processed foods the go-to choice for your family members by prominently displaying them at eye level and within easy reach.
  4. Use clear containers.
    You’re more likely to feel inspired by nutritious ingredients when you can actually see them—so use clear storage bins as a quick visual cue! Feel free to add labels too, including both what’s inside and an “eat-by” date. In a similar way, store your more indulgent treats in opaque containers (and keep them hidden behind healthier options). Out of sight, out of mind!
  5. Organize food by category.
    Instead of unloading groceries at whim, try placing them in “zones” according to their food group—for instance, dairy on the middle shelf, produce in drawers and proteins on the bottom. Categorizing foods in this way will help you prepare nutritious meals with less effort. By selecting nutritious pantry essentials from each zone, you’ll know that your meal is balanced!
  6. Give your kids space.
    A kid-friendly kitchen is a family-friendly kitchen, and giving your children designated shelving will empower them to make healthy choices on their own. For their pantry, freezer and fridge shelves, just follow the same strategies as the rest of the kitchen, sorting foods by category and placing the healthiest options first.

By choosing nutritious pantry, freezer and fridge essentials and then organizing them mindfully, you’ll make healthy eating the easiest, most natural choice for your family. Commit to making these small kitchen changes over the course of a week, and in next to no time, your loved ones will be set up for a lifetime of wholesome food choices!

If you have any questions about incorporating Nurture Life meals into your family’s regular meal routine, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our child nutrition experts are always available at support@nurturelife.com.

best baby and kids meals

RJ Bio

Rachael Janas

Rachael joined the Nurture Life team as the Marketing Production & QA Manager. From menu design to nutrient analysis, she covers all things food. Rachael is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian with a strong foundation in clinical nutrition and a keen interest in nutritious food with phenomenal flavor. Her passion for incorporating whole foods and creative cuisine while focusing on age-specific nutrient needs of children is essential to Nurture Life’s menu design. Rachael has been practicing dietetics since 2011, with the bulk of her experience in clinical nutrition at Loyola Medical Center, specializing in patients with cystic fibrosis as well as critical care nutrition related to lung disease and lung transplant. She also has experience in cardiac health and nutrition during pregnancy. Rachael received her B.S. from Saint Louis University in Missouri and completed a dietetic internship with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Rachael’s interests include creative cooking at home, using a variety of ingredients, spices and herbs for a unique meal each night. She truly believes nutrition and food should be enjoyable and that all food can be enjoyed in moderation.