How to Stock a Healthy Fridge

Redo your refrigerator for maximum nutrition

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

You can learn a lot about someone by opening his or her refrigerator -- whether they're hardly ever home, eat takeout often, are a Miracle Whip or Best Foods fan, or live on frozen entrees. You also get a good idea of where they stand on nutrition and health.

If you peer into my fridge, you'll see my chilled staples: Egg Beaters and a brand of eggs that's higher in healthful omega-3 fatty acids; fat-free half-and-half; fat-free sour cream; reduced-fat cheese ... you get the picture. But you'll also see a stash of chocolate chips in the refrigerator door, and a pack of reduced fat-hot dogs in the deli bin.

But enough about my refrigerator! Let's talk about yours.

We've already given your pantry a nutritional makeover. And we can do the same to your refrigerator/freezer. It's probably even more important to redo the fridge, since most of us open it looking for something to eat, make, or bake several times each day.

In helping you choose better refrigerator fare, I had three goals in mind:

  • Minimizing empty-calorie foods, which deliver lots of calories without much nutrition. We'll weed out foods with extra sugar and other sweeteners, as well as those with extra fat.
  • Stocking up on great-tasting, more healthful alternatives for foods you know and love.
  • Creating a fridge that's almost free of saturated fats and trans fats.

Now, let's get to work.

The Dairy Shelf

Guess what? The more fat you take out of milk and milk products, the more saturated fat and cholesterol goes down -- and the more protein and calcium tend to go up!

The trick with lower-fat dairy products is knowing when you've gone too far for your taste. The other thing to keep in mind is that some products taste better than others.

For example, in my opinion, Naturally Yours does the best job at making fat-free sour cream. It actually tastes better than some light sour creams.

And fat-free cream cheese works well as a fat replacement in various cookie or cake recipes, but I wouldn't use it in a starring role on a bagel or in a cheesecake. Light cream cheese or Neufchatel works better in those cases.

Here are some lower-fat examples for your refrigerator:

  • Fat-free milk: 1 cup has 90 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, less than 5 mg cholesterol, 130 mg sodium, and 30% Daily Value for calcium.
  • 1 % milk: 1 cup has 130 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, and 40% Daily Value for calcium.
  • 2% milk: 1 cup has 140 calories, 5 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, and 35% Daily Value for calcium.
  • Reduced-fat buttermilk: 1 cup has 120 calories, 4 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 280 mg sodium, and 30% Daily Value for calcium.
  • Fat-free half-and-half: 2 tablespoons have 20 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 25 mg sodium, and 4% Daily Value for calcium.
  • Fat-free sour cream: 2 tablespoons have 20 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 mg sodium, and 4% Daily Value for calcium.
  • Low-fat strawberry yogurt: 8 ounces has 240 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, and 35% Daily Value for calcium
  • Fat-free light strawberry yogurt: 8 ounces has 120 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, less than 5 mg cholesterol, 120 mg sodium, and 30% Daily Value for calcium.
  • Low-fat cottage cheese: 1/2 cup has 90 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 410 mg sodium, and 30% Daily Value for calcium.
  • 1/3 less fat cream cheese: 1 ounce has 70 calories, 6 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 120 mg sodium, 2% Daily Value for calcium.
  • Neufchatel cream cheese. 1 ounce has 70 calories, 6 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 100 mg sodium, 2% Daily Value for calcium.
  • Fat-free cream cheese: 1 ounce has 30 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, and 15% Daily Value for calcium.
  • Silk brand soy milk, vanilla or plain: 1 cup has 100 calories, 3.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 95 mg sodium, and 30% Daily Value for calcium.

And don't forget the orange juice! You can buy orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D. One cup of fortified Tropicana contains 120% of your Daily Value of vitamin C, 35% Daily Value for calcium, 28% vitamin D, and 15% folate.

The Egg Tray

Various brands of eggs higher in omega-3s and vitamin E are available across the country. Producers have changed the eggs' nutrient content by feeding their hens a different diet. Here's the nutrient info for one type, Eggland's Best Eggs: 1 egg has 70 calories, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 180 mg cholesterol, 65 mg sodium, 25% Daily Value for vitamin E, and 6% vitamin A.