16 Picks for a Healthy Kitchen
With these gadgets, you can whip up almost any
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
Equipping a healthy kitchen sounds both daunting and expensive, doesn't it? But it doesn't have to be either. I've been developing and testing healthy recipes for almost two decades now. I even built a test kitchen/cooking show set in my own home over a year ago. So I hope I can offer some insight on this subject.
I've drawn up a laundry list of the kitchen equipment I depend on to feed my
family and develop healthy recipes. There are items you could probably predict I
would mention (like nonstick frying pans and oil sprayers) and maybe a few that
will surprise you!
I'll start with the smaller, less-expensive items:
- Nonstick Frying Pans, Saucepans, and Skillets
Cost: $20 to $50.
Nonstick pans are a must for light cooking. You need a lot less oil or fat
in your pan to keep food from sticking when using good-quality nonstick
cookware. I don't have a particular brand I recommend. I mainly look to make
sure they are nice and thick and have handles that don't get hot - well,
that, and I try to buy them on sale.
- Blender or Food Processor
Cost: From $30 for a minifood processor to more than $100 for some
When you cook healthful sauces or spreads, sometimes you need a little help
combining the ingredients and smoothing the texture. That's when you pull
out your blender or food processor. You can also use your blender or food
processor to make smoothies with fresh or frozen fruit, ground flaxseed,
low-fat dairy, etc.
- Slow Cooker
Cost: Around $40.
I've actually got two slow cookers! I'm not greedy; I just find myself in
situations (like barbecuing, catering small parties, or doing food shoots)
when a second one comes in handy for serving or keeping foods warm. In the
winter, I tend to make spaghetti sauce, stews, or chili in the morning and
then let them simmer all day in the slow cooker. Not only is your dinner
ready to serve when it's time to eat, it fills the house with a comforting
- Hand Food Chopper
This is for all those veggies you're going to be adding to your recipes now
that you are cooking healthfully. Cooking light means using ingredients that
boost flavor without adding fat and calories. Many of these healthful
ingredients require chopping (like onions, bell peppers, fresh herbs, nuts,
etc.) These choppers make it easy to chop without nicking a finger or
shedding a tear (because they completely encase onions while you chop).
- Oil Sprayer
Cost: Around $10.
Often, you need a little oil to help your food surface brown and crisp
nicely. These sprayers are a great way to disperse a small amount of olive
or canola oil onto the surface of a food or pan instead of drenching it in
oil. You can buy cooking sprays in your supermarket, but then you have to
throw the cans away in your garbage. Another option is to buy the refillable
- Plastic Flexible Cutting Mat
Cost: Around $4 for a set of 2.
These bendable, thin, plastic chopping mats work great for all your
healthful recipe ingredients (like fruits, veggies, onions, and herbs). Just
chop on the mat, pick up the mat along with the chopped items, bend the mat
and tip it up, and the food pours easily into your bowl or saucepan.
- Meat Mallet
Cost: $6.95 or more.
Use these for tenderizing lean meats and flattening boneless, skinless
chicken breasts. Many of my chicken recipes call for flattening chicken
breasts. This way, the chicken cooks more evenly and you're less likely to
- Microwave Vegetable Cooker
Cost: $15 and up.
One of the easiest, most nutritious ways to cook vegetables is to lightly
microwave them. And a great way to do this is with one of these steamers.
Some are made in the shape of a saucepan with a cover; you just sprinkle
water over your vegetables, then cover and cook. With other containers, the
vegetables sit above the water in separate compartment. Either way works
- Bread Machine
Cost: $60 to $100.
It's nice to have the easy option for making your own half whole-wheat
cinnamon rolls, pizza, or bread dough. You can use whichever oil you want,
in whatever amount you want. You can add ground flaxseed if you like. And
you can use half whole-wheat flour for every single recipe. Either way, bake
the bread right in the machine, or use the "dough" cycle and bake it in the
Cost: Around $100.
When you make your fruit or vegetable juices with a juicer, you don't have
to worry about added sugar or salt. One store manager told me their
best-selling juicer was the Jack La Lanne brand. The fitness and
bodybuilding guru I remember from my youth (the 60s and 70s) is still with
us, and is still a great advertisement for juicing.
- Hand Citrus Zester
Cost: Around $7.
This is one of my favorite kitchen tools. It has about five tiny cutting
holes on one end which create threadlike strips of peel when you pull the
zester over the surface of a lemon, lime, or orange. It removes only the
colored outer portion of the peel (the zest), which holds wonderful aromatic
oils. Adding finely chopped zest is an easy, zero-calorie way to punch up
the flavor of your healthful recipes for muffins, cakes, bars, pies, and
- Silicon Basting Brush
Cost: About $7.
Oil sprays can coat a food or cooking surface with a light layer of oil. But
sometimes, the job calls for a little more coverage or a more thorough
application. That's when you need oil and a brush. Other times, you need to
coat a food's surface with a thick sauce or marinade. Again, your silicon
basting brush comes to the rescue! The silicon threads stay separated, and
work very well to coat surfaces with liquid. The brushes are
dishwasher-safe, so cleaning is easy. They are heat-resistant to
600-degrees, and can handle just about every basting situation.