Tools for a Healthy KitchenSave Time & Eat Healthy with these Small Appliances
-- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
Standard kitchen appliances like ranges, ovens, and refrigerators undoubtedly revolutionized the way we prepare food. Chances are you probably have all three, and use them constantly. But there’s a whole world of gadgets and small appliances that can further reduce the time and effort you have spend creating delicious and healthy cuisine. These gadgets are not essential to eating well, but they can make it more fun and a whole lot easier. Here is a guide to kitchen appliances that will help you in your never-ending quest to eat more healthfully.
- Why to buy: If you want to make smoothies, milkshakes, pureed soups, or a variety of other blended concoctions, then a blender is for you.
- How to buy: You can buy a blender almost anywhere. Look for a glass pitcher that holds at least 40 ounces, a weighted base, removable stainless steel blades for easy cleaning, and at least 350 watts of power.
- Cost to buy: $40 and up.
- Why to buy: When you walk in the door from a long day, the last thing you want to do is to start chopping vegetables for dinner. A Crockpot, or slow-cooker, can help by having dinner ready for you when you walk in the door! Place your ingredients in the crock in the morning, turn it on, and leave. Healthy dinners are a breeze.
- How to buy: You can buy a Crockpot online and in stores that sell kitchen appliances. If you’re just cooking for a few people, look for one with a three- to four-quart capacity. Large families might want to consider a six-quart crock. Also be sure to buy one with a removable crock (for easy cleaning), and a one-piece glass lid.
- Cost to buy: $30 and up.
- Why to buy: Often, sticking to a healthy diet isn't difficult during the meals themselves, but in between them. Ever become famished at 4 p.m., only to gobble down whatever was lying around and regret it instantly? Keeping healthy dehydrated snacks around solves this problem. In a dehydrator, you can make dried fruit, dried tomatoes, fruit leather, and even protein-rich jerky. Stock your pantry (or even the glove compartment in your car) with these healthy, whole-food snacks and thwart the temptation to inhale empty calories from chips, pretzels, or cookies. With this easy-to-use appliance, you can also make more complex "raw" treats like granola, crispy raw almonds, and sprouted grain crackers. Pick up a raw foods “un-cookbook” or look online for recipes.
- How to buy: You can purchase a dehydrator online and in stores that sell kitchen appliances. When choosing, look for one that gets horizontal aid flow, as it will dehydrate more evenly. Also take into consideration the size of the unit, in terms of its capacity (will it make enough?) and its overall size (you’ll have to store it when it’s not in use).
- Cost to buy: $30 and up.
- Why to buy: A food processor makes quick work of chopping and grating, which is great when you’re short on time but still want to eat healthy, homemade foods. Batch cooking becomes a breeze with a food processor too, shortening the seemingly endless preparation times for things like vegetable soups or casseroles. And certain recipes practically require a food processor, like hummus and homemade pesto.
- How to buy: You can buy a food processor online and in stores that sell kitchen appliances. Mini food processors, sometimes called food choppers, are great for ingredient prep, but they don’t hold as much as a standard sized food processor, which is far more versatile. Look for one with a capacity of eight to 10 cups and 400 watts of power.
- Cost to buy: Mini food processors cost $20 and up. Regular-sized food processors cost $100 and up.
- Why to buy: Studies have shown that the average person seriously underestimates their portion sizes. If you are new to portion control, a food scale might be for you.
- How to buy: You can buy a food scale online and in stores that sell kitchen appliances.
- Cost to buy: Simple analog scales cost about $15, but digital programmable scales that can calculate the calorie count of a list of foods go for $70 or more.
- Why to buy: If you’re serious about baking with whole grains, then you might consider purchasing a grain mill. Commercial flour comes from grain that has had its germ removed to increase its shelf life, and is thereby less nutritious. Also, when a grain is pulverized into commercial flour and sits on the shelf for months, its quality and flavor decrease, as does the bread that is made with it.
- How to buy: Grain grinders are available online and in specialty shops. When choosing a grinder, think about how often you will use it and what types of grains you will be grinding.
- Cost to buy: Manual grinders cost $50 and up, while electric grinders cost $150 and up. If you are considering purchasing a juicer too (see below), keep in mind that some juicers have grain-grinding capabilities or attachments.
- Why to buy: Homemade fresh juice is a great source of vitamins and enzymes.
- How to buy: There are lots of varieties of juicers online and in stores, from basic manual citrus juicers to automatic twin-gear juicers. The type you purchase will depend on the amount you wish to spend, and the functions you want your juicer to perform.
- Cost to buy: $50 and up.
- Why to buy: Brown rice is delicious and healthy, but also very easy to foul up when cooking—stir it and it winds up sticky; overcook it and it’s mushy; skimp on water and it’s it sticks to the pan. A rice cooker is (almost) a fool-proof way to prepare rice. Measure, switch on, and prepare the rest of your dinner. When the timer dings, it’s done and delicious.
- How to buy: You can buy a rice cooker online and in stores that sell kitchen appliances. Look for one with a removable pot for easy cleaning.
- Cost to buy: $15 and up.
- Why to buy: Need to cook something in a hurry, but can’t wait for the oven to preheat? Or are you constantly cooking for just one or two people and using only a fraction of the space inside your oven? In a toaster oven, you can bake or broil nutritious foods like salmon, mini pizzas, baked potatoes, veggie burgers and burritos while using far less energy than a conventional oven. Toaster ovens work great to reheat many leftovers too. But don't forget that they also double as a toaster!
- How to buy: Toaster ovens are available online and in most department stores. A larger oven will be more versatile than a small one.
- Cost to buy: $25 and up.