Preparing healthy home-cooked meals (and snacks… and treats… and pantry staples) requires some particular kitchen equipment. In your twenties (and pre-marriage registry) it’s common to have a bunch of hand-me-down kitchen supplies that Mom and Grandma and old roommates didn’t want. Some of that stuff works just fine, but it’s also worth investing in a few quality items that will make your healthy cooking that much easier:
Good knives are essential to cooking healthy meals with fresh, whole food ingredients. This 5-piece Chicago Cutlery set includes bread, chef, Santoku, utility, and paring knives. The colorful handles help you easily find the knife you want in your knife block. This set is also sold as a trio or individually.
Bamboo cutting boards
Bamboo is one of the most durable cutting board materials (many wood boards warp and crack over time). They’re also considered more sanitary than other materials, as bamboo resists both knife scarring and water retention, which together give bacteria a place to form. And, bamboo is typically a sustainably harvested material–it’s a grass rather than a tree, and is one of the fastest growing plants on earth. Try a set with multiple sizes for different uses.
Cast iron skillet
Cast iron is one of the best kitchen materials, both in terms of health and durability. (But make sure your cast iron is manufactured in the USA, where regulations prevent it from being made with recycled metals, which could contain harmful ones as well.) Most come pre-seasoned these days, so you can start using it right away. Bonus: the small amounts of iron that leach into food as it cooks is a nice supplement to your diet, and is particularly helpful for people with anemia.
This one comes with a silicone handle holder, which really helps to pick up the skillet when it’s hot.
A large Dutch oven
This cast iron cooking pot with an enamel coating works well on both the stovetop (think stews and curries) and in the oven (homemade bread). Dutch ovens hold their heat exceptionally well so are particularly useful for recipes that require slow, constant heat. Their enamel coating is naturally non-stick, so is good for cooking meats and tomato-based sauces, which tend to react with bare cast iron and eat away at the seasoning of the pan. (And, lifting this baby around the kitchen is good for the arms!)
Stainless steel pots/pans
Non-stick cookware is super sketch. The coating is made with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a chemical linked to weakened immune systems, male infertility, pregnancy difficulties, high cholesterol, and thyroid problems. Instead, choose stainless steel pots and pans, which are non-reactive and don’t pose any health threats. Stainless steel isn’t a particularly good conductor of heat, so many pots are made with layers of aluminum or copper (good conductors) surrounded by steel. This basic set should do the trick.
Glass baking dishes
These glass Pyrex dishes (no non-stick business here!) come with lids, so they can be used to bake (either in the oven or microwave) as well as store food.
For both baking and roasting needs, stainless steel is preferable to aluminum from a health standpoint (see this article for more details), but is a bit more expensive. Aluminum sheets should be fine, especially if you’re using parchment paper on top of them.
Healthy parchment paper
Blender and food processor
If a superpower Blendtec or Vitamix isn’t in your budget, you can still get the job done with a standard blender/food processor, like this one from Oster. The blender is essential for making healthy breakfast smoothies and the food processor allows you to whip up pesto and hummus, pureed foods, and chopped veggies. The food processor attachment is made of BPA-free plastic.
A good salad spinner revolutionizes the process of washing and drying lettuce and other salad greens, keeping them always on the ready to make into a quick and healthy meal. (Seasonal salad ideas here, here, and here.)
Oxo makes a bunch of quality, long-lasting options, including this one. And, if you’re really into fresh herbs, you may get good use out of their smaller version too.
Basic lemon/lime juicer
Glass storage containers
Leftovers are best stored in glass, as opposed to plastic or metal, which can be reactive or leach (especially with acidic foods). These Pyrex glass storage containers come with BPA-free plastic lids. They’re cheap and durable, but NOT leak-proof (beware in your lunchbox!).