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8 Best Kitchen Gadgets and Tools to Prepare Healthy Meals on a Budget

By Laura Williams

healthy cookingMaking over your diet isn’t easy – you’re up against a lifetime of eating habits that may be hard to shake. But just because eating healthier requires planning and discipline, that doesn’t mean there’ aren’t shortcuts to help you get there. Outfitting your kitchen with products and appliances that support a healthy lifestyle and make it easier to cook nutritious foods is a step worth taking. Consider it an investment in your health.

New products are always being released on the market, promising a slimmer, healthier you. Rather than laying out hundreds of dollars on the latest infomercial miracle, save up and put your money into tried-and-true items that make cooking, cleaning, and healthy eating ever easier.

Healthy Kitchen Products

1. Powerful Blender

Blenders are wonderful tools, and blenders with one- to two-horsepower motors are perfect for making healthy smoothies, salsas, nut butters, and soups. These super-powerful blenders can slice and dice practically anything in seconds. I never realized the miracle of a powerful blender until I got my one-horsepower motor DynaBlend Plus, and realized I could cut my smoothie-making time from about seven minutes to less than five (including prep and clean time).

The best way to find a powerful blender is to check the horsepower of the motor and cross-reference your findings with online reviews. Vitamix blenders top practically every list in terms of power and performance, but they cost a pretty penny – easily $300 or more. For a more affordable option, try the Ninja Ultimate Kitchen System or the DynaBlend Plus. Both still cost more than $100, but they get the job done.

2. Sharp Knives

Sharp knives – truly sharp knives – are a cook’s best friend. Cutting root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and carrots, is usually a fight from start to finish, but with a razor-sharp blade, you can accomplish the task without breaking a sweat. Likewise, sharp knives make it easier to trim fat from chicken, pork, and beef. When you don’t have to fight to slice and dice healthy foods, you’re more likely to add them into your regular diet. Plus, sharp knives cut prep time – who doesn’t want that?

The reality, though, is that the best knives are incredibly expensive – Consumer Reports loves Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Professional “S” seven-piece set, but the $315 price isn’t exactly consumer-friendly. If your current knives have seen better days, pick up a new set and commit to taking care of them. The best options are made of steel without welded joints, or feature ceramic blades that can be sharpened to scalpel-like sharpness. Both the three-piece Kyocera Ultimate Ceramic Chef Set ($99) and the six-piece Joseph Joseph Elevate Knives Carousel Set ($100) did well during independent reviews.

Whether you’re buying new knives or you’re sticking with your old set, it’s important that you sharpen your knives before every use, and wash and dry them by hand when you’re through. This keeps the blade sharp while protecting the handle from wear – especially true for knives with welded joints.

3. Slow Cooker

When you’re running around all day, going to work, taking your kids to extracurricular activities, and otherwise managing your to-do list, it’s not always easy to make time for a home-cooked healthy meal. By putting a slow cooker to work, you can prep your meals for the week on Sunday, freeze them until the day you plan to eat them, then pop the ingredients into your slow cooker in the morning. By the time you get home in the evening, you’ll be greeted by the tantalizing scents of a home-cooked meal, no fast food required. It does take time and planning to make slow cooker meals work, but a couple hours of planning on Sunday is better than dealing with the stress of coming up with something fast when your kids are hungry and you’re exhausted at the end of the day.

While practically any slow cooker will do, it’s a good idea to look for versions that have multiple heat settings and at least a four-quart capacity – although the oval six-quart versions are particularly nice when cooking for a family. You can easily find one new for cheaper than $50 – my simple six-quart, two-heat-setting, stainless steel Crock-Pot is available on Amazon for $30, and I love it.

slow cooker

4. Easy-to-Clean Cookware

One big reason people avoid cooking healthy meals at home is that they don’t want to clean up the mess at the end of the meal. If your nonstick cookware has long since lost its nonstick seal, it’s time for an upgrade. High-quality nonstick cookware cuts down on clean-up time, allowing you to skip all the heavy scrubbing. You may even want to look for dishwasher-safe cookware you can simply pop into the dishwasher at the end of a meal.

If you’re concerned about the safety of nonstick Teflon, you can put your fears aside. While the EPA did look into the safety of a chemical in the Teflon material in 1999, it found that the trace amounts used in manufacturing weren’t enough to cause concern. Furthermore, the heat settings used to cook foods in nonstick pots and pans aren’t high enough to release toxic fumes. If you’re still worried, look for Teflon alternatives, such as anodized aluminum.

Much like knives, new cookware isn’t cheap. If you’re concerned about laying out more than $100 for a whole new set, consider your cooking habits. If you always use one or two pans, and the rest of your cookware stays put in the cupboards, just replace the pieces you use. For instance, the top-ranking Consumer Reports Swiss Diamond 10-piece set costs $575, but their seven-inch fry pan costs just $30.

5. BerryBreeze Produce Saver

I admit, I was skeptical when I bought my BerryBreeze Activated Oxygen Fridge Deodorizer. It’s supposed to reduce fridge smells while also extending the life of fresh produce. So I popped it in my fridge to see how it works…and it really works. Boxes of spinach that used to last a week before getting slimy now last two weeks. Carrots and celery that used to sit in the produce drawers uneaten are now staying good long enough to actually eat.

The way BerryBreeze works is that the product releases activated oxygen (O3) into your fridge, inhibiting ethylene gas and neutralizing mold and microbes that trigger decay. Activated oxygen is an unstable gas that only remains unstable for about an hour before the third oxygen molecule breaks away, destroying other polluting molecules by oxidizing them. This eliminates the pollutants, thus extending life of fruits and vegetables within your fridge. Because O3 is only created when UV light or electricity break down an oxygen molecule into two separate atoms which then attach to separate O2 molecules, other simple odor eliminators, such as baking soda, don’t have the same produce-extending effect.

Many people avoid buying fresh produce because they don’t like throwing away wasted food when it starts to go bad, but by getting an extra week out of the produce you do buy, you’re more likely to remember to eat it all.

There are other similar products popping up on the market, but BerryBreeze does have a patented O3 timing release that sets it apart. BerryBreeze and its competition all clock in at about $45 or less, although you do need to add in the cost of batteries as well.

6. Oil Mister

It’s easy to overuse high-calorie, high-fat oils when cooking, and these calories really add up. Control your oil consumption by utilizing an oil mister. Unlike aerosol cans of cooking spray, oil misters use air pressure to turn the oil of your choice into a mist, lightly coating pans, vegetables, meats, or salads with a thin layer of oil. The best part is that you can choose your favorite oil (or mix of oils) to add the perfect flavor to your healthy dish.

Most of the aerosol-free oil misters use a hand-pump system, where you physically pump the cap of the mister prior to use to build air pressure within the bottle. There are many brands on the market, most costing less than $20. My Savora version works well, and it set me back exactly $20 – plus, it comes in eight different colors.

7. Food Scale

Portion control is a big deal when it comes to eating healthy and losing or maintaining weight. The problem is that most people don’t know what a serving size really looks like. Portions served at restaurants and at home have grown over the years, so accurately portioning a reasonable serving is more difficult than ever before. A food scale gives you the opportunity to weigh and measure your ingredients and servings while you cook and before you eat. For instance, you can accurate weigh an ounce of cheese, or you can cut your steaks into reasonable, four-ounce servings before you cook them. You don’t need to use a food scale forever, but it’s a great way to get a handle on how much you’re actually eating.

To learn about proper portions and serving sizes, check out websites such as the American Heart Association or the USDA’s Choose My Plate. These sites have great resources for healthy eating and portion-tracking. For instance, the AHA suggests you should consume less than six ounces of fish or meat per day, with a reasonable serving clocking in at just three ounces – an amount about the size of a computer mouse. That’s a far cry from the half-pound burgers or 10-ounce steaks served up at most restaurants.

You can shop online stores such as Amazon to score a good digital food scale for less than $40. I have a professional-grade EatSmart Digital Scale that offers readings in ounces, grams, kilograms, or pounds that’s available on Amazon for $36.

food scale

8. Portion Controlled Dishware

As portion sizes have ballooned over the years, so have the dishes we eat from. If you regularly use 12-inch plates, it’s time to scale back. Start using your eight-inch salad plates for your meals, or pick up a new set of dishes designed to help give you visual portion cues, such as Slim & Sage’s nine-inch dinnerware – a four-plate set costs $99.

If you do reduce the size of your dishware, just be sure you don’t sabotage your efforts on the back end. Slow down as you eat, and think twice before going back for seconds. It usually takes at least 20 minutes to feel full, so if you scarf down your dinner and continue to eat, you’re likely to overeat.

Final Word

Even with the addition of healthy eating products to your kitchen, the true test of success comes down to your own commitment to a healthier lifestyle. If you don’t buy healthy foods, or if you continue to fall into old patterns of eating out, you’re less likely to see the results you’re looking for.

Set goals and enlist an accountability partner to help keep you on track. And if you make a misstep, don’t beat yourself up. The road to a healthier lifestyle is traveled one step at a time. If you keep moving forward, you’ll eventually get to where you want to be.

What kitchen products do you rely on for healthy eating?

Laura Williams
Laura Williams holds a master's degree in exercise and sport science and enjoys breaking up her day by running her dogs, hitting the gym, and watching TV. Having been in charge of her own finances since the early age of 12, she knows how to save and when to spend, and she loves sharing these tips with others. Laura ditched her career as a fitness center manager for the relative freedom of home-based writing and editing work. She stays busy by working on her own website, GirlsGoneSporty, a website designed to help the sporty woman live the sporty life.

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Comments

  • http://everythingfinanceblog.com Tushar Mathur

    My blender is one of my most used kitchen gadgets. I have a smoothie almost every day. We also use our slow cooker quite often as it’s great for batch cooking.

  • http://www.makemoneyyourway.com/ Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way

    I’m happy that we have an easy-to-cookware, I love cooking and the same time I make sure that all my cookwares are clean. Also sharp knives are the best gadget too.

  • Kevin Vesga

    Thanks for this article. I still live with my parents, but I figure when I move out I can buy these tools for myself.

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