Haile Thomas is an 18-year-old health activist, vegan food & lifestyle influencer, and the founder/CEO of the nonprofit HAPPY (aka, Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth). She opened up her fridge to us, to share what her staples are and where she gets her cooking inspiration.
The fridge and pantry are like the soul of a foodie — all of the essential elements to creating delicious and nourishing food experiences start here. I’ve been deeply rooted in food and cooking within my family since I can remember. Crafting a beautiful and versatile fridge that conjures happiness and inspiration has been important from day one, sparking my passion for creating vibrant and tasty dishes that I have the joy of sharing on Instagram!
I’m always asked what I use to make a plant-based diet both flavorful AND healthful (aka, no rabbit food), and I believe the key is all about fridge versatility with simple but powerful ingredients — whether its spicy miso sriracha, tahini or plenty of fresh herbs!
When you open my fridge, the first thing you’ll notice is a lot of color — TONS of veggies of all kinds layered with new products I’ve found, various plant proteins, immunity-boosting tonics, and plenty of oat milk! It’s fun and fresh, and I think that’s a pretty good representation of what we should always strive to bring more of into our lives.
Here are some of my essentials/favorites to keep in stock:
1. All the Greens
My fridge is always filled with a variety of greens – arugula, spinach, kale, various types of lettuce — and it makes me so happy! These greens act as the foundation to my nourish bowls, and can be simply dressed up (a quick lemon-garlic vinaigrette ) or completely glammed up (I’m talking smoky turmeric-tahini dressing). I love having them on hand because not only are they loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties but also they can be flavored and transformed super easily!
I fell in love with its deep nutty, roasted sesame flavor and creaminess last year and haven’t had a day without it stocked in the fridge since. The funny thing about tahini is that it tastes pretty awful on its own. Super strong and kind of bitter…with a small glimmer of potential. But when it comes together with ingredients like maple syrup or olive oil and garlic, tahini becomes something heavenly. It elevates any dressing, sauce, hummus or dip and can be enjoyed as sweet or savory. And there’s nothing better than having a kitchen chameleon on hand.
I believe herbs are like the cherry on top that makes a milkshake even sweeter! They’re a great tool for layering flavor, adding a wonderful vibrancy and pop to literally everything. My favorites are definitely mint, parsley, basil and cilantro. You honestly can’t go wrong with having any of these in the fridge.
4. Prepped Grains or Proteins
I always believe your fridge should work in your favor. Having prepped ingredients available helps tremendously with keeping the cooking experience as simple as possible and allowing versatility to be an easy choice. So I like having cooked brown rice, quinoa, millet and marinated tempeh or tofu ready for a quick transformation!
5. Sauce it Up
For the days I may be a little uninspired or on a time crunch, I always look to the sauces and pastes. Green curry, miso, Jamaican jerk, sriracha or Scotch bonnet sauce, mustard, tandoori paste. All are fantastic to have around! They instantly allow me to tap into different cuisines and flavor profiles — elevating any veggies I have at the moment (maple- and miso-roasted sweet potatoes, anyone??).
These are just a few from a list of favorites. I hope this can be a helpful guide. Just remember, building a reliable, fun and colorful fridge is a personal art. It takes lots of testing, tasting and experimenting to fully identify what makes your kitchen experience just right. But it’s 100% worth it and can be a true adventure! And if you want to keep things exciting and continue to build your kitchen identity, head to the store and seek out something new. It might be a cool sauce or paste or a new plant-based product that adds or reignites some inspiration in your kitchen.
And of course, never forget your fruits and veggies. These are the canvases that you will paint with flavor and love, and eat with joy and satisfaction. Your nourishers are always most important.