You can read all day about healthy food choices and browse recipes online and pin them to your Pinterest board, but if you don’t have healthful ingredients at home on-hand, you will inevitably fail with your efforts. That is why today’s blog post is about teaching you how to shop. It’s much easier to have will power in the supermarket than it is at 8 PM when your brain is screaming for ice cream.
I have put together this handy list of ten primary ingredients that should be part of a well-stocked healthy pantry. If you have these essentials available to you, a good snack/meal is never far away!
- Organic Eggs. Truly organic eggs should vary in size and color. If you have the ability to buy directly from a farmer in your area, I encourage you to go that route. Otherwise, organic eggs from the store will do. These should not be confused with “all-natural”, “Omega-3”, or “cage-free” eggs. All of these adjectives mean very little in regards to the quality of the egg. Eggs are a great source of fast protein. If you don’t like to cook, I recommend boiling them and keeping them in the fridge for breakfasts or snacks. Egg yolks are also high in choline, a nutrient that protects the liver, can help reduce chronic inflammation, and is needed for optimal cognitive function, to name a few.
- Fresh, organic berries. Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries are all considered low-sugar fruits. They are higher in antioxidants than most other fruits, which help to neutralize toxic free radicals in the body. They are lower carb than other fruit. (Which means they are a great fruit for weight loss!) And they’re versatile. Great with breakfast, atop a salad, or for dessert in the evening. For more information on why buying organic is important, see my previous post on organic produce & pesticides.
- Grass-fed meats. These varieties of meat have fewer saturated fats than meat from grain-fed animals. The fat itself isn’t the problem, but rather, the balance of fats. Grass-fed meats are much higher in omega-3 fats—the fats that most of us come up short on. For more info on fats, see my post on sabotaging your health, the low-fat way.
- Leafy greens. These can include any or all of the following: collard greens, Swiss or rainbow chard, kale, spinach, beet greens, and more! Leafy greens are one of the best sources of vitamin K, an essential vitamin for protein modification and blood clotting. Consumption of adequate K can help protect your body against cancer and heart disease. These greens can be eaten in many ways! If you prefer them raw, toss them into a smoothie or make a salad. If you prefer them cooked, you can sauté them in bacon grease or coconut oil with onion and/or garlic. If you’re creative, you can even bake them into chips to snack on, or blend them into homemade popsicles for the kiddos!
- Salmon or sardines. An obvious source of quality protein, as well as a great dose of omega 3’s. Plus, frozen fish quickly thaws in a sink of cool water. This makes it the perfect emergency back-up, for those evenings you get home late and don’t have supper planned. Canned salmon can be made into salmon cakes or tossed in with a salad.
- Butter and/or coconut oil and/or ghee. Basically what you’re looking for here, are temperature-stable fat or fats to cook with. Of these options, butter and coconut oil are the least expensive. For those who are unfamiliar with ghee, it is very similar to butter, but the milk proteins have been removed. For those who are extremely dairy sensitive and cannot tolerate butter, ghee and coconut oil are excellent alternatives. What it really boils down to here is your own personal preference. I keep all three in my kitchen, but if I had to choose just one, coconut oil would be it! Why? It is less expensive, allergen-friendly, and shelf-stable. Butter and ghee require refrigeration for extended use. (Coconut oil is also a fabulous skin moisturizer and a great carrier oil for those of you who use essential oils regularly.)
- Sunflower seed butter. Peanut butter is out of a healthy pantry for a number of reasons. For starters, peanuts are a common allergen/sensitivity. Not to mention that the pretty peanuts are sorted into cocktail mixes, and the moldy peanuts are usually the ones that get turned into peanut butter. That means that many peanut butters are full of aflatoxin, which is a huge cancer promoter. Almond butter is a viable option for snacking, if you’re unable to find sunflower butter in your area, however, it is higher in pro-inflammatory omega 6’s than the sunflower seed butter.
- Raw, local honey. (Keep in mind, I am not talking about the plant-manufactured store-bought honey that comes in a plastic bear.) Honey contains only monosaccharaides, in terms of sugar content. These are easier for the body to absorb and digest than many other sugars. In addition, honey has a higher mineral content than refined sugar. Local honey also has allergy benefits, as it can help expose the body to local pollens in small doses, allowing the body to desensitize. Remember that honey is high-carbohydrate, so while it is okay in moderation, it is not an ideal food for weight loss.
- Cauliflower. Throw away your preconceived notions about this veggie! It is one of the most versatile vegetables out there. If you’ve tried it before and didn’t like it, chances are you prepared it incorrectly. My favorite ways to enjoy cauliflower are: cauliflower rice, mashed cauliflower (Think mashed potatoes.), in soups, roasted and salted, or grilled as cauliflower steaks. It takes on the flavor of whatever oils and spices you season it with, and is an excellent plate-filler without adding a bunch of carbohydrates to your meal.
- Almond and/or coconut flour. The choice is yours here. I keep both on-hand. They do not have to be refrigerated, but to do so does extend their shelf lives. Almond flour is very dense, and does not absorb much moisture. Coconut flour is very high-fiber and will slurp up whatever moisture you’ve got! I coat my chicken or fish in coconut flour sometimes, if I am craving comfort food. But when it comes to baking, I usually use some combination of these two flours to mimic the consistency of regular white flour. These flours are low carbohydrate and high-protein. An almond flour cookie can have as much as 20 grams! The best part? That means that most goodies baked with these flours as a base are okay to eat for breakfast. Yep, you heard me correctly…cookies! For breakfast.
Items not in a healthfully stocked pantry would include almost anything that comes in a bag or box, or is pre-made. This means you, mac ‘n cheese…and you, Trix Cereal!
Well, that pretty much sums it up! You may also want to include any other seasonal fruits and vegetables that are available in your area as well. Variety is the spice of life! Oh, and speaking of spices, those will switch things up a lot too. But with the above ten ingredients, the possibilities are endless.
Yours in health,