How to stock your pantry for a healthy kitchen
Having a healthily stocked pantry will help you save time and money. Plus, it will make it easier for you to prepare delicious meals that are healthy and nutritious. Here are our top 10 picks.
1. Apple cider vinegar
Inexpensive and easy to use, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar has several health benefits — for instance, it is famous for improving digestion and boosting energy levels and appears to have positive effects on blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity. Plus cider vinegar is rich in minerals like potassium and phosphorus. This vinegar can be used as a salad dressing or in recipes calling for buttermilk — simply stir a teaspoon of cider vinegar in a cup of milk.
Rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, these nutrient powerhouses are affordable and keep forever in the pantry. You can use red, black, white, navy, pinto or garbanzo beans in chili, tacos, salads, pasta dishes and burritos. And if you like home-made hummus, don’t forget your chickpeas. Canned beans may be more practical but dried beans are healthier, cheaper, tastier and save space. Why healthier? Because they don’t come in cans that are lined with a Bisphenol-A resin (BPA), a synthetic chemical that may leach in canned foods.
3. Condiments and flavorings
Bouillon cube — To add flavour to your grains, toss in a cube while they’re cooking or use it as a soup starter; this will prevent you from adding too much salt or butter to your dish. Make sure to get low-salt ones to enjoy the bouillon without the additional sodium.
Sauces and dips — Get some low-sodium oyster sauce, soy sauce and ketchup.
Jarred items —Salsa, pesto, tahini, Dijon mustard, and jarred vegetables like artichoke hearts, pickles, pitted green and black olives or pimiento olives, capers.
Flavorings — Vanilla essence and unsweetened cocoa powder.
4. Healthy oils
You can buy any oils you like but the top two include the heart healthy extra-virgin olive oil for salad and the antioxidant-rich virgin coconut oil for cooking, well, anything and everything — from eggs to meat. And if you’re into Chinese dishes, buy a little bottle of sesame oil — it really gives a distinct flavor to chop sueys, chow mein and sesame chicken. Do you like infused oils? Make your own using grape seed oil spiked with any herb or spice you fancy.
5. Herbs and spices
You can buy the basics fresh — thyme, parsley, basil and cilantro — they taste way better but they might not stay for more than a week. Or you can get their dried version along with oregano, rosemary, sage, cumin, ground ginger and garlic. But this really depends on the type of cuisine you fancy. If you’re trying to decrease your salt intake, include paprika on your list and cinnamon is a great option if you want to bring out the natural sweetness of foods.
6. Nuts and nut butters
Rich in the antioxidant vitamin E and in heart healthy monounsaturated fats, nuts make a perfect snack and enliven a salad. Just make sure to purchase your favorite nuts raw in order to keep salt and fat content in check. Nut butters make delicious and easy sandwiches and you can add them to smoothies for a nice creamy taste. Buy 100% nut butter, without salt, sugar, or extra oils and ingredients that you can’t pronounce — make sure that the ingredient list does not include hydrogenated oil; you want a trans-fat free nut butter.
7. Rolled oats
Rich in soluble fiber, rolled oats also come with some protein to help keep you satisfied. A warm bowl of oatmeal is a great way to start your day but you can also add rolled oats to smoothies and to your pancake or muffin batter.
Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and flaxseed are fabulous sources of fiber, heart-healthy fats, phytochemicals and even contain a little bit of protein. Add these to your trail mix for a quick snack or to boost the nutritional content of your salads, smoothies, cereals and desserts.
9. Tomatoes and tomato sauce
Tomatoes not only add a nice twist to many recipes; they also contain lycopene, an antioxidant shown to have cardio-protective properties and to reduce risks of certain types of cancer. You can buy them fresh and keep in the freezer or you can buy them in jars. Studies show that lycopene in cooked, or processed, tomatoes is more easily absorbed by the body. Plus, the darkened glass actually protects the tomatoes from photo-oxidation, which can impair nutrients and flavor. What about canned tomatoes you might wonder? Well, tomato-based products are quite acidic and leach more BPA from the cans’ linings.
10. Whole grains
This includes amaranth, barley, bulgur, polenta, quinoa and wild or brown rice. If you’re buying cereals, leave out the ones that list sugar among their first ingredients and go for those that have ‘‘whole grain’’ as the first ingredient. You can also get whole-wheat muffins and tortillas to change the routine from time to time.