It’s a new year. Most of us are “starting fresh” and have made some commitments to be a healthier version of ourselves by moving more and eating better. In order to attain our goals, we need some things in place to make it easier for us to be healthy.
I wanted to show you 9 items your pantry needs that I always have on hand so that I can easily eat real food (and make it taste good). I want to help you succeed at becoming a real food eater so that you will feel better. IF you want to survive eating real food, you must have these basic staples in your pantry.
Olive oil is a must. I use olive oil EVERY SINGLE DAY. I saute my vegetables with it, I use it to season my chicken, and I use it for salad dressing. Olive oil has great benefits. It is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (big word). Translation: good fats. Your body needs these. These fats may help to lower your risk of heart disease and help to lower your total cholesterol. WARNING: BUY GOOD QUALITY! There are many olive oil brands out there that mix other, less-healthy potentially damaging oils in with the olive oil. Click here to see a list of good quality brands you can buy at most grocery stores. You want to look for Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. Do not get the kind that just says “Olive Oil” and is a really light color.
Ghee (clarified butter)
Ghee is a great fat to cook with if you get tired of olive oil, and you want the buttery taste. Ghee is clarified butter and has a higher fat content than regular butter (which is not a bad thing!!). To be honest, I use ghee to make homemade popcorn. I buy popcorn kernels, put some ghee and olive oil in a pan, pop it and it’s a VERY TASTY snack that is pretty healthy! Definitely not as good as fruits and vegetables (but better than microwave popcorn), but hey- gotta live a little. I buy the Trader Joe’s brand because it’s the cheapest and good quality. I stock up each time I go!
Italian Seasoning or Garlic/Herb Seasoning
This really speaks for itself but this is my favorite go-to seasoning. Find a seasoning that you love to cook with and always have it on hand so that you can whip something up really quick without having to look at a recipe. I use this for all veggies and meat that I make. Therefore, when I forget to look up a recipe for a certain night, I can just take out my seasoning and put it on my chicken/veggies and make a tasty meal.
Note: Again, always check ingredients. There are a lot of bad brands out there that add fillers to their spices. Make sure you get a good brand and check the ingredients. You only want whole spices. You do not want anything added like “citric acid” or something that says “added for freshness”. I always get the 365 brand at Whole Foods because that is where I shop and it is around $2.99-$4.99 which is how much spices are everywhere else!
I really recommend to use fresh garlic. I know it is a pain, but if you want your vegetables to taste good, then you do not want to buy pre-minced garlic. It does not bring out the same flavor as fresh garlic and has a lot of things added to it to preserve it. I buy bulbs of garlic and depending on how much I use garlic that week, 1 bulb usually gets me through the whole week. So it’s very affordable. I have the pampered chef garlic press and I love it!! Definitely worth the money.
Sometimes I get tired of plain ole veggies and want something different. Also, when I crave pasta this is a great go-to. The purpose of this gadget is to spiralize your veggies so that they look like noodles. It is awesome. I have found that zucchini works best because they are softer. Sweet potatoes also work but aren’t as easy because they are not as soft. I create these noodles and put some meat with it, spices, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, etc and it is delicious! I have the Paderno brand*, but brand doesn’t really matter as long as it’s a good quality!
Nuts (almonds, cashews)
Nuts are a great source of protein, unsaturated fat, fiber, and vitamin E. Since they are packed full of fiber, protein, and fat you will feel full longer than snacking on something like crackers or a piece of toast. 23 whole almonds (1 oz) is about 162 calories and has 6 grams of protein. That is a great snack! It is great to have these on hand for when you are on the go and need something quick! I like to pair my nuts with a piece of fruit like a banana or an apple for a mid-morning snack before I workout at lunch. (WARNING: MAKE SURE YOU READ THE INGREDIENT LIST!! It could have added oils you DO NOT want. Your ingredients should only have almonds, and maybe salt if you prefer that.) Great options for nuts to have are almonds, cashews, macadamia, walnuts and pecans.
Note: There are some cautions with nuts as they are high in phytic acid which decreases absorption of important minerals like iron and zinc because it binds to them during digestion. If you want to read more about that, Chris Kresser has a great article on it. He recommends to buy raw nuts, soak them overnight, and dry them out in a low temperature oven before consumption. It helps to get rid of the phytic acid and you are able to absorb the minerals you couldn’t before. However, I know most people won’t do this. If you consume nuts in a moderate fashion, you should be fine. If you consume nuts all day long, than you may want to think about soaking them.
Almond butter is a great alternative to peanut butter. Some people prefer the taste of peanut butter over almond butter (me included), however it is not near as healthy. There are reasons to minimize your peanuts/peanut butter/peanut oil intake but I don’t want to go to great lengths explaining that here. Chris Kresser does a great job explaining that here on his website. I think we eat more than we should in the standard American diet and our balance of peanuts to other foods if a bit off. So maybe using almond butter sometimes (or completely) instead of peanut butter will be beneficial to your health.
Now, obviously making your own almond butter is the best. But not everybody has the tools to do this or the time to commit to this. If you want to dive into this, soaking almonds overnight, drying them in the oven at a low temperature and then using your food processor to grind them up is the best. But if you don’t, then you can buy them at the store making sure the ingredient list is only almonds and maybe salt. You just won’t be getting as many nutrients from that.
We have a Vitamix * but you can really get any blender that is of good quality. We make smoothies a lot because it is a great breakfast and snack option. Some people don’t like smoothies but you can also use a Vitamix to make soup!
Here is my go-to smoothie recipe!
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or more if desired)
1 cup mixed frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries)
1 scoop of protein powder (if desired)*
1 tablespoon almond butter
*Be very cautious of protein powders you buy. I really don’t use them, but have recently found one that I like and am okay with. I only use this if I am super busy and needing to eat a fast meal with some protein. This specific protein is plant based and has no added artificial ingredients. It also has no added sugar.
WE USE THIS LIKE EVERY NIGHT! A grill pan is a pan that has grill lines that you can use on the stove and it makes your meat taste so good. I am weird and I don’t like my chicken to be too soft, and I like it to have some grill marks so that it tastes like it’s grilled. I also think it adds some flavor! Ours is a Calphalon but any brand works. Click here* to see which one we have.
Those are my 9 Pantry Staples for 2017! I hope you enjoyed! Let me know if you have any questions!
*denotes affiliate link