As you make each small step towards the healthier, happier version of you, you will find gradually your pantry undergoes a transformation of its own. Foods that were once staples (gluten *cough*) vanish and are replaced with new (and hard to pronounce) alternatives and super foods. Your fridge tends to resemble more of a vegetable garden, or you may even actually have one in the backyard. Your medicine cupboard ends up becoming a cupboard of supplements, vitamins and herbal remedies. In fact not much really stays the same. For some people, they like to completely makeover their pantry in one fowl swoop, throwing out everything that is tempting or unkind to your body and replacing it with the healthy foods, for others it is a process of evolution. So, if you feel like giving your pantry a makeover, here is my advice on what to include.
All vegetables are good (with the exception of potato, which is high in carbohydrates and starch), so stock up on them, especially the leafy green varieties. Some essential vegetables include avocados, spinach, kale, beetroots, broccoli and cauliflower, celery, cucumber and zucchini. To store greens so they won’t wilt as quickly, keep a few large vases on the bench and wash and place the greens in the vases like flowers. This will keep them fresher and is great for stopping celery from going limp. And ALWAYS, whenever possible, choose organic.
Fruits are delicious, full of vitamins and minerals and an easy snack to grab when you are in a hurry, but they do all contain fructose, so be wary not to eat too much. Choose low sugar fruits like melons and berries, which are the antioxidant, kings of the fruits. Similarly, choose organic wherever possible. Also, keep plenty of lemons and green apples on hand for adding to vegetable juices, and for lemon tonic drinks each morning. Also, having a store of frozen bananas in your freezer is good for adding to smoothies, making raw ice cream and cakes. With regard to dried fruit, in moderation because the fructose is extra concentrated. Dates are often used to sweeten raw food naturally, which is fine, but you can certainly have too much dried fruit. Be careful of dried fruit, which is sweetened using sugar or dried using polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
Nuts, Seeds, Legumes and Grains
Nuts and seeds are a fantastic addition to any pantry, including almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, macadamias, brazil nuts, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds (super foods), linseeds, flaxseeds and more. They are extremely high in good fats, but always choose raw and organic, and soak or activate them before eating (see my post on activating nuts and seeds here.) As for legumes and grains, they are also an important part of a balanced diet. Legumes are high in fibre, which aids digestion, as well as plant-based protein. Enjoy chickpeas, kidney beans, adzuki beans and lentils, among others. Again, choose organic, soak before consumption and avoid canned legumes containing BPAs if possible. Some fantastic gluten free grains include brown or black rice, quinoa, buckwheat and millet, all of which are quite straightforward substitutes for white rice, pasta and breakfast cereals or porridge.
Meat & Fish
Any meat that you buy should be free-range, grass fed, humane and organic to ensure that the animal didn’t suffer under atrocious conditions and also because the meat is better for us. Try to avoid cured meats and bacon as it has added and unhealthy chemicals. Fish should be wild caught (meaning from the sea), because farmed fish are not as healthy.
The world of gluten free, sugar free baking is quite amazing, but some essential ingredients include nut meals, a gluten free flour mix, coconut flour, psyllium husks, shredded coconut (unsweetened), raw honey, stevia granules and liquid stevia as a sweetener. Some good quality dark chocolate, raw cacao chocolate or carob should be included in your pantry, for recipes that call for chocolate.
Herbs & Spices
Herbs and spices provide a wealth of medicinal properties and should not be under appreciated; they do a lot more than just jazz up a meal. Cinnamon is great for blood sugar, turmeric is anti-inflammatory, ginger is a good cleanser and fights off colds, parsley is a detoxifier, as is coriander, chilli is good for metabolism, the list goes on. Discover the world of herbs and spices and enjoy them with every meal.
Oils & Condiments
I would have to say the staple oil in a healthy kitchen is coconut oil. It contains important fatty acids and healthy fats and importantly it has a high smoke point, meaning it can be used for cooking without turning into a carcinogen. It is also great in smoothies and to make raw foods. It can be used as a dairy substitute in baking or to make your own homemade chocolate. Olive oil is also great and is a powerful longevity food, but is best enjoying drizzled raw on salads or other meals. Garlic is a wonderful condiment as it possesses powerful antibacterial properties and has been linked to longevity, just don’t mind the garlic breath afterwards!
With regard to dairy, it is a matter of choosing the best quality products. Choose organic butter and cheese, natural fermented yogurt, full cream, hormone free and antibiotic free milk or nut milk alternatives (you can even make your own, see this post). Coconut milk and cream is also a great alternative to use in cooking and is full of good fats.
My absolute favourites are raw cacao (nibs, beans or powder), goji berries (the ultimate super food snack) and raw honey, which despite being high in fructose is full of health, longevity and immune boosting properties. Other fabulous super foods include bee pollen, coconut oil, chlorella, blue-green algae, maca powder, spirulina and more. Coconut oil is a great all over body oil, for moisturising, for hair, nails, lips and to eat. To truly discover the world of super foods, check out David Wolfe’s book Super foods.
Water, should of course be your staple liquid everyday. But you can also enjoy a range of herbal and green teas, organic where possible.
What’s in your pantry? Have you ever completed a pantry makeover?
Keep healthy, Erica xx