Want a clean kitchen? I don’t mean housekeeping-wise — I mean for eating. If you have these foods on hand you can always whip up a meal that supports your health, weight and performance goals. Clean out your processed foods, instant meals, inflammatory vegetable oils and cheap animal products. Replace with the following:
1) Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This heart-healthy oil is good for light sautéing (although coconut oil, below, is better). It can be emulsified with balsamic or lemon juice for a quick salad dressing. Combine olive oil with chopped garlic and dried oregano as a marinade for fish or chicken.
2) Coconut oil: Anti-microbial and high in lauric acid, a medium-chain triglyceride, coconut oil supports good health
and weight. It has a high smoke point and doesn’t degrade when heated – so it’s ideal for sautéing, stir frying and baking. Add a teaspoon or two to smoothies to up your healthy fat intake and help with satiation.
Nuts and Seeds
1) Seeds: Have a supply of chia, flax (grind before use), sunflower and pumpkin seeds on hand. Store them in the freezer (even though their listed as pantry items) to prevent rancidity. These are a source of protein, calcium (chia), fiber and healthy fats. Sunflower seeds are a source of zinc and pumpkin seeds are a source of magnesium. Use as snacks, toss into smoothies or top salads with them.
2) Nut butter: Organic ground peanut butter with no additives is okay, but experiment with other types of nut butter such as raw almond, walnut or cashew butter. The raw butter hasn’t been subjected to the roasting process that may alter and damage the polyunsaturated fats that nuts contain and that are more vulnerable to oxidation.
3) Nuts: Almost all nuts are good options, but focus specifically on raw almonds, walnuts and macadamias. If you will only eat them roasted, this is better than nothing – but ensure they are dry roasted and don’t contain added sugars and salts. Use them as snacks, to top salads or pureed into smoothies.
1) Beans: Dried beans that you soak yourself are superior, but having a few cans on hand for quick options is helpful. A great source of protein, canned beans make an inexpensive and, in the case of canned, instant meal. Used right out of the can, black beans work well in tacos, quesadillas, in chilis and as a salad topper. Quickly reheat them with all-natural bacon, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, coriander and star anise and serve over rice for a quick and complete dinner. White cannelini beans taste great in stews, and make a quick dinner when combined with broccoli and tomatoes. Toss up a curry with canned chickpeas, garam masala, canned diced tomatoes – serve over rice with mango chutney or whip together quickly into delicious hummus for impromptu guests. When choosing cans, look for organic and BPA-free cans.
2) Canned fish: Sardines, chunk-light tuna and salmon are perfect for salad toppings or to mash into a “fish” burger. Look for troll caught, wild and water-packed – as well as BPA-free cans.
3) Dried Lentils: Unlike other dried beans, lentils don’t require a long soak time. Use them to make soup, a salad with chopped onion, peppers and tomato topped with lemon and olive oil, puree into a dip or simmer in water (about 20 minutes) with celery, garlic and cumin and serve with quinoa for a quick meal.
1) Canned, diced tomatoes: Use to create homemade tomato sauce, chili, stew and braises. Add to soups or roasted vegetables for a quick ragout. Look for organic brands with BPA-free cans.
2) Chicken or vegetable broth: make a quick soup with chicken breasts and frozen vegetables and quinoa. Add to stews, deepen the flavor of sauces, use to finish sautéed greens or poach vegetables. Choose low-sodium and go for the boxes, rather than cans.
3) Vinegar: Balsamic and white wine vinegar may be used for marinades, salad dressings and sauces.
4) Spices: dry oregano, ground cumin, curry powder, turmeric, paprika, black pepper, sea salt and chili powder. You can make dozens of dishes with any combination of these spices. They work well on meats, poultry, fish and vegetables. Most of these spices have anti-inflammatory properties as well. Remember to replace spices every 3 months or so to ensure their freshness.
5) Tamari (wheat-free soy sauce): Use it to make a quick marinade for steaks/chicken with soy and garlic or to season a quick stir fry.
6) Garlic, onions and shallots: These alium vegetables contain phytonutrients that protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. They are also a base for all stews and sauces and add flavor to soups.
1) Quinoa: Quinoa is a pseudo-grain – it’s actually a seed. It offers a lot of protein, fiber, iron, magnesium and the amino acid lysine. Use it like rice, but with a nutritional bonus.
2) Rice: Use in moderation, but it is an easily digested source of carbohydrates. If it encourages you to enjoy curry dishes (full of veggies and anti-inflammatory turmeric), have up to a ½ cup at one meal several times per week.
3) Sweet potatoes or winter squash: Sources of vitamin A and fiber, these starchy vegetables may be made into soup, “fries” or mashes.
1) Vegetables: Although fresh is often better, having frozen vegetables, especially spinach, broccoli and green peas, on hand means you always have a vegetable option for meals. Fresh produce spoils quickly and is sometimes ripened in trucks, rather than on the plant/tree. Toss these veggies into curries, stir fries or steam for a quick side dish. Choose organic.
2) Edamame: An unprocessed soy product that is a source of protein. Go for organic so you don’t get genetically-modified options.
3) Organic chicken, pasture-raised beef or wild-caught salmon: Having protein in the freezer that you can quickly dethaw for a quick dinner is crucial.
4) Frozen fruits – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and tart cherries are ideal. Fresh berries are expensive, highly perishable and seasonal. Frozen berries make a good snack or dessert and can be added to smoothies, hot cereal or organic Greek yogurt.
1) Lemons and limes: These citrus fruits are perfect for salad dressings or to flavor steamed veggies or fish. Squeeze into water to benefit from their detoxifying properties.
2) Butter from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows: A source of CLA, conjugated linoleic acid, a healthy fatty acid that can help prevent heart disease and diabetes or help with the symptoms once these conditions develop. Skip highly-processed butters and butter substitutes.
3) Carrots and celery: Although they are bought fresh, they last forever in the fridge and can be used as a base for stews, soups and fresh juices. You can also eat them raw. Carrots are high in beta carotene while celery, a relative of parsley, has anti-cancer compounds.
4) Eggs: Look for organic, pasture-raised. Eggs are a good source of protein and the yolks contain healthy fats and the anti-oxidant lutein. You can make them into any meal – scramble in coconut oil for breakfast, chop hardboiled ones over salad at lunch or cook with vegetables into a frittata for dinner.
5) Greek Yogurt: Look for organic from grass-fed cows. Choose plain – fruit versions have lots of sugar OR artificial sweeteners. If you get it from grass-fed cows, don’t stress about the fat content. High source of protein and digestion-regulating probiotics. Look for 24-hour cultured whenever possible.
6) Organic milk from pastured/grass-fed cows or raw milk. If you are lactose intolerant or prefer not to drink milk, go for unsweetened almond or coconut milk – watch for carageenan, which can cause problems for some people.
Every week, shop for fresh greens and fruits (like apples, bananas, oranges and melon).
Make this list work for you: Vegans — skip the meats, dairy, fish and eggs and add tempeh. Remember to stay away from the highly processed soy!!!! (TVP, soy milk, Boca Burgers) and factory-created seitan. Paleo-ists — nix the beans, edamame, tamari, dairy and quinoa.
But you know what? Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of letting your eating habits define your identity. Eat and cook freely from this list and good health is yours to have.