When the only options in your cupboards are healthy ones, it makes it that much easier to make a nutritious meal or snack. Once you’re well stocked with the basic items for a health-happy, functional pantry, putting meals together with one or two additions becomes that much easier.
I could go on for some time, giving my favourite healthy pantry choices — but these ten items are a great way to get started:
1. Olive oil: Loaded with heart-healthy fat from oleic acid to omega 9s. Studies have shown that just one tablespoon a day of olive oil can actually help you to lose weight and boost metabolism. It is your most basic and classic oil, and can be used right out of the bottle on steamed green veggies or to make a salad dressing.
2. Maple syrup: It’s local, it’s Canadian and it’s delicious. If you are going to sweeten anything, use a pure source like maple syrup. It can replace white sugar cup for cup in muffins, pies and cakes. You can use it for sauces, salad dressing and of course, pancakes.
3. Rolled oats: High in fibre and complex carbohydrates, this grain can lower cholesterol levels and sustain your energy for hours. It is great for granola and morning porridge.
4. Sea salt: This is the only salt you should have in your cupboard. Table salt is processed, refined and bleached. Sea salt contains trace minerals and you need less of it to get the right flavour. It brings life to the taste of your food.
5. Almonds: These are the most balanced and nourishing nut. Almonds are excellent for heart health and blood sugar regulation, and they strengthen your muscles and bones. They also smooth your skin, as they are loaded with vitamin E. Enjoy them raw for a snack in a trail mix or add them to salad, desserts and grain recipes for an extra crunch.
6. Apple cider vinegar: A delicious vinegar that helps to boost metabolism, apple cider vinegar is also great for cleansing. Mix it up with olive oil for a simple dressing. You can even combine it with some water to disinfect your counter tops and give them a shine!
7. Quinoa: This is actually a seed, not a grain. Quinoa is a gluten-free complete protein and helps to lower blood pressure. It stabilizes blood sugar levels and provides long lasting energy and nourishment. Make it into a salad or warm side dish or breakfast cereal.
8. Cinnamon: Spicy, sweet and warming, cinnamon can improve just about any recipe. Cinnamon has blood-sugar stabilizing properties and works to nourish many organs in the body. Use it in oatmeal, in a smoothie, in a muffin or in cake batter, or add it to sweet potatoes and squash before they go in the oven.
9. Tamari: This condiment is a natural version of soy sauce. Tamari is naturally fermented, wheat-free and adds extra flavour to a variety of recipes. The benefit is that you actually need less because it is so pure. It’s great for sauces and marinades, or as a dip for your brown rice sushi.
10. Dried beans: Whether it’s lentils, chickpeas, black beans or kidney beans, it is essential to have some legumes on hand. These can provide the base or accent to any meal or side dish, adding protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates. Once you’ve made home-cooked beans, you’ll never want to go back to canned!
Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.