In The Great Pantry Revamp: 10 Tips for Rebooting Your Space, we showed you how to reorganize, rethink and reinvigorate your kitchen and pantry in a way that would inspire healthy eating. Now, it’s time to purge ingredients that don’t serve this purpose — and replace them with fresh, vibrant items that stoke your healthy eating habits.
WHAT IS IN A GREAT HEALTHY PANTRY?
A great place to start is asking yourself what foods excite you and make you feel energized, vibrant and unstoppable when you eat them. Foods that make your mind feel clear and your body feel like a well-oiled machine are the ingredients you want in your healthy kitchen.
That said, it’s likely the shelf of old condiments doesn’t make you feel “alive.” Probably, there’s also not a whole lot of vibrancy in the microwave meals lurking deep in the freezer or the fluorescent box of crackers in the cabinets. Ditch this stuff.
Instead, fill your refrigerator and pantry (and therefore your day-to-day life) with ingredients that make you want to do something healthy for yourself every morning.
1. BOXED CEREALS
2. BAGGED SNACKS
3. FROZEN MEALS
4. DESSERTS IN PACKAGES
5. BOTTLES CONDIMENTS
Forget about these. Period. These foods typically are as far from “whole foods” as you can get. Even though they may be convenient, they fuel bad habits of reaching for un-fresh items (that are chock full of preservatives) whenever hunger hits.
RE-DRESS YOUR MEALS WITH THESE SIX CONDIMENTS
Let’s start with the refrigerator shelf of half-used condiments and bottles of oils, vinegars or anything else on the pantry shelves. You only need a few flavor agents to make your food taste amazing (and ketchup isn’t one of them). Get these six condiments into your kitchen, then put them on your food. Healthy meals will start rolling out in no time:
1. BRAGG LIQUID AMINOS OR TAMARI SAUCE: Great as a dressing on grains, salads and in basically everything where you want a little salty umami flavor.
2. GREAT OLIVE OIL: Always. It’s great to finish off any meal and all you really need for cooking vegetables.
3. LEMONS: Keep fresh ones on hand and squeeze over … basically everything. Use lemon juice to make salad dressing or add tart flavor to just about any meal.
4. RICE VINEGAR: This is a great alternative for when you don’t have lemon juice to use as an acid, for salad dressings and adding a little tart flavor elsewhere.
5. MISO: This healthy fermented soy paste is responsible for most of the delicious umami flavors you crave in Asian cuisines. Just use a little olive oil, lemon juice or water to mix it up, and you’ll have depth of flavor in no time.
6. TAHINI: A great protein- and flavor-rich base for salad dressing, to spread on toast, drizzle on grain bowls or anywhere else where you want added flavor without empty calories.
FRESHEN UP WITH THESE FIVE SUPERFOODS
You don’t need many ingredients to make healthy meals fast and having these five ingredients around helps keep your fridge healthfully stocked. That said, absolutely bolster these ingredients with others you find in recipes that inspire you, and rework the list as you determine what ingredients you love to cook and eat with the time you have.
1. AVOCADOS: A great source of healthy fats that feed the brain, nervous system and promote hormone production, avocados are versatile, crowd-pleasing and delicious. Add them to smoothies, salads, toasts or eat them on their own with a drizzle of olive oil.
2. A BIG BUNCH OF GREENS: Keep at least a bunch or two of nutrient- and mineral-rich deep leafy greens and herbs washed and ready to use at all times. They’re great as a base for sauces, to make big salads and to pile atop grain bowls or toasts.
3. FERMENTED VEGETABLES: These flavorful, dynamic veggies — kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, to name a few — are some of the best foods you can eat to supply your system with enzymes and probiotics that build immunity, boost digestion and nutrient absorption and help create a glowing body inside and out.
4. RAW NUTS AND SEEDS: Loaded with healthy fats and minerals, raw nuts and seeds are great for the brain, skin and bones. Keep them on hand to munch as a snack, toss on salads and bowls or blend and use as a substitute for nearly any dairy product (with a little work) in sauces and condiments (like a magic green pesto and homemade nut butter)
5. YOGURT OR KEFIR: Terrific sources of probiotics and minerals, these healthful dairy ingredients can be used in lieu of sour cream, fatty cheeses or cream in most recipes.
BULK UP WITH THESE FIVE FINDS
The bulk section is a great place to find inexpensive, unpackaged, healthy ingredients to keep on hand so flavorful meals are always at the ready:
1. QUICK OATS: An easy, fiber-filled replacement for boxed cereals, these grains cook quickly (or in a rice cooker overnight!) You can also bake them into a healthy granola, and even can take leftovers and turn them into a flavorful savory bowl for dinner.
2. QUINOA: Protein rich and versatile, quinoa is another great grain. It cooks quickly and can be used anywhere you might serve rice, pastas or bread.
3. DRIED BEANS: “Going veg” a few nights a week may be one of your healthy eating goals, and beans are great to aid that charge. Dried beans typically just need a quick soak before they can be used, they’re inexpensive as a protein source and typically cook quickly.
4. SPICES: Enliven your meals with interesting spices and flavors. Simple recipes can transform into whole new meals when you add a dash of harissa, a sprinkle of turmeric or a few flecks of sea salt. Pick ingredients that sound interesting to your palate and experiment to find flavors you crave.
5. DRIED FRUITS: Many dried fruits have added sugar, so scan the bulk aisle for unsweetened versions that will give your meals a little kiss of sweetness without the overload. Dried blueberries, figs, dates and apricots are all great options for snacking and boosting flavors in meals, and for always having a healthy option on hand even when the fridge is far away.
FILL IN WITH FRESH VEGETABLES
Now that your pantry is filled with solid staples, fill in the blank spots with flavorful in-season vegetables. Shop for color and see how many different hues you can squeeze into your cart: big leafy greens, vibrant orange and yellow citrus fruits, deep purple cabbages and beets, bright red apples and grounding potatoes and squashes. Then pick some recipes (or just start cooking) and you’re off to the healthy eating habit races!
Photo Credit: Kevin Scott Bachelor