Updated: Aug 4
The kitchen is the heart of the home; it's the meeting point in the mornings, where we create meals and fuel our bodies. It can be where you teach your children life skills and create fun activities like baking cookies.
Food should fuel the mind, body and soul, and how you stock your pantry can set you up for success or be a dumpster fire regarding health. I love food shopping and stocking my pantry like a store with everything on display. So I thought I would share my tips on keeping a healthy pantry.
'The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.'- Ann Wigmore.
Life gets busy, and sometimes you need to get creative to whip up something quick and easy with what you have. Setting up your kitchen as a shop, you can always have food in the cupboards and not stress during dinner. I have also added a shopping prep list and a YouTube pantry tour at the end of this blog.
Focus on whole foods compared to highly processed packaged foods high in sodium and added sugars. Whole foods are packed with fibre and nutrients to fuel our bodies and functions.
I love going to bulk food stores, health food grocers, farmers' markets, and supermarkets to get all my goodies.
Bulk food stores are a great place to unpackage 'real food'. It's perfect for reducing your plastic waste too. You can refill old containers you have collected and get what you need.
Health food grocers are great for picking up healthy foods you wouldn't usually find in bulk foods or supermarkets. There is more variety of organic and fair trade items and supplements.
Farmer's Markets are the best place to get seasonal and affordable fresh produce; I will post a blog on stocking your fridge, so keep an eye out.
Supermarkets are a dime a dozen. Whether you have a big giant store in your town or a tiny independent, they stock almost everything you need.
Time to clear out the nasties
If you're serious about your health, it's time to ditch the nasties; I am talking about processed and refined food; there once was a time when I didn't know how to cook and would get everything pre-made. I am discussing pre-made pasta sauces, packet dinners, and microwave dinners.
It's essential to look at the ingredients list on food labels; if there are too many ingredients or you can't understand half the words, it may not be the best fuel food for your body.
Buy your favourite staples in bulk.
It's easy enough for me to show you everything I own in my pantry and tell you the health benefits, but If you are not going to eat it, it's not worth spending your money on it.
Staples are what you reach for in almost every meal. These are your spices, herbs, grains, beans, legumes, and pasta. 90% of the time, I will buy these in bulk and store them in jars. I have an eclectic mix of different jars labelled with the tare weight and the ingredient stored in that jar. I buy what I need to save money.
I will get my canned goods in fours and rotate when I stock up; I'll never run out. These could be beans and legumes and tinned tomatoes. I try and get BPA-free tins and organic when possible. I read a study that many canned goods are lined with BPA (a toxic chemical found in plastic), which can leach into your tinned food and cause health concerns.
The breakdown of my pantry
Whole-grain and nut flours are healthier than plain white flour because white flour has been stript of the bran and germ found in whole grains. It also has lower nutrients and is high in carbohydrates. My favourite healthy flours I keep in my pantry.
- Brown Rice flour
Whole Grains and Pasta
Whole grains are complex carbohydrates with dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals needed to feed our gut microbiome. Dietary fibre controls cholesterol levels and reduces oestrogen absorption and insulin sensitivity.
Oats are great for many recipes and are low GI, which means its slowly digested and metabolised, reducing a spike in blood sugar levels.
If you haven't already added brown rice to your staples, it is healthier than white (like white flour, it is high GI). Brown rice has all the nutrients intact and is on the medium scale GI making it more beneficial.
Pseudo-grains such as quinoa and buckwheat are excellent plant protein and fibre sources.
Spices are a great way to add flavour to a meal and a great way to add extra nutrients to a meal. Find spices that you can use in different cuisines. My favourites are paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and
Teas can be relaxing and a great break from coffee; my favourite is green tea and peppermint. You can also make cold brews to spice up your hydration.
Spreads (nut butter, Vegemite and honey or rice malt syrup).
Oils- oils can get a bad rap, saturated and unsaturated; oils have different smoke points making some healthier than others when cooking. Avocado oil has the highest smoke point, and olive oil and sesame oil have a medium smoke point making these three oils my go-to oils in cooking.
Avocado and olive oil are monounsaturated fats that are liquid at room temperature. Small amounts daily can help with lowering LDL cholesterol.
Snacking Nuts: Nuts can be a great way to add healthy fats and nutrients.
Seeds: Just like nuts, you can get many health benefits. You can add them to mueslis and salads, and baked goods.
Condiments: condiments can be a little touch and go, but if you read the ingredients and assess whether they should be left at the store. I usually will have on hand: Tamari which is a Japanese gluten-free soy sauce, Balsamic vinegar and a sticky balsamic (find the recipe in my ebook Healing Healthy), and rice wine vinegar, which is perfect for Asian dressings and making sticky sushi rice.
Dried Fruits: They should be used in moderation as sugar contents are higher than the fresh variety. They can be a great snack in small portions. You can make your trail mix, add it to baked goods and even salads to add sweetness.
Onions and garlic: I like to store my onions and garlic in a cool/dry place to keep their shelf life. I always have these on hand to add flavour to meals, and they are excellent immunity (keeping colds and flu at bay).
-Tinned legumes and beans: This is probably the easiest way to get plant-based protein through tinned lentils, chickpeas and beans. They are suitable when you are a time-poor but still want to cook from scratch. The manufacturer has done the soaking and blanching for you; you only need to drain, rinse, and cook. There are an array of beans and legumes that are available in tins. They are high in plant protein and rich in dietary fibre. Add them to curries, burger patties, Mexican meals, spaghetti bolognese even sweet treats such as black bean and zucchini brownies found in my ebook Treading Lightly.
-Potatoes: Storing your potatoes in a cool (not cold) and dark area will keep them at their best. As I mentioned, make sure they are separate from onions and Garlic. Potatoes are a great source of fibre and will bulk up a meal. They are cheap and tasty and have a long shelf life. Just make sure when you eat them, they haven't turned green.
- ULT Milks: Since we are a 90% plant-based home, we keep a stockpile of different kinds of milk; I love oat milk for our coffees, Almond or soy for cooking. When looking for plant-based milk, always look at the ingredients. Check for added oils and the type of fortified calcium.
Calcium carbonate is an inexpensive form of calcium commonly used in plant-based milk and is hard to digest in the gut.
Doubles: There are a few doubles I like to keep if they are from a store I don't usually go to or I use this food a lot in my cooking, like maple syrup. I will double up if something goes on sale to save money.
I hope this helped build a healthy pantry that will inspire you to make delicious nutrition-dense meals that keep you from counting calories and helping you lose weight.
If you want to know how to keep your food fresh for longer in your fridge, you can find that blog here and stay tuned for stocking a healthy fridge and prepping for the week.