You may have the best intentions in starting your health and wellness journey, but did you know your kitchen may be holding you back?! That’s right, you can buy the healthiest groceries and make all the best plans, but having salty condiments and sweet treats hiding in your cabinets will make cooking and choosing nutritiously that much harder. Let’s take a peek into that pantry shall we? Those holiday cookies your grandma baked for you? That random truffle oil you bought at a farmers market three years ago? The whole-wheat flour you bought thinking you would use it all the time but opened it once and forgot about? Yeah, I’ve been there. Sadly, all good foods have an expiration date. Check all expiration dates and toss those that are no longer safe to eat. If something is open but not yet expired, open it up and take a look and/or a whiff - you will know if its time to say buh-bye. You have some snacks in there, don’t ya? That’s okay, really. (There’s definitely a box of Mallomars in my cabinet) You just need to be mindful. Maybe they should go on a high shelf that is hard to reach and hard to see? 'Out of sight, out of mind' is a real thing.
Here is my list of pantry essentials that can make or enhance a balanced meal: Oils & Ghee - coconut, olive, canola, avocado... the list goes on. Be sure to have at least one that is appropriate for use in high-heat cooking. Grains – chick pea pasta, whole wheat couscous, and farro are at the top of my list. Ancient grains are going to be HUGE this year, check out what's available at your local grocery store and try something new Dry spices - You don't need salt to add flavor. Unsweetened apple sauce - a great snack when your sweet tooth takes over, also a great baking substitution. Beans - Oh, do I love beans. There are so many ways to work these little nuggets of goodness into every meal. Packed with fiber and protein they are a no brainer. Canned or dry are fine, just be sure to drain and rinse those canned beans before use to reduce the sodium content. Nut Butter – I could live off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if I had to. Let’s not forget the wonderful snack that is almond butter and apple slices that gets me through my afternoon sleepies. Canned/Pouch Tuna – Tuna is an excellent source of protein with no cooking required for a delicious meal! Canned/Boxed Tomato – Once a week there is always something smothered in red, garlicky deliciousness on my plate. My Italian heart wouldn’t have it any other way. Opt for products with no salt or sugar added. Unsalted Bone Broth – Excellent for adding flavor to grains, making soups and sauces. Plus the bone broth has more protein than a traditional broth. Coffee and Tea – When you need a pick me up or just want something other than water.
On to the refrigerator (and freezer)! Again, check those expiration dates and toss the oldies. If you haven't recently, go ahead and wipe those shelves and drawers down. A clean refrigerator is a happy refrigerator. When it comes to grocery shopping and cooking, my style is inspired by the Mediterranean lifestyle - I try to only buy food for a few days, rather than bulk up on items once every few weeks. This way I do not have much waste and I only buy what we are in the mood for. Because of this, my fridge is often fairly empty. Here’s what I always have stocked… Lemons – I use lemon all. Of. The. Time. In my hot water, for dressings, in sauces. It’s an easy way to add flavor to a meal. Plain Greek or Icelandic Yogurt – great for a protein packed breakfast or as a base for a creamy sauce! Baby Spinach – Raw or cooked these greens add protein and can fit into every meal. Free-Range Organic Eggs – Sometimes ya just don’t want to cook a whole meal. Eggs are THE EASIEST. Club soda – for when you want bubbles Pecorino-Romano Cheese – My vice. I put that sh*t on everything. Avocado – Another go to when I don’t want to cook but want to feel full and satisfied. Frozen Shrimp – so quick to defrost, I can add to whatever veggies and whole grains I have on hand for a complete meal. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts or Thighs – There are just so many ways to make chicken! Hummus, celery, carrots – The snack of all snacks. Garlic – Love garlic. Hate Vampires. Frozen Chopped Onions – Because ‘This Is Us’ makes me cry enough. Raspberries – A high fiber fruit I can munch on when a sugar craving comes on.
***A note about condiments. These guys can be sneaky, often packed with added sugar, salt, and fat. Swap plain Greek yogurt for mayo and sour cream. Opt for creamy salad dressings that are yogurt based or make your own vinaigrette with your favorite oil and a vinegar or citrus juice. Keep on hand Dijon and whole grain mustards, low sodium soy sauce (or Tamari if you’re GF), hot sauce, low sodium or unsalted stock, and fresh citrus juices to help flavor your foods. Why are you still reading this? Go clean up your kitchen!!!
A final thought for this week. I am a Registered Dietitian, which is not the same thing as a Nutritionist. You wouldn’t call a CPA just an accountant or a chef just a cook. So please, understand that we RD's are credentialed professionals and have worked very hard to get where we are. I love this video (below), featuring Rachel Robinson RD, a very respected colleague. She really nails the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist, and the rest of the video is extremely educational! *Shout out to the shoprite retail dietitians, they do a phenomenal job*
Thanks for spending some of your precious time with me! More posts coming soon.