10 Food Staples for a Healthy Pantry

At our Green Living workshop  this week, we were asked:

When wanting to eat healthily, what are the staples that go into a well-stocked pantry?

A great question! So I raided my pantry and pulled everything out!

How do you incorporate healthy eating into your home? Have on hand a few simple ingredients that make any meal healthier for you and your family!

Here, in no particular order, are my top 10:

1. A good oil.  Depending on the job at hand, you want to use the right one! Coconut oil is probably the best for cooking – wether refined or unrefined, it doesn’t go rancid like other oils and it can withstand high heats without breaking down or introducing toxins. Olive oil is another top choice. If you’re cooking – use a refined oil. Unrefined oil should only be eaten raw, and contains the most nutrition. If you’re baking and looking for a neutral flavor – try sunflower, which is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.

2. Flavored Vinegar. You can make any salad taste amazing with a delicious vinegar.  There’s no need for fussy dressing, just vinegar and olive oil. My 4 year old eats spinach salad because of our blackcurrant vinegar! (Singapore: I bought it here) Watch out for artificial flavours and colors – get the natural stuff!

3. Unrefined Sweetners. Unrefined sugar and raw honey are staples here, but I also love organic maple syrup and molasses ! Remember, no matter what the sugar, moderation is key! The World Health Organization suggests that you keep your daily added-sugar intake to no more 7 teaspoons. So a small bottle of Coke would max you out!

4. Salt. Too much salt is definitely a bad thing. Again, sea salt and rock salt are not better for your health – since too much of either is bad.  But I recently discovered kosher salt, and because it is so rich in flavor, you need very little! I also like my chunk of rock salt – a bit of a novelty, it comes with a mini grater, and almost mists out salt – you can get away with a tiny amount.

5. Brown rice. Brown rice, red rice, even black rice! They still preserve all of the nutrients stripped from refined white rice… fiber, proteins, thiamine, calcium, magnesium and potassium!

6. Whole grains are essential to good health! Linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and other health problems, we often don’t get enough. Find new ways to add whole grains into your meals – cut the amount of white flour in a recipe with whole grain flour. Use wheat bran or flaxseed meal and sprinkle it into any dish: cereals, pancakes, salads, rice, muffins, breads or even smoothies!

7. Nuts and seeds.  Different seeds can provide different benefits. Antioxidants which protect the heart, boost brainpower and more! Almonds are high in fiber and also vitamin E – great for skin and hair. One brazil nut a day delivers selenium, which may help prevent certain cancers. Sesame seeds help to clean out your digestive system… it’s amazing when you start reading about the benefits! I add them into my salads, and sprinkle them into my cereal. I like to have an assortment to play with!

8. Dark Chocolate and Cacao Nibs. Great to satisfy that craving for something sweet! Cacao beans are packed with antioxidants and found to reduce the risk of common killer diseases. A good dark chocolate with over 70% cacao is a fantastic treat!

9. Popcorn is a whole grain. A bag of kernels is great for when you get a craving for a crunchy snack! Experiment with flavors and toppings – parmesan popcorn could probably the best thing in the world.

10. Frozen fruit, vegetables and stock. A well stocked freezer will save you when you need it most! I can whip up a smoothie, add veg to any dish and create a soup on the go! Freeze things in small portions (try ice-cube trays) so that you don’t have to defrost more than you need.

That’s my pantry… ok, let’s be honest, what I didn’t show you was the collection of cheese in my fridge. We all have that one guilty pleasure, but food is to be enjoyed! Healthy eating is not about restrictions and guilt, it’s about making conscious choices – choosing beautiful and well-made ingredients, creating thoughtful meals and taking the time out to really savour and enjoy your food.

Now, what’s in your pantry?

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