Posts Tagged ‘pantry essentials’

Here is part two of my pantry basics post….and I have compiled the whole thing together as a handy checklist you can take to the grocery store!

Herbs & Spices:

Learning to use fresh and/or dried spices can enhance flavor and your capacity for cooking immensily.  Start with a few and then build from there.  This list is not extensive but a place to strat A note on fresh vs dried, fresh counts in your goal to get more leafy greens in your diet and nothing is better than a handful of fresh herbs but in a pinch dry is flavorful, can displace salt and often chock full of antioxidants. Here are some herbs to start with along with their health benefits:
Basil-aid digestion & flatulence (mint family), holy basil is anti-cancer
Bay leaf
Black pepper
Cinnamon– antioxidant, anti-inflammatory,
Cayenne/Red Pepper– anti- inflammatory, increase satiety and boost metabolism
Garlic powder– helps with high cholesterol, heart disease, and high blood pressure since anticlotting affect. TIP: Let sit for 10 min post chopping  so that the phytochemicals have time to activate.
Ginger powder– anti-inflammatory, decrease nausea (try candied ginger on your kids next car trip), in terms of amounts 1” squared fresh root is often used in trials.
Italian seasoning– has Oregano, which is top antioxidant
Mint– helps with indigestion
Mustard seeds– anticancer,anti-inflammatory
Rosemary– high in flavanoids (antioxidant)- anti-cancer-
Sage/Thyme also high in flavanoids.
Sea salt– less sodium per tsp than coarse salt, contain trace minerals eg iodine, magnesium, potassium since straight from the sea and minimally processed.
Vanilla extract- anti-oxidant, helps with digestion and said to be an aphrodisiac (pods vs extract) go natural vs artificial flavoring.

Nuts & Seeds:

One of my favorite food groups- my pantry always has jars of various nuts and seeds to nibble on or throw in sweet or savory dishes.  Nuts contain heart healthy fats but are still high in calories and fat, so if you looking to lose weight be mindful of your portion size (eg. 12-24 almonds). Nuts and seeds are a great source of FIBER and protein and great portable snack.

Almonds– tree nut highest in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin
Cashews– lower fat nut, copper, magnesium, antioxidant
Flaxseed– great source of Omega 3,contains soluble fiber which is great to keep things moooving.
Pecans & Walnuts– anti-inflammatory, good for heart health, bone health
Pumpkin seeds– Omega 3, mild flavor
Sunflower & Sesame seeds– vitamin E, and phytochemicals

Try making your own trail mix or getting creative by adding seeds to stir-fries and/or nuts to grain dishes.

Dried Fruit:

Moderation is key here (just like with nuts) but dried fruit can be a great way to get your 2 cups of fruit a day (1/2 C dried= 1 C fresh). Like fresh fruit, contains lots of fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium and folate BUT more calories per serving than fresh, and some dried fruits are preserved with sulfite, which can trigger allergic reactions in some people. TJ’s sells un-sulfored dried fruit.  Dried fruit can help with sweet tooth as well and makes a great dessert.
Dried cranberries
Dried apricots

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Taught a great class at 18 Reasons on Tuesday night and thought I would share some basics we covered in our “New Pantry, New Year” class. At the end of the class we made the Asian Salmon Salad and for vegetarians we substituted Black Soy Beans.  It seemed to be a hit!

It’s a lot of material so I will post this in two parts with part two next week.

Why is stocking a pantry with healthy choices important? Other than being prepared for an earthquake (I live in San Francisco), if you have healthy things handy it is easier to whip up healthy meals rather than speed dial take-out.  Healthy items displace unhealthy highly processed “junk” food, and if the junk food is not there you can’t be tempted and eat.

I broke down the pantry into 6 sections…here are the first three ( herbs & spices, nuts & seeds and dried fruit next week)

1) Whole Grains & Legumes: Grains and legumes have been at the center of most civilizations for thousansd of years. One can survive on beans and rice (a complete protein) and even in this day and age they are still relatively inexpensive and can be the cornerstone of a healthy diet. I am sure you have been hearing the whole grain thing for a long time but WHY are they better for you?  Fiber is the #1 reason (bran, germ not removed as with processed grains) but whole grains also retain important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium.  Look for: Brown Rice, Wild Rice, Barley/Millet/Quinoa/Bulgar, Lentils & Dried beans, Whole Oats, Popcorn

2) Canned & Bottled Goods– Look for least processed, simple ingredients on the nutrition label (nothing you can’t pronounce) and low sodium (ideally less than 140mg per servin g).  Some great pantry staples are canned beans (chickpeas/garbanzos, black beans, white beans/cannellini, soybeans etc), whole tomatoes (why buy salty expensive bland spaghetti sauce when you can make your own) and canned fish (Sardines and wild Alaskan salmon are great sustainable choices).

3) Oils & Condiments – Oils are great for sautéing, for dressings, sauces, dips (pesto) and can the fat actually helps us feel satiated/full. The heart healthy/med diet thing has led to people basically drinking olive oil- which is still a FAT- so especially if you are trying to watch your weight GO EASY ON PORTIONS shoot for no more 25-35% of your total daily calories to be fat. For example if you eat 2000kcals that’s 56-78 grams (500-700kcals worth since each fat gram is 9 kcals).
Start with: Extra Virgin Olive Oil (The difference in olive oils lies mostly in the flavor. Extra virgin has a fruity flavor, so you don’t need to use as much).
Canola oil (a healthy Omega 3 fat) and Sesame Oil for a different flavor and Asian inspired cooking.
Condiments that are nice to have on hand….Vinegars (build a repertoire but start with Balsamic and Wine Vinegar). Sweeteners (honey, brown sugar, maples syrup) that are still to be used in moderation even thought they are a smidge more healthy since they have added minerals that processed white sugar does not. Tahini paste so you can whip up a hummus or creamy sauce for veggies/rice, and some Low Sodium Soy Sauce to dash on as needed.

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