It’s the new year. We all know what that means. We’re tired of sweet treats, expanding waistbands, and feeling just plain BLAH. Well good news here at Tried and Tasty. I’m excited to start bringing you more fabulous good-for-you tasty foods that will help you reach your goals while satisfying your hunger. Last year I announced that my husband and I completed a 30 day juice fast and cleanse. Hard to believe it’s been a year already. With that we wiped out nearly everything in our cabinet and pantry and started brand new with less processed foods, ingredients providing a higher nutritional content, and fuel we felt good about feeding our bodies with. Over the course of the year I debuted many new healthy recipes including a fantastic Vegan Taco Salad, the delicious Veggie Lovers Stuffed Zucchini, and probably my favorite healthy recipe to date: Healthy Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie (to name a few).
If you are looking to get healthy in 2014, or continue on the existing path of your healthy lifestyle there are a few key ingredients that I feel are “must-haves” in the kitchen. The key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is planning and preparation. I also feel that it’s important to get rid of all of the garbage laying around (chips, cookies, candy) to not tempt yourself and replace them with healthy options (nuts, fruits, seeds, etc.). There wasn’t too much lying around our house but I did make sure and get rid of what we had to start the new year out right. Many of these kitchen staples we buy in bulk at our local health food store – we’ve found it to be the cheaper route. Once your kitchen is stocked, it will be a lot easier for meal prep to generally have everything you need at your fingertips rather than making quick trips to the store. Lets get started shall we?
Organic Rolled Oats // Organic Unsweetened Coconut // Soft White Winter Wheat Berries // Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
Organic rolled oats are one of the most important things we keep in our kitchen. We use them to make our Easy Toss & Bake Granola, Coconut Butter Granola, Coconut Almond Granola, and Honey Apple Granola. Last year I was on one heck of a granola kick, I’m excited to keep incorporating them in new healthy recipes. Another delicious way to start your day using these oats would be to try my Cranberry Breakfast Cookies.
I’ve learned that it is extremely important to read labels. There are so many unnecessary ingredients everyday foods. Here is the list of ingredients in sweetened coconut: Coconut, Sugar, Water, Propylene Glyco (Preserves Freshness), Salt, and Sodium Metabisulfite (Retains Coconut Whiteness). The ingredients in the unsweetened coconut that I use: Organic Dried Coconut. You tell me why you would want all of that other junk? If you want to purchase unsweetened, check out your local health food store. Buying it in bulk (if an option) will be the best way to go! One of my favorite recipes that I used the organic unsweetened coconut were these Coco-Roons. They were a copy-cat recipe from some that I had purchased from Whole Foods. The homemade version is much cheaper!
In an effort to eliminate refined (white flour/white sugar) completely from our cooking and baking we’ve fallen in love with whole wheat. I know it can seem scary if you’ve never cooked with it before. When most people think of whole wheat they think of a heavy and dense result. Depending on the type of wheat you chose, sure, that could be what you end up with. I first prefer wheat berries to already ground wheat flour (but either are fine). Secondly, I buy the soft white winter wheat berries. I freshly grind the berries in my Blendtec right before adding it in the recipe. The fresher the flour, the higher the nutritional value. Of course, if you don’t have the resources to grind your own wheat berries, you can buy store bought whole wheat flour as well. If you don’t believe me that a whole wheat recipe can be delicious you have to try these: Healthy Chocolate Zucchini Muffins, Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Applesauce Muffins, or my Whole Wheat Pizza Crust.
Unsalted sunflower seeds are excellent to have on hand. We most commonly use them in our granola. But they are also great on salads or just for snacking. Buying the unsalted (as much as I LOVE salt) allows you to control your sodium intake. Typically with any recipe you are adding them to there’s salt as an ingredient anyway. You’ll hardly notice the difference with the unsalted and they will be healthier for you.
Alfalfa Seeds // Alfalfa Sprouts // Brown Flaxseeds
Have you ever bought a carton of alfalfa sprouts from the grocery store? They typically fun about $4. Did you know that you can buy seeds for a whole heck of a lot cheaper and then just sprout them yourself? All you need is a sprouter and some seeds and you are on your way. This is something you can have all year long and you don’t have to wait for your summertime garden. They grow fast two, so as long as you keep up with your watering you should be able to keep a constant tray of them. We’ve been juicing them with our other veggies, but of course they are great on salads or sandwiches. Want to know why else these little babies are nutrition fireballs? Check out Hungry For Change’s 10 Reasons To Love Sprouts! It gives you the breakdown of all the good things sprouts have to offer. Plus shows you how to even spout from a mason jar.
Flaxseeds have so many health benefits. We buy the seeds and then just grind them in our coffee grinder as we want to use them. You can buy them already ground if you prefer. I like to grind them with my wheat berries and use them whenever I’m using whole wheat flour in a recipe just to up the nutritional value a notch when I’m baking. A few things to note about flax seeds: they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids linked to good heart health, improve blood sugar levels and prevent/treat diabetes, they are rich in anti-oxidants and essential oils that help with healthy hair, eyes and skin. They are also rich in calcium and iron. I’ve used them in my Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Muffins, and Healthy Zucchini Bread.
Raw Walnuts, Almonds, & Pecans // Chia Seeds // Dry Beans // Nutritional Yeast
There are so many reasons why you should keep raw nuts on hand. Or course they are great to use in almost any baked good (which I do). There are many other reasons why they are good to have around: “nuts are very diet-friendly and are loaded with a ton of amazing nutrients, healthy fats, and protein. Nuts are one of the best sources of alpha-lenolenic acid, a type of heart-healthy omega-3. Omega-3s offer numerous health benefits from lowering cholesterol to disease prevention.” – Hungry For Change. The hubs uses them daily in his morning breakfast protein shake. I’ve made a delicious maple pecan protein shake where I’ve thrown a few pecans in, great jump start in the morning.
I first heard about chia seeds in the documentary “Hungry For Change”. They talked about their nutritional value in a way that made me want to run out and buy them. And we did. “Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and iron, chia seeds are great for weight loss because they act like a sponge, absorbing sugar and stabilizing blood sugar levels, says Kotsopoulos. Because of their high fiber content, the tiny seeds can hold up to twenty times their weight in water, so when they’re mixed with liquid they plump up and absorb excess moisture.” – Fitness Magazine. I haven’t used them nearly as much as I want to, watch for recipes and ideas for how you can incorporate them.
Dry beans are quite a bit cheaper than buying beans in a can. In fact, have the price of canned beans gone up recently? I went to buy some great northern’s and they were nearly $1 per can. That seems like a lot to me. Buying them in the bulk bin section cost nearly cents on the dollar. The other reason why you’d want to chose this option is because although there typically aren’t too many added ingredients (but be careful, there can be) you mainly want to avoid the can because a lot of times canned beans have BPA in the can lining. I know we try and avoid BPA’s wherever we can – in fact we just switched out all of our tupperware to glass and LOVE it!
What the heck is nutritional yeast? I was introduced to it while researching healthy foods during our juice fast. We had wanted to make kale chips in our dehydrator and learned that by sprinkling nutritional yeast it would make them “cheesy”. Surprisingly it totally did! It’s commonly used in vegan recipes to replace a cheese taste. I’ve also tried it on fresh popped popcorn! If you are wanting to cut dairy, this is an excellent way to still have cheese flavor without the cheese. Another benefit is that nutritional yeast is also high in protein. Bonus!
So that’s a glimpse of my pantry and the items I feel are most important to have on hand. Many of these items will be in the recipes that I’ll be posting over the next few months. Let me know if you have questions on anything or need any advice. I’m not too savvy when it comes to much more than what I’ve already told you – but my husband is an expert and I’ll gladly ask him and get back to you! This is a great first step to taking your nutrition in your own hands, stay tuned for part II and more of what I feel is important to have in your kitchen.