pantry

9 Foods I Always Have at Home

In our busy world, a well-stocked kitchen is essential. It will allow you to throw together a fast, flavorful meal at the end of your workday. And, when you snooze your alarm too long, you will still be able to make yourself a breakfast that will fuel you through the day or grab a nutritious snack on-the-go. Here are my must-have foods that I always have in my kitchen. You probably have some of them at home already, but I’m sure there are others you’ll want to add to your list!

1. Extra-virgin olive oil

Why? As part of the Mediterranean diet, consuming a moderate amount throughout the day along with other nutritious foods contributes to decrease the risk of heart disease. It is high in monounsaturated fatty acids which, when substituted for saturated fat, help manage your cholesterol levels. In addition, it also has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Besides its health benefits, good quality olive oil adds some pleasantly bitter, spicy and fruity notes to your meals. Drizzle it over your vegetables before baking them in the oven or finished dishes like grilled fish, salads, pasta and cream soups.

2. Maple syrup

Why? Less-processed “raw” sugars like maple syrup can contain trace elements and minerals, but overall, they still end up as glucose (blood sugar) after the body breaks them down. Overall, it is not any better than refined white sugar and both can have their place in a balanced and varied diet. However, the impact on the environment is considerable. Well-managed sugarbushes provide the added ecological benefit of acting like a carbon sink, catching carbon from the atmosphere, and releasing oxygen. If you live in North America, environmental transportation costs are also lower. Give it a try and add it to your cocktails, pies, cakes, cookies, oatmeal, barbecue sauce, granola, salad dressings, and many more!

3. Quinoa

Why? Although technically a seed, quinoa is more commonly known as a whole grain that can be found in different colors including black, red, white, and yellow. It is a good source of plant proteins and fiber. Unlike certain plants, quinoa contains complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make. Moreover, it is naturally gluten-free and therefore can safely be consumed by individuals having a gluten intolerance such as celiac disease. Try it in your salads, granola, protein bars, stir fries, veggie burgers and many others.

4. Flax seeds

Why? Flax seeds, also known as linseeds, are the seeds of the flax plant. With their mild, nutty flavor, they are ideal for adding to both sweet and savory foods. The body is not able to fully digest whole flax seeds. To enjoy their benefits, they must be ground into a fine powder. Grind what you need or store the rest in the refrigerator to avoid spoilage. They can be used to thicken recipes or as an egg substitute. Combine one tablespoon of ground flax seeds with three tablespoons of water to replace one egg. If you are following a strict plant-based diet, flax seeds provide essential omega-3s that may be lacking in your diet. They are also a great source of fiber, lignans and other types of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Try them in your smoothies, cookies, muffins, salads, crackers, oatmeal, granola, etc.

5. Soy milk

Why? Just like quinoa, soy protein is considered a complete protein. Despite the recent rumors, soy does not cause cancer or lead to gynecomastia (enlargement of the breast tissue). In fact, soy has many health benefits including the protection against hormonal cancers like breast and prostate. Soy milk is a great alternative to cow’s milk considering its protein content and its fortification in calcium and vitamin D. Other plant-based beverages such as almond milk lack the nourishing proteins. Try it in milkshakes, pancakes, smoothies, bread, baked goods, and even mayonnaise.

6. Textured vegetable protein (TVP)

Why? TVP has nutrient profile similar to soy milk, but in a more condensed version, making it a perfect meat alternative. TVP is less expensive than most meats and will last forever if placed in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Because of its bland taste, you can try it in chilis, spaghetti sauce, burgers, stuffed veggies, granolas, cookies, and many more foods! Its flavor will come from the spices, herbs, sauces or other foods it is combined with. If you would like to know more about TVP, go have a look at my Instagram post on the subject!

7. Passata (tomato puree)

Why? Tomato Passata is pureed strained uncooked tomatoes. Compared to crushed or diced canned tomatoes, tomato passata makes thicker, more intense tomato flavored sauces. On the other side, compared to tomato paste, it is thinner and has a less intense flavor. Tomato Passata is extremely convenient and can be used in sauces, soups, stews, casseroles, lasagnas, on pizzas and many more! While passata used to be difficult to find, it’s becoming more common in grocery stores. I get my bottles from Costco for a very convenient price. Nutrition wise, tomato products are high in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.

8. Canned tuna

Why? Canned tuna is a good source of essential nutrients, including high quality protein, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and vitamin D. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in tuna are essential for a healthy heart, proper brain function and normal growth and development. The canning process prolongs its self-life. Choose pale tuna instead of white tuna to decrease your exposure to mercury.

9. Provence herbs

Why? Herbes de Provence is France’s most famous spice blend. It can easily elevate a great variety of meals. While thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf are considered the standard base ingredients, other herbs such as oregano, basil, tarragon, marjoram, savory, sage, fennel, dill, and lavender are also often incorporated. Having the blend already mixed makes it very convenient for use. Rub it against your favorite meats and vegetables or use it to flavor stews, sauces, cheeses, etc. The use of herbs and spices can help you decrease your consumption of salt throughout the day.

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