Written by our wonderful intern, Emily Dwyer!
How do you grocery shop? Do you make a list? Do you restock your kitchen with the same foods every week? The goal of this post is to teach you how to stock a superfoods pantry & kitchen. Yes, you’ll want to cook delicious food in it! Having locked up flavors and nutrition at your disposal in the form of dried, frozen, or preserved pantry items, is beyond helpful when throwing together an on-the-fly healthy meal.
What are Superfoods?
Harvard University defines a superfood as, “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”.
Some examples of superfoods include berries – which are high in fiber, and their rich colors imply that they are plentiful in antioxidants and other disease-fighting nutrients. Fish – which can help prevent heart disease with its high protein and omega-3 fatty acid. Leafy greens which offer vitamins A & C, calcium, and phytochemicals that provide plant-based health benefits. Nuts – these are a great source of plant protein, and they can also lower the risk of heart disease with their monounsaturated fats. Nuts like, hazelnuts, almonds, pecans and walnuts are best! Whole grains – these can protect against diabetes and heart disease with because of their high soluble fiber content, B vitamins, phytochemicals and minerals. Legumes such as kidney, black, red beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, as well as soybeans and peas – these are rich in soluble fiber, folate, and plant-based proteins.
Diving into a Healthier Lifestyle
“When trying to get ahead in your career, they say that you should dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. The same thinking applies when you want to move ahead towards a healthier lifestyle. Decking your pantry out with the nourishing foods that reflect what you want in life – a life of good health, energy, balance and happiness – can shape the very eating patterns that make those goals a reality.” (How to Create a Superfoods Pantry)
Initially, stocking your pantry with superfoods can be intimidating, but once you dive in, this is a lifestyle change you will not regret. Start with the basics – you will need to ensure you have the supplies necessary to create healthy and delicious meals with your superfood ingredients. So, let’s start with what’s missing.
What’s Missing in Your Pantry?
Basics: salt & pepper, olive oil or avocado oil for cooking, EVOO or other plant-based oil for finishing, onions, fresh garlic, fresh ginger, fresh chilis (if you like heat), herbs (you could even grow your own!), lemons and limes for acidity/freshness, honey or agave for sweetener.
Go To Herbs and Spices (these can be based on your personal preferences): curry powder, turmeric, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, coriander, chili powder, sumac, bay leaves, basil, Italian seasoning, cayenne pepper, allspice, cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes.
Sauces & Vinegars: balsamic, rice wine, apple cider vinegar, balsamic glaze, soy sauce/tamari/liquid aminos (low sodium), hoisin sauce, sambal, hot sauce, homemade vinaigrettes.
Dry Goods: dried lentils, whole grains (amaranth, farro, barley, kamut, quinoa, bulgur, sorghum, teff, etc.), oats, bran, wheat germ, whole-grain pastas/couscous, canned beans of any type (drain before using to lower sodium content), and rice (brown, basmati, multi-grain, or wild rice). These grains provide a base for 1-2 meals per day. Powdered unsweetened cocoa, canned beets, nut flowers (un-hydrogenated organic peanut butter or almond butter), dried fruit: apricots, unsweetened cranberries, raisins, goji berries, golden berries, etc.
For the Freezer: organic corn, organic spinach/kale, organic edamame, organic peas, any other vegetables that do not have added sauce, organic berries, mango, pineapple, organic cherries, veggie burgers, whole-grain breads or bagels you bought on sale, a stock of properly packaged frozen fish (salmon, barramundi, halibut, perch, haddock, tuna, etc.), ground turkey, one whole chicken for roasting, chicken sausage, bison or chicken you bought on sale, organic tofu, homemade pasta sauce.
You can reference the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service website to learn about what foods are safe to freeze, how to properly store them, and how to safely defrost and cook these frozen foods.
Proteins – chicken breast or tenders, ground chicken/turkey/bison, lean pork tenderloin, lean grass-fed beef, tempeh, tofu, fish, medium fat, low sugar yogurt such as Siggi’s, and eggs. These you typically will need to buy fresh each week, but most items you can freeze in a freezer bag for later use.
Fresh Fruits & Veggies – mixed greens, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, pineapple, organic blueberries, kiwis, beets, carrots, celery, onions, kale, tomatoes, organic strawberries, avocados, lemons, limes, chard, kiwi, collard greens, cabbage, and many more. These you can purchase frozen if available, or you can stock your kitchen with these superfoods every few days to ensure the produce stays fresh and safe to consume.
Switch it Up!
By having a kitchen fully-stocked with locked up nutrients, it will become easier to choose healthier snacks and create more wholesome meals. Stock your home with the right food, and you will eat it. Stock your home with the wrong foods, and you will eat it. Instead of reaching for a few cookies or jelly beans leftover from Easter, you might reach for a handful of almonds, blueberries, or perhaps half an avocado with salt & pepper, which is one of my favorites!
Yes, we all crave comfort foods. Some of us have our nightly ice cream or cookies, some love doughnuts on Sunday mornings, or maybe we eat the same things every day because it’s what we enjoy. Why switch up what I enjoy? It’s imperative to change up what you’re eating every day to receive a variety of nutrients needed for optimal health. If you eat a PB&J sandwich on wholegrain bread
every day for lunch – you’re missing out on phytochemicals from fresh fruits and veggies plus essential amino acids peanut butter cannot provide. Although jelly/jam is made from berries, most nutrients are stripped from the fruit and a ton of sugar is added for taste and consistency.
It’s ok to have favorite foods, but try switching it up to keep it interesting. You don’t have to eat salads every day to eat healthily. So keep your taste buds on their toes, get out of your comfort zone! If your favorite meal is spaghetti & meatballs, perhaps try zucchini noodles with a pesto sauce with turkey meatballs. If you love having pancakes for breakfast on the weekends, try out a gluten-free banana & oat pancake recipe or try making whole-grain pancakes topped with ghee rather than maple syrup. Food possibilities are endless, and that’s why we must take advantage and embrace the love all foods have to offer us.