Your healthy eating journey begins with having the right ingredients. Start by stocking up on these pantry essentials which you will use to prepare wholesome vegan, vegetarian or omnivore meals.
The three staple whole grains you need to cover all your meals are brown rice, quinoa and oats. For breakfast, it’s hard to beat a bowl of warm porridge or an overnight oat jar with your favourite fruits.
Brown rice and quinoa (actually a seed, but eaten like a grain) are a good base for everything from salads and stews to being served with grilled salmon / chicken and in sushi. Rich in fibre, carbohydrates, minerals and protein (quinoa), these grains fill you up in a good way.
Chia seeds originated in Central and Latin America where they have been eaten for centuries; but its superfood status comes from its nutritional benefits. They are a good source of fibre, protein, alpha linolenic acid (the plant form of omega 3), calcium and magnesium.
A versatile ingredient, chia seeds can be eaten raw or mixed into baked goods. Add them to smoothies, salads, cereal bars, granola, to thicken soups and stews and make chia puddings for dessert. They are also used as an egg replacement in vegan baking.
Nuts that you get in packets have been flavoured and processed, so having a selection a raw nuts is the healthier way to go. Although most of the calories in nuts are derived from fat, they are a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
They contain fibre, protein and minerals; and are a versatile ingredient that can be used in baking, salads and granola. Have a supply of raw cashews, almonds, pine nuts and peanuts on hand for snacks and toppings.
Nori is an edible seaweed and can be found plain and toasted. It has numerous nutritional benefits including being a vegetarian source of DHA (type of omega-3 fatty acid), vitamin C and K, potassium and magnesium. It’s also very low in calories.
The most common way of using nori sheets in the kitchen is for sushi, but it can also be used as a salad / soup / rice bowl topping, mixed with sesame seeds to make a seasoning and as a snack. Be aware that flavoured nori sheets have a high amount of salt.
When cooking or making salad dressing, keep these three oils on hand – extra virgin coconut, olive and sesame.
Coconut oil contains healthy fats, which are easy to digest, and has antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Olive oil contains healthy monounsaturated fat, antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Sesame oil is good for the hair and skin, and adds a distinct taste to cooking. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and is known to lower blood pressure.
Lentils contain almost no fat and have a low calorific count – one cup of cooked lentils has approximately 230 calories. It’s rich in protein (comparable to meat and poultry), fibre, vitamins and minerals and the ideal ingredient for vegetarian / vegan dishes.
This pantry essential can be made into so many tasty dishes including dhal, soups, stews, vegetarian burgers, salads and as a side dish. Best of all lentils are filling and incredibly cost-effective.
Also known as garbanzo beans, these are yet another ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of dishes. Stock a few tins (or buy them dry and cook them yourself) in your pantry to whip up hummus or add them to salads, soups, stews and vegetarian / vegan patties. High in protein and fibre, chickpeas are known to improve digestion and are a good meat replacement.
Eating healthily doesn’t mean meals have to be bland. Tamari is made from fermented soybeans and is gluten free. It has a richer taste and is less salty than soy sauce, which makes it healthier.
Nutritional yeast (also known as ‘nooch’) is made from sugarcane or beet molasses, and is full of nutrients including amino acids, B vitamins and thiamine. It’s also known to improve digestion and immune function, and is the main seasoning in vegan cheese.
Herbs and spices
Having a selection of herbs and spices is necessary in any kitchen as these are the elements that make your food taste and smell good.
Turmeric has been used in cooking and as a traditional medicine through the ages and contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Cumin is surprisingly a good source of iron as well as aiding digestion and lowering blood sugar levels. Cinnamon adds great flavour to desserts and oats-based breakfast dishes; has high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory levels, and boosts immunity.
Cut sugar out of your diet and replace it with maple syrup, coconut sugar or honey. We all crave something sweet occasionally so adding any of these three options ensures you stick to you healthy meal plan and still have dessert.
Maple syrup contains beneficial minerals like zinc, manganese and magnesium. Coconut sugar may be better than refined sugar, but is still very sweet and should be taken in moderation. Honey is a good antioxidant and a natural energy source, and can be added to drinks, baking and homemade granola bars. It also soothes sore throats and is an ingredient in many home therapies.
For a full list of pantry essentials and recipes, sign up to our Nourish Heal Glow programme. You’ll also get detailed shopping lists, honest advice and delicious recipes that are seriously simple to follow. There’s no excuse for not eating healthy and the result is that you will feel and look amazing!