Meal preparation doesn't have to be a grueling process of research, planning, and execution - these kitchen staples can be the key to easy, healthy eating! This first installment focuses on the pantry, and you can look forward to learning about how you can best fill your fridge and stock your shelves with nutrient-rich foods for a balanced diet!
The items listed can simply be stored in the cupboard for long-term use, as these selections aren't going to spoil as quickly as other kinds of perishables. I personally have all of these things on hand - most can be purchased in bulk and contained in large jars or Tupperware!
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts are high in good fats, low in carbs, and a valuable source of several nutrients, including vitamin E and magnesium. They are also packed with antioxidants, which can reduce the body’s stress response that cause cell damage. Almonds have consistently been shown to promote weight loss rather than weight gain in controlled experiments!
Like nuts, seeds can be a great pantry staple. Seeds are high in fiber and monounsaturated fats that can promote heart health and keep the body disease-free. This snack is a great source of energy, can help reduce fatigue, and will contribute to healthy hair and skin and muscle and bone growth. They can boost the body’s immune system, and can be a great dietary addition for people with certain food restrictions: for example, providing protein and iron for vegetarians and vegans.
The dietary fiber found in lentils will help maintain a healthy and balanced digestive system, and this fiber also functions to stabilize blood sugar levels. And, of all legumes and nuts, lentils contain the third-highest levels of protein! This snack is considered a complex carbohydrate and promotes steady, slow-burning energy and a stable metabolic rate. Although lentils include beneficial nutrients like fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins, they are still low in calories and contain virtually no fat.
Brown Rice & Quinoa
Brown rice will help keep you full and satisfied for a long time, which can translate into small meal portions. This unprocessed whole grain is also rich in selenium, reducing the risk of developing common illnesses and diseases!
Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids: protein is made out of amino acids, and some of them are termed "essential" because we can not produce them and need to get them from our diet - if a food contains all the essential amino acids, it is considered a "complete" protein.
Both of these foods make for a great base to many meals, and can be incorporated into a variety of recipes for a simple dose of essential nutrients!
Protein is the powerhouse of our body systems. This critical nutrient is used for the maintenance and production of all cells and is fundamental for cardiovascular function, muscle development, bone health, and contains many more vital properties!
This pantry staple is a great on-the-go choice and can be easily mixed into liquid for a delicious shake, or added to a base like yogurt for a tasty treat! Protein should be consumed throughout the day, though it’s most crucial immediately after a workout, as the body needs fuel to heal and grow muscles. Breakfast is a key meal as well, because your body needs nourishment after fasting throughout the night.
Protein should be regarded as a foundational nutrient of any diet - it's an ingredient for achieving optimal progress in physique enhancement and performance. Want to learn about my personal protein program, what kind of protein I use, and when to incorporate protein into your daily routine? Check out my Free 5 Day Better You Program for more information about how personal coaching and diet engineering can help you achieve your goal body!
Choosing healthy meal options and light snacks throughout the day will give your body the steady supply of nutrients it needs to stay active, energized, and functioning efficiently. By downloading the BTES App you gain access to 300+ recipes, for breakfast, lunch and dinner that will leave you feeling satisfied and ready for your workouts! What are you waiting for, Download it now!
These next items are perishable, though each product varies in the length of time that it can be stored for. Some of the most nutrient-valuable foods are ones that are fresh and spoil relatively quickly - this just means we should be getting more of these things in our diet!
You may have been cautioned at some point about how consuming eggs may negatively impact your health - though it’s helpful to remember that consuming too much of anything is never a great idea if you’re striving for balanced nutrition! And, as recent studies have found, eggs can actually improve the cholesterol profile: they raise HDL (“good” cholesterol) and increase the size of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) particles, which may lower the risk of heart disease.
Whole eggs are hard to beat when it comes to nutrient density, as the calories are minimal considering how many beneficial vitamins and minerals this food contains. The nutrients are found in the yolks while the whites are made up mostly of protein, and eggs are an excellent source of protein!
We’re going to focus on some alternatives for traditional milk! This is because animal-based milk is calorie dense and may be hard for many people to digest, and the pasteurization process used to remove harmful bacteria for milk destroys important nutrients and digestive enzymes.
Almond milk is amongst the healthiest milk alternatives, as this nut is a fantastic dietary source of plant-based calcium. Almonds are also high in other essential minerals such as iron and magnesium, which work with other minerals in the body to help them function optimally. This milk is also rich in vitamin E - about 50 percent of the daily value in one cup, and almond milk has 1/3 of the calories of 2 percent cow's milk!
Flax milk is high in fiber and alpha linoleic acids, which has been used to prevent and treat diseases relating to the heart and blood vessels. It is promoted as a useful food for preventing heart attacks, lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol, and reversing a process which hardens the blood vessels. When fortified, this non-dairy alternative has as much calcium as regular milk.
Rice milk is the most hypoallergenic of the milk alternatives. It's free of soy, gluten and nuts, important for those who are allergic or can't tolerate these ingredients.
Yogurt - depending on the type - can be high in protein, calcium, vitamins, and live cultures (or probiotics) which can enhance the gut microbiota. These nutrients can offer protection for bones and teeth and help your digestive system function properly! Also, probiotics can boost the immune system and help with weight management, as well as enhance absorption of critical vitamins and minerals.
Yogurt has a low lactose content, so a person with a lactose intolerance will likely find it more tolerable than milk. And since yogurt contains bacteria that aid digestion, many people may tolerate yogurt without experiencing negative symptoms.
Greek yogurt contains high amounts of protein and fiber compared to other varieties, and low-fat options make this food a good option for maintaining a trim figure. This type of yogurt is also an excellent source of iodine - iodine is important for proper thyroid function, and the thyroid is essential for a healthy metabolism.
Non-dairy alternatives, such as coconut milk yogurt, also contain calcium, fiber, and protein, though these nutritional values may be less than yogurt made with dairy.
Flavor is important when sticking to a diet program, and how a meal tastes may ultimately determine a person’s ability to stay on track with healthy eating habits!
Tahini, harissa, pesto, and salsa make great additions to a variety of dishes, though some of the more basic condiments, like mustard, are a safe staple to have due to low sodium and calorie factor.
Hummus can even qualify as a condiment: it is a good source of protein, healthy fats, healthy carbohydrates, and is still a vegetable!*
4 Tips To Clean Your Kitchen
With all this food, how are you supposed to keep it organized?! Spending some time to focus on your food space can amp up your attention when it comes to healthy habits. So put on a podcast, get those gloves on, and let's tackle these 4 tips for cleaning different areas of your kitchen!
Fridge & Freezer: This could be the most daunting part of our spring cleaning session, so we're going to address it first - take everything out of your refrigerator. Toss the expired products and junk food. Grab a sponge and spray. Wipe down every surface of that cold closet and feel amazing about the empty space and chance to begin again. So fresh!
Don't forget to address the state of your freezer - what's actually hidden in the back there? Clearing out your fridge makes room to stock up on some great staples, for example: nut milks, broths, eggs, the possibilities are endless!
Counters: Is clutter cramping your ability to even use the kitchen fully? Meal prep doesn't sound as desirable when there are a ton of dirty dishes sitting around, and maybe there are some sticky spots that just will not budge (for months? maybe sometimes). Just go for it!!
You might be surprised that wiping down the counters, however simple, really does wonders for feeling like you might give cooking a go. Do you have lots of spices, kitchen tools, or other accessories displayed at all times? Optimize the surface space and find another spot to store those random things.
Drawers: Speaking of storage zones, when was the last time you really went through the drawers? If some of them are packed full, or a large cooking utensil has jammed a few and you can't slide those open, you're not alone. Let's allow ourselves ONE junk zone - a single drawer where you can put away little things, probably non-kitchen related if you're like a lot of people.
For the rest: repeat the same process as with the fridge/freezer and take everything out of all the drawers at once so you can really assess what's there & what to get rid of. File away like items in the same drawer, so for example, all of the parchment, aluminum, storage wrap, etc is in one accessible spot. No more rummaging around for something you're not even sure that you have!
Cabinets: Loose bags of oats or other grains are known to get messy if you're rifling though cabinets filled with unsealed items. One last time...take everything out! Invest in some big glass (or ceramic) jars and containers, and keep those things neat and fresh. Consider buying some bulk food products like lentils, brown rice, quinoa, or other healthy options that have a longer shelf life, and empty all that out into your new vessels.
There are so many sizes and options for containers, though glass/ceramic can be more of an investment, so you're less likely to take it somewhere to lose easily (and these materials are better for your health)! If you have useable plastic Tupperware, don't throw it away - find the matching lids and stack up similar sizes with their counterparts. Have a bunch of half-consumed supplements? Consolidate them into little jars!
These items are great staples to have in your kitchen all the time. By giving yourself the tools necessary you are setting yourself up for success. I hope these tips help. Let me know in the comments some of your kitchen staples and what you love to cook with them!