Many people come to me because they want to make healthy eating part of their daily routine. However, they have no idea how to make it happen, nor how to make it last. So, I usually always reply the following: Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated (as mentioned in the following article: here); however, it does take a certain level of preparation and knowing a few facts. Once you have these two components in check, then it’s all about will power and remaining consistent. It truly is very simple when you look at the basics of it all. Today, I share with you my top 10 Foods You Should Always Have in Your Kitchen For a Healthier Diet. Trust me, once you have these 10 basics at home, it will become a whole lot easier to prepare healthy meals on a daily basis and hence to choose a healthier diet more regularly.
You will quickly notice that my top 10 foods are mostly plant-based. The reason for that is that I truly believe that infusing your body with a diet rich in plants can only benefit you (and the health of our planet). This doesn’t mean that you need to eat a diet that is 100 % plant-based. Every body is very different and therefore has different needs. Nonetheless, every one can benefit from eating more whole and plant-based foods.
And just in case you don’t believe me, let me give you just a few of the many health benefits associated with eating more plants (i.e. non-animal products):
- Anti-inflammatory: plants are filled with micro-nutrients called anti-oxidants. These are essential to combat free-radical damage within the body, which increases inflammation internally. Thus, the more plants (i.e. vegetables and fruits), the less inflammation within your body. This is great if you suffer from any of these chronic conditions: diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, hypertension, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, colitis, etc.
- Cleansing: especially for your digestive system. Because plant-based foods contain a lot of fibers (both soluble and insoluble), it really helps to clean your small and large intestines. Fibers, with enough hydration (water is essential too) will also help promote a regular bowel movement.
- Immune-boosting: this is primarily due to the vitamins present in fruits and vegetables. Vitamins and minerals are essential to boost and support the proper function of your immune system. Eat a diet rich in raw or slightly cooked plants to get more vitamins into your body.
- Anti-aging: due to the amount of anti-oxidants present in plant, free-radical damage is diminished. This is in turn also helps prevent premature aging.
- Promotes weight loss: This is especially true for people eating a diet rich in whole plant-based foods. Once you stick to real whole and fresh foods, your body automatically will start shedding extra pounds. Eliminate pro-inflammatory foods, such as processed sugars, processed grains, fried foods and dairy (for most it is pro-inflammatory) and you will see the weight comes off easily.
Now, let’s get into:
1. Beans & legumes:
I love using beans & legumes as a source of fiber and protein. However, beans and legumes contain phytic acid, which binds to nutrients in the food, preventing you from absorbing them. To avoid this issue, make sure you soak them* or even sprout them before cooking them.
*Recommended soaking time varies depending on the legume. So keep that in mind.
2. Nut/Seed Butters
These are another great way to add more protein and fiber into your meal without having to resort to animal protein. I love adding nut butters into my smoothies, oatmeals or simply use them to make cacao bliss balls (click HERE for the recipe).
3. Whole grains
Whole grains are a must-have in your pantry. They are rich in fibers and minerals, which will make you feel fuller longer, preventing you from reaching for unhealthy snacks in between meals.
My favourites are: brown rice, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, and amaranth.
4. Healthy Spreads
These are not one food in particular, but having a few healthy spreads options in your kitchen will help you a lot when you are pressed for time. I like to have homemade guacamole, hummus (homemade or store-bought), baba ganoush (made of eggplants) or even dairy-free pesto in my fridge. You can use this spreads on top of your salads, on toasts or enjoy them with your favourite raw veggies.
Need I say more? No, but honestly, avocados are such a versatile food, rich in fiber, protein, healthy fats and high in water-content. They should be a superfood in my book! I love to add them into my smoothies, spread them onto toasts, add them into my salads or turn them into a delicious dessert like in this recipe: Chocolate Mousse.
6. Leafy Greens
Another big staple to always have on hand when you wish to eat a healthier diet. Leafy greens are any vegetables that have green leaves. Some examples are: spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, etc. These veggies are high in minerals, vitamins, fibers and proteins (for the darker leafy greens). Always have them at home for a quick salad, to throw into your smoothies or soups (always at the end of the cooking to preserve their mineral and vitamin content).
Bananas are another must-have for healthy eating because they are a great source of nutrients and healthy carbs. Plus, they are another very versatile healthy food. You can use them in your smoothies, oatmeals, for baking, or turn them into a delicious frozen treat.
How to: Freeze some ripe bananas (without the peel) and when you feel like a sweet treat: place 1 or 2 frozen bananas into your food processor or high-powered blender and turn them into soft serve. It is divine!
This may not be one very specific food item but superfoods are a must in your kitchen. They are rich in nutrients, proteins, fibers and more. My favourite superfoods to always stock in my pantry are: cacao powder, chia seeds, hemp seeds, goji berries, or even spirulina. They will feel like an investment at first but a little goes a long way given how many nutrients a little bit of these can contain.
This one might sound strange but having mushrooms on hand can make a big difference in your healthy eating habits, especially if you decide to go plant-based more often. Mushrooms are a great meat replacers for many dishes. With them you can create so many dishes: vegan burgers, fake “meat” balls, or even fake “meat” loaves. They can add substance and texture to a lot of your dishes (salads, stews or soups). Finally, mushrooms are also a great source of selenium, iron (for some) and vitamin D! Start having fun and try different varieties.
10. Probiotic foods (help keep your digestion in check!)
Last but not least, probiotic foods are a must-have in your kitchen for a healthier diet because they will promote healthier digestion and thus the absorption of all the nutrients you get from your food. Probiotic foods are foods that naturally contain probiotics (aka good bacteria for your guts). These little guys are essential for your health and immunity!
Some examples are: kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, fermented veggies or even tempeh. And if you buy them at the store, just make sure that they are not pasteurized as this process kills the good bacteria present in these foods (which defeats the whole purpose).
And there you have it: 10 Foods You Should Always Have in Your Kitchen for a Healthier Diet. With these 10 staple foods, you are guaranteed to not only start a healthier way of eating but to actually stick to it. These foods are delicious and easy to prepare. Try them out and see how they can change your health from the inside out.
As always: stay vibrant!