“Tomorrow I am going to start eating healthy”, does that sound as familiar as “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? A client recently asked me to do just that – help set up a healthy way of eating and with Summer nearing its end what better way to start tweaking your pantry staples.
Drawing on my knowledge, habits and an article recently published on Kidspot highlighting pantry staples, I want to share with you a list of some everyday essentials that can be replaced with healthier options. I have added to the list published in the Kidspot article.
- SWAP BOXED CEREAL WITH ROLLED OATS
Boxed cereals are highly processed, loaded with sugar and carbohydrates, and deficient of any meaningful nutrition. They are difficult to digest and there’s likely more nutritional value in eating the box they come in!
Rolled oats, in contrast, are high in dietary fibre, help to keep cholesterol and blood pressure in check, boost the immune system and are rich in minerals. Use oats to make porridge, homemade granola, your own muesli mix (by adding mixed nuts, spices and dried or fresh fruit) or bircher muesli.. Rolled oats are also much more economical than boxed cereals, like the Macro range.
- SWAP WHITE SUGAR WITH COCONUT OR RAPADURA SUGAR
Keeping sugar to a minimum will protect you from developing insulin resistance, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. For more nutrient dense alternatives try coconut sugar, muscovado, rapadura. Brown and raw sugar are not the healthiest options because they are processed the same way as white sugar, with all nutrition stripped away.
- SWAP VEGETABLE OIL WITH EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL OR COCONUT OIL
The term ‘vegetable oil’ was coined to make oils such as Canola, Corn and cotton seed oils sound healthy but the fact is they are anything but. They are all highly processed industrialised by-products that come from seeds. They are almost entirely composed of polyunsaturated fats which are unstable and cause oxidation and free radical damage.
In contrast, olive oil has oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fat that is excellent for your health. Research shows that extra-virgin olive oil can have favourable and preventive effects on chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as some forms of cancer. Olive oil should be used for salad dressing or low temperature cooking.
For high temperature cooking use organic coconut oil as it has a high smoking point, making the fats more stable and has valuable anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.
- SWAP PLAIN FLOUR WITH ORGANIC UNBLEACHED PLAIN FLOUR
If you are a baker at heart, flour will be one of your pantry staples and you may not realise but you have a choice between bleached and unbleached flour.
Bleached flour is treated with chemical agents to increase the bleaching process (such as chlorine dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, chlorine gas, calcium peroxide, azodicarbonamide and benzoyl peroxide) and removes an array of important nutrients (like fatty acids, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium and B vitamins) in the process.
White unbleached flour, however, naturally bleaches over time after milling, through exposure to oxygen. This means it retains nutrients, and hasn’t been treated by chemicals, pesticides, additives or preservatives. You will find unbleached flour from your local health food store, or you can find the Macro range or White Wings at your local supermarket.
- SWAP COCOA WITH CACAO POWDER
Cocoa or cacao are commonly used for baking, in smoothies and for raw treats.
Raw cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can eat and is packed full of antioxidants and magnesium. It’s an excellent source of nutrients and is great for your heart, skin, blood pressure and can even improve your mood! It’s made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans.
Cocoa powder on the other hand, is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures. Roasting changes the molecular structure of the cacao bean, reducing the overall nutritional value. It often has added sugars, milk fats and oils.
Health food stores and supermarkets all stock cacao, but if the cost is prohibitive then you can look for some cocoa powder – just make sure it has no nasties added.
- SWAP PEANUT BUTTER WITH 100 PERCENT PEANUT BUTTER
Peanut butter is a tasty source of good fats (that help to lower heart disease), protein (to build and repair muscles) and potassium (which helps your nerves and heart to function well). However, many peanut butters contain excessive sugar, salt, additives and vegetable oil.
Look for pure peanut butter, which is made only from peanuts and has no nasties to maximise nutritional value. Brands you can trust are Mayver (which also has a good range of delicious nut butters), Sanitarium Natural Smooth Peanut Butter or Macro Wholefoods Natural Smooth Peanut Butter.
- SWAP TABLE SALT FOR HIMALAYAN PINK CRYSTAL SALT
Table salt is just a highly processed combination of chemicals and has no nutritional value as it is stripped during the processing stages.
Choose other salts such as Himalayan Pink Crystal Salt or even Celtic Sea Salt. Himalayan salt has the same 84 natural minerals and elements as the human body does. It has multiple health benefits such as helping to stabilise your PH levels and keeping your blood sugar levels balanced.
- SWAP TINNED TOMATOES FOR PASSATA
Tomatoes are a staple food in most households, handy to have on hand for sauces, stews, slow cooker meals and casseroles and give a great source of vitamins and minerals. In particular lycopene is worth a mention due to its powerful antioxidant qualities, guarding against a variety of cancers.
The tinned variety of tomatoes is of some concern because tins are lined with bisphenol-a (BPA), which can leach into food or drinks. BPA has been linked with health issues such as cancer, heart disease, reproductive failures and behavioural problems. With tomatoes being naturally acidic, there is concern they draw out more of the BPA from the lining of the tins.
Swapping for fresh tomatoes or passata, which comes in a natural product like glass, is a great alternative and can be easily done at your local supermarket. Just make sure it is 100 percent tomatoes!
- SWAP BREAD CRUMBS FOR PANKO BREAD CRUMBS
Panko bread crumbs have half the calories, are lighter and coarser and tend to absorb less oil and fat. They also stay crisper after cooking making them perfect for breaded chicken, meat, and fish dishes. And they have about one-tenth of the sodium of many regular bread crumbs.
They are available at all leading supermarkets as well as Asian grocers.
- SWAP VANILLA ESSENCE FOR VANILLA EXTRACT
Vanilla essence is a cheaper watered down version of vanilla extract. There is much less vanilla in it and the quality is also not as good. Make sure you look at the label before buying as it’s easy to mix them both up. Brands such as Queen and Maggie Beer are available in supermarkets and you can also use vanilla pods. Once used you can store them in your sugar container – delicious!
Give some or all of them a go! And let me know your thoughts…