It’s important to keep a stock of healthy foods that allow you to put together a healthy meal at a moment’s notice. When eating out it is easy to consume north of 200 extra calories, making eating at home a no brainer when it comes to eating healthier and helping you kick the spare tyre.
A well-stocked kitchen allows you to throw together a fast, flavourful meal after a long day. And, when you wake up and must dash out the door for work, it pays to have grab-and-go breakfast and snack options on hand. Here are some essential foods:
Extra-virgin olive oil – Olive oil is one of the reasons why the – Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world. Cook with it, but also drizzle over finished dishes, like grilled fish, pasta, and vegetables sides. Even though it is good fat, one tablespoon still packs 120 calories so use it sparingly.
Non-fat Greek yogurt – Greek yogurt is packed with 18 grams of protein per 170g serving. Though it’s creamy and seems indulgent, it contains just 100 calories per serving. Greek yogurt makes a great low-calorie and low-fat substitute in recipes for mayo and sour cream.
Canned olives – They have a long shelf life, they can be thrown into a variety of dishes, and they have heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Go for all-natural without added sodium. Throw them on top of salads, stir them into pastas, or try snacking on them. You can eat 10 for about 50 calories.
Honey – It’ll last in your cupboard for years. In addition to being a versatile sweetener, honey can serve as a hangover helper, cough soother, and more. Sweeten homemade marinades and salad dressings and incorporate it into whole-grain baking. Whole wheat flour can be denser, but adding honey in place of regular sugar keeps things tender and moist. In recipes that call for sugar, swap in an equal amount of honey.
Beans – Inexpensive, a great source of protein and fibre. One cup of chickpeas, for example, contains 15 grams of protein and 12 grams of fibre!
Quinoa – One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre for just 222 calories, this wholegrain is a good source of energizing iron and B vitamins and is one of the speediest grains to cook; it’s ready in 15 minutes. Combine cooked quinoa with shredded chicken, chopped veggies, and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper or, eat quinoa hot as a substitute for oatmeal. Stir in almond milk, dried fruit, nuts, and drizzle with honey.
Eggs – One egg contains six grams of protein for only 70 calories. One study found that overweight women who ate egg breakfasts lost twice as much weight as women who started their days with bread. Hard boil a bunch at the beginning of the week for an on-the-go breakfast or snack with a piece of cheese and fruit, or, throw a fried egg on top of a rice-and-veggie bowl or a salad for an extra dose of protein.
Sea salt – doctors recommend limiting your salt intake, excess sodium is often a problem in prepared and processed foods, not the foods you cook yourself. Adding a sprinkle of salt to the foods you cook in your kitchen helps flavours pop. Use just like you would regular salt, sea salt contains a higher mineral content than regular table salt.
Tomato paste – adds a great umami flavour, or a richness to food that you’re trying to keep low in calories and fat. Tomatoes, particularly tomato paste, are bursting with cancer-fighting lycopene. Use it to add an extra layer of flavour to curries and stir-fries.
Fresh herbs – packed with a surprising number of antioxidants they add a wonderful flavour to any dish. Herbs also give new life when used on leftovers or make already-prepared foods taste homemade.
Bananas – They’re economical, available all year, and supply a nice sweetness to foods like smoothies and plain yogurt without adding sugar.
Dark chocolate – Provides powerful disease-fighting polyphenols and has even been associated with weight loss. You can also use it as a surprise ingredient in sauces. For example, throw one square into a braising sauce for meat to elevate the flavour.
Garlic – Allows you to add flavour to your dishes quickly and easily without unhealthy fats or processed ingredients. Add to soups, stews, sautés, stir-fry, and marinades.
Frozen Shrimp – Four large shrimp are only 30 calories and contain virtually no fat. Shrimp also offer up a hefty dose of protein. Buy them peeled and deveined so they can be easily defrosted and incorporated into last-minute weeknight meals
Mustard – Packed with the immune-boosting mineral selenium and turmeric, a spice (that gives it its yellow pigment) with cancer-fighting properties. Keep a couple different varieties in your refrigerator, that includes Dijon for salad dressings, sauces, marinades, and in a coating for breading chicken and pork. Grain mustard is another favourite as a spread on sandwiches.
Flavoured Vinegar – This specialty ingredient is versatile and its heart healthy: Vinegar helps open your blood vessels to improve blood flow. Flavours like blackberry or strawberry balsamic can be drizzled to brighten the flavour of salads for few calories (1 teaspoon contains about 5).
Oatmeal – Improves appetite control and increases satiety. Known for helping to lower cholesterol numbers.
Herbs de Provence – This easy-to-find dried herb blend features thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley, oregano, tarragon, marjoram, and lavender that adds a nice herbaceous seasoning for any dish. Sprinkle on chicken, potatoes, grilled veggies. Also makes a great seasoning for eggs, combined with panko as a crust for fish, or on pizza.
Broth – You can keep a carton in your pantry for a long time until you’re ready to use it. It’s low in calories (one cup contains 38) with 5 grams of protein. Whether chicken, beef or veggie, use to make soups, stews, and chillies. It also makes a great substitute for oil when sautéing vegetables. Store leftover broth in ice cube trays in the freezer for quick access. When buying broth, read the ingredients list and avoiding those that contain added sugar and caramel colouring. Buy low-sodium whenever possible.
Ground chicken and turkey – Buying lean ground turkey or chicken breast saves on saturated fat compared to ground beef. Store in your freezer and thaw when ready to eat. It’s one meat that cooks in a jiffy and can be used in stir-fries, meat sauces, tacos, enchiladas, stuffed peppers, or rice bowls.
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