From pantry to table

During these uncertain times, we are doing our best to keep our families safe and healthy. In just a few short weeks, we have adapted how we go grocery shopping. I think most of us are not going to the grocery store as often as we normally would, or we have elderly parents that are relying on us for their grocery shopping. Therefore, this means that not only are we shopping for ourselves but also for others and we want to make sure that they have everything they need.

Other than the basic staples of milk, butter, eggs and flour, having a well stocked pantry means that you can still eat healthy, varied and nutritious meals, that will provide you and your loved ones with the necessary vitamins and minerals to stay healthy.

When buying food to create or stock up a pantry there are certain key foods that are needed, such as whole wheat grains, tinned food and tomato sauce, frozen foods, dried legumes, onions, garlic and oils. With these items you will always be able to make simple yet healthy meals.

I consider whole grains, such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, barley and quinoa to be the foundation of a pantry. Not only do they provide us with fiber that is vital for our gut health, they are also a great source of long-lasting sugars, which will help to curb those sugar cravings that we have when we eat refined grains such as white rice and pasta. If we’re thinking of comfort food, pasta is a great option, by simply adding some frozen veggies and a tomato sauce, you have healthy meal full of fiber and vitamin C and A to support the immune system. Quinoa is also one of my favourites, as it is an amazing source of protein, quick to cook, by simply adding some chopped nuts and olives with a little grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top – dinner is ready.

Generally speaking we know that fresh vegetables have a higher nutrient content that frozen or tinned, however these are times when those frozen foods are worth their weight in gold, just check out the freezer aisle in the grocery store next time you are out! No matter whether you are cooking with fresh or frozen vegetables, it is always better to lightly steam them, rather than boiling them, as this will help to maintain nutrient content.

We often think of meat and dairy as being one of the main sources of protein, however combining brown rice and legumes, such as with this slow cooker black beans and rice recipe, it is a great option that will provide the body not only with an amazing source of protein, but with valuable fiber and vitamins as well. This a cheaper option than meat, extremely good for you and it is easier to digest than meat, especially red meat, which requires a lot of work on behalf of our digestive system so that our body is able access the protein. Have you ever noticed that you tend to feel a little sleepier after having eaten a steak?

When buying tinned vegetables, it is important to keep in mind the sodium content, so try to look for the ‘no salt added’ options. Tinned food such as beans, tuna and sardines are a must in a pantry. Whenever I use tinned beans, I rinse them well, until the water runs clear as this removes any excess salt and improves the flavour.

For a balanced diet, it is important to include healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds and oils such as avocado, olive and walnut oil. A study has shown that healthy fats can not only help to reduce inflammation in the body, but they also help in reducing blood pressure, so adding these to your diet is a great idea. They can make all the difference on pasta or a salad. I love adding some chopped walnuts or almonds to give it that extra crunch, not only are they are a good source of healthy fats and proteins, but they help to keep you feeling full for longer.

Onions and garlic are also another great food to store in your pantry, they are a source of antioxidants and help with inflammation. They can be added to any bean salad, pasta sauce or mixed in with some tinned tuna, adding a little olive oil, you have ready-made dinner in minutes.

So, you can easily see that by having certain key foods well stocked, eating well is no longer an issue. From split pea soup to pasta with a vegetable sauce or beans and rice, you will always have something to eat at hand.

Read more about rice, a pantry staple.

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