You have just come home from work and, looking forward to cooking up a nutritious meal, you open the door of your refrigerator and to your disappointment, you are only met with the bright lights of your fridge, sans any ingredients to prepare a proper meal. There are not even any leftovers in sight. And your kitchen cabinets are only stocked with the bare necessities like spices and condiments, which obviously will not allow you to cook an entire meal for yourself.
If you have gone through a similar situation, you would know how frustrating it is to have to resign yourself to another less healthy, take-away meal, especially when you are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Do You Have These Kitchen Pantry Essentials?
Eating healthy can be a challenge when you are not prepared with the right essentials in your kitchen. An empty refrigerator and a pantry with dwindling and stale ingredients will lead you to cave in to your temptations of ordering in or dining out — two completely fine options, but only if you do them once in a while. Make them into a regular habit and you will see yourself putting on the pounds in no time.
However, with a well-stocked kitchen pantry and the will to prepare nutritious home-cooked meals, you will never be left floundering on your commitment towards leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
Keeping a variety of whole grains handy in your kitchen pantry will allow you to prepare any meal easily, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. Whole grains are nutritious kitchen staples to stock in your pantry as they will leave you filling full and satiated due to their rich fibre content. Whole grains also contain a high amount of antioxidants, the main ones being the chemical compounds polyphenols, which provides various health benefits such as reducing the risk of chronic illnesses like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Examples of whole grains include brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, whole grain bread and oatmeal. With these whole grains stocked in your kitchen pantry, a wide range of meals is at your fingertips such as overnight oats, spaghetti bolognese and quinoa salad.
Pulses are the edible seeds found in a legume pod. They can be categorised into three main types: peas (split yellow peas, whole green peas), beans (mung beans, fava beans, garbanzo beans), and lentils (green lentils, brown lentils). Pulses provide a whole host of health benefits as they are rich in protein and fibre. Their high protein content, especially, make pulses great alternatives to meat. Thus, if you lead a vegetarian or vegan diet, or are simply trying to cut down on your meat intake, pulses are the number one source of protein you should include in your meals to ensure you do not have a lack of protein in your diet. Aside from being good sources of protein and fibre, pulses also contain high amounts of minerals and vitamins including iron, magnesium and folate. Some examples of meals you can cook with pulses are lentil dhal, chickpea patty burger and black bean burrito.
Rich in unsaturated fats — the healthy fats you want in your body — nuts are one of the easiest ingredients to include in your meals. You can eat them in the form of nut butters in your breakfast toasts, add them whole to your salads or breakfast oatmeal, or use them as toppings on savoury dishes like pasta. Unsaturated fats are important nutrients to your body as they play a vital role in the health of your heart by helping to regulate its rhythm as well as lower your blood pressure. This then helps lower your risk of developing heart disease. One of the unsaturated fats found in nuts is the omega-3 fatty acid, which is a kind of polyunsaturated fat. Plus, like whole grains and pulses, nuts have a rich fibre content. Therefore, adding nuts to your meals will help you feel satiated for longer, thus preventing you from overeating.
Not all oils are created equal; some are healthier for you due to their high amounts of unsaturated fats. Examples of these oils are olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil and grapeseed oil. Oils should be a staple in your pantry as you can cook healthier dishes with them as well as use them to dress savoury dishes such as salads and pasta. However, the one thing you should take note of when cooking with oils is their respective smoke points. The smoke point of an oil is the point at which the oil starts to, well, smoke. When this happens, the good nutrients found in the oil will be destroyed and it will begin to produce free radicals. In general, unrefined oils have a lower smoke point than refined oils. Hence, make sure to be mindful of this when you are cooking with unrefined oils like canola oil, flaxseed oil and walnut oil.