Pantry Staples And Cooking Hacks For Optimal Health

If you were to drop by unannounced at any one of the kitchens of a health coach, it’s very likely you’d find many of the same items lining our pantry shelves. And it wouldn’t just be because we all like the same things (we don’t always). It would have a lot more to do with viewing food as medicine—the idea that healthy, whole foods have healing powers, delivering real, sustaining nutrition that keeps us well and feeling powered up. When you examine the vitamin and nutrient value tucked inside everything you eat, you can no longer look at the food you buy and eat as simply a means to the end of filling up three times a day. When you ask, What can this food do for me?, the thought of sugar, empty calories, and processed foods becomes less and less appealing, making smart choices a no-brainer.

My health coaches and I do, however, understand the challenges of modern life. We face them too. We get that it can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to shop for and cook healthy food, but it is something we urge everyone to do to support their health. Even food billed as “healthy takeout” can be a lot less healthy than what you make at home, so don’t kid yourself.

So, how can you make sure your meals are loaded with everything your body needs to look, feel, and be well? Try our shopping and cook-at-home hacks, and over time, you’ll give your pantry the healthy makeover it needs. To get started, stock up on our favorite pantry essentials below, so you’ll always have what you need to whip up a quick, healthy meal no matter how little time you’ve got:

Pantry Essentials

Shopping List:

  • Almond butter
  • Almond flour, organic
  • Almonds (and other nuts)
  • Anchovies
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Avocado oil
  • Quality protein powder
  • Beans, black, white, red (BPA-free cans)
  • Biltong or jerky (grass-fed)
  • Black pepper
  • Bone broth
  • Chia seeds
  • Cinnamon
  • Cocoa powder, raw
  • Coconut aminos
  • Coconut flour
  • Coconut milk, canned (in BPA-free cans)
  • Coconut oil
  • Collagen powder
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Flax seeds
  • Ghee
  • Greens Powder
  • Hemp seeds
  • Herbs, dried
  • Himalayan/Celtic sea salt
  • Honey, raw
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olives, green and black
  • Sardines, in olive oil (BPA-free cans)
  • Sockeye salmon/Wild-caught salmon (BPA-free cans)
  • Stevia
  • Tahini
  • Tea: green, peppermint, rooibos, hibiscus, ginger
  • Tomato sauce, organic (without added sugar or cheap oils)
  • Turmeric (and other spices)
  • Wild mackerel (BPA-free cans)

Shopping Tips:

  • Do your best to purchase organic/local food items to help keep the volume of chemicals and pesticides you ingest every day to a minimum.
  • Because organic might not always be possible, buy your fresh produce from the farmers’ market, generally grown with fewer toxic chemicals than their factory-farmed equivalents.
  • Contain both cost and chemical intake by buying fresh produce according to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen lists —the items you should always try to buy organic and the ones where conventionally grown is OK.
  • When it comes to fish, meat, and poultry, my first word of advice is to eat less of it and buy the highest-quality animal products you can afford. Most of us don’t actually need to be eating animals twice a day, so consider lightening up on the animals and going much heavier on plants.
  • When shopping for fish, look for pole-caught, wild fish, not factory-farmed. Buy meat that’s pasture-raised and grass-fed, not just “grass finished.” And your poultry should be raised in humane conditions, on non-genetically-modified feed, and preferably pasture-raised. Bottom line: The less stressed and more naturally raised the animals are, the more nutritious they’ll be on your plate.
  • And perhaps the most important shopping tip of all? Don’t buy crap. If you don’t have processed foods, chips, and sugary snacks in the house, you can’t eat them!

Home Cooking Hacks

The more you can systemize meal planning and, dare we say it, “idiot-proof” it, the more likely you’ll eat well. You’re literally not giving yourself the option to eat poorly; you’re setting yourself up to win. Here’s how to be the captain of your healthy-eating ship:

  • Take one evening a week to chop and prep veggies and make soups and stews. Freeze them in portion-size containers ahead of time so all you have to do is heat, add a salad on the side, top with a few small slices of meat, chunks of fish, or poultry (or not), and dig in.
  • Take your lunch to the office—and healthy snacks, too. You’ll save money and be completely in charge of the food you eat—and the quality—every day.
  • Drinking enough? Make every swig count. In addition to water and instead of coffee, sip on herbal teas, like rooibos, hibiscus, green, etc.
  • Cook for more than one meal! When you have time to do the cooking yourself, make enough food for leftovers so you can bring your own lunch to work OR enjoy a delicious dinner a second time around without any extra work.

And one last thing: Promise us you’ll never eat cereal at dinner (or, for that matter, breakfast) again!

For a complete plan to stock your cupboards, cook healthy, and achieve optimal health, look at the THRIVE online holistic health program.

Sources for this article include: