Healthy Kitchen, Healthy New Year!
Source: Linda Gilmour Kessler, RD
Happy New Year! If you’ve made healthy eating a New Year’s resolution, it may be time for a kitchen makeover. By stocking your kitchen pantry, fridge and freezer with healthy basics, you can quickly and easily prepare healthy meals and snacks. Healthy breakfasts, meals and snacks will be a breeze if you have plenty of healthy ingredients on hand!
Start With the Freezer:
- Frozen vegetables and fruit. Frozen fruits and vegetables are very nutritious and can cost less than fresh, especially in the winter months. They are also convenient – no peeling or prepping! Frozen vegetables can be added to a meal or recipe. Add frozen fruit to yoghurt or smoothies for a quick breakfast or snack.
- Lean meats and poultry. Keep a supply of chicken breasts, lean or extra lean ground beef, and other lean cuts. Stock up when they are on sale.
- Nuts and seeds. Store nuts and seeds in the freezer to stay fresh longer. Have a stash of nuts such as almonds and walnuts and seeds such as ground flaxseed and sunflower seeds. Nuts and sunflowers can be tossed in a salad or eaten as a snack. Ground flaxseed can be added to yoghurt and smoothies or used in baking.
- Batch cooking. Make an extra batch when you make a meal, and freeze it for a quick meal on those nights you don’t feel like cooking.
Move on to the Pantry:
- Whole wheat pasta and brown rice. These can be used as a quick side dish or as a basis for a meal.
- Pulses like lentils, beans and split peas. Canned pulses are convenient – just rinse and use in recipes or throw into a salad. Dried ones need a bit more prep time, but are very economical. Pulses provide a big fibre boost. They are also an excellent source of protein and can replace or reduce the use of more expensive meats. Pulses can be easily added to soups and stews.
- Low sodium broths and evaporated milk. Use these to quickly prepare healthy soups. Evaporated milk will add a rich, creamy taste to milk-based soups!
- Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and salsa. These are great ways to add flavor to your meals. Make a quick chili with canned tomatoes or add some vegetables like peppers and mushrooms to tomato sauce and serve over pasta. Top with grated cheese.
- Healthy Oils. Flax oil works well in cold food preparation such as making salad dressings. It adds a nutty flavour. Flaxseed is not meant for high heat cooking such as panfrying and sauteing. Canola oil is good choice for high heat cooking like saute and grilling, as well as baking.
And Finally the Fridge:
- Fresh vegetables. Bagged salads and pre-cut vegetables are a fast and easy way to make meal prep easy. To save money, buy them unpeeled and cut and spend a few minutes prepping for the week to save time on weeknights.
- Dairy products. Choose lower fat milk, cheeses, sour cream and yoghurts for a great source of calcium. If you prefer regular fat cheese as it melts better, use it in smaller quantities.
- Eggs. A great source of protein and a quick and easy way to make meal – breakfast or supper! Sauté some vegetables, throw in lightly beaten eggs and top with shredded cheese.
- Hummus. A chickpea dip/spread that can be spread on whole grain crackers or used to dip vegetables. An easy snack and another easy way to add some protein and fibre!
Once you have your freezer, pantry and fridge stocked with healthy ingredients, get creative! Aim to include all four food groups – vegetables and fruits, grain products, milk and alternatives and meat and alternatives with each lunch and supper. For breakfast include at least three of the food groups. For a healthy snack, pair two food groups.