Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Top Real Foods to Add to Your Pantry and Fridge

I had a great question asked in response to my 100 Days Real Food Challenge Recap and it was "What are the top real foods to add to your pantry and fridge to begin eating this way?" I compiled a list of 10 real foods and how we use them in our home. These might be common sense to some people, but when I started out on eating real food I was clueless as to where to start. I've only arrived at this point after doing this for over 3 months and I'm not an expert by any means. This is just what my family has found we liked and what has been most beneficial in helping us begin and continue our journey in eating real food.

1. Instead of chips, buy nuts. We buy raw nuts (nothing cooked or coated in sugar or salt) and mix them in a big ziploc bag. I normally buy what is on sale, but I get anything from pecans, sunflower seeds, cashews, walnuts, almonds, etc. Nuts are so much healthier than chips and are very filling. All you need is a small handful and you've got a great side for your sandwich or an afternoon snack. If you absolutely must have chips, buy these kind. There are only 3 ingredients, and they are cooked in sunflower oil, which is better for you than hydrogenated oil (trans fat) and there is no added MSG.

2. Instead of refined white flour, buy whole wheat (WW) flour. Refined flour is stripped of almost all the nutrients found in the grains. I use WW flour in the same way as I do white flour. I use it in cooking as a thickener (instead of corn starch) and in baking as well. I have made pies, cookies, muffins and breads with wonderful results!

3. Instead of sugary, flavored yogurt, buy plain yogurt. Plain yogurt at first sounded yucky to me. I had always had flavored, sugar added yogurt and they thought of having nothing sweet/flavored added to it didn't sound like fun. I use it in smoothies (more on that later) and as a snack or dessert topped with homemade berry sauce. I also make my own yogurt every other time to save money because the organic Stonyfield yogurt that we buy can be a bit high (at my grocery store its $3.29 for 1 qt). This way I only have to buy about 2 qts of this per month, and make the other 2 on my own (we go through 1 qt a week because its so good!).

4. Instead of popsicles/frozen desserts, buy frozen fruit. Frozen fruit is something that we use mainly in conjunction with the yogurt mentioned above. I make the homemade berry sauce as a topper to yogurt, pancakes and waffles. I also regularly make green smoothies (just a couple bananas, a scoop or two of yogurt, some frozen fruit and a handful of spinach). Its a great way to get in your dessert cravings while having something sweet that's good for you!

5. Instead of sugar, buy pure maple syrup and honey. Maple syrup and honey are natural sweeteners. I use them in place of sugar in a lot of things, however they do not work as a replacement for sugar in some baking (as in cookies especially, they just make them a runny mess!). I have used them in pies and sweet breads/muffins and it has worked great!

6. Instead of vegetable oil and canola oil, buy olive oil and coconut oil. I use olive oil for cooking mostly and coconut oil for baking. Olive oil and coconut oil are unrefined oils as opposed to oils like canola or vegetable oils, which are processed, cleaned with chemicals, etc. They really are hazardous to our health, so stay away from them if at all possible. And don't be scared of coconut oil! I had never used coconut oil in my life until starting the challenge, so if you have no idea what you are doing, this article is very helpful.

Other things that I would recommend buying that don't really need explanation are in season fruits and vegetables. They are cheaper and provide the most nutrients for you. If you really need something that isn't in season, buy it frozen--they are harvested at their peak during their in season and then frozen, retaining their nutrients well. Also, I do not buy all organic. There is no room in the budget. I adhere to the budget version of this eating plan, as there is not an unlimited amount of money for food in our home. Because of that, I cannot buy all organic. There are some things that I do buy organic (mostly the dirty dozen) but the rest I do not. Eating conventional fruits and veggies are most definitely better than none at all!

Has this list made you think of foods that you can replace at your house? What things could you see implementing in your family's eating plan?

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