Life can be hectic, whether you’re stressing about work, racing the clock to beat traffic, or trying to plan dinner for the family. It can be hard to make time for healthy lifestyle choices, and with so much going on and so many diets out there these days it can all get overwhelming.
Healthy cooking can sometimes seem more like a chore than a rewarding practice. It can be hard to know how to make food at home that is good for you without just making salads over and over again. Especially after so many years cooking classic American comfort foods and family recipes that are quick and easy and heavy on the butter, cream, sugar, salt, bacon, cheese and carbs!
But don’t get frustrated. The reality is that the difference between how you cook now and the key to unlocking healthy recipes that taste great and make you feel great can be as simple as substituting a few key pantry staples for healthy alternatives.
If your pantry is properly stocked with the right healthy options it will be easy to still cook the foods that you and your family love while sticking to the right eating habits. Healthy and nutritious ingredients can be incorporated into any recipe if you know the right ways to make substitutions.
With just a few additions to your culinary arsenal, you can whipping up healthy versions of your favorite dishes in no time!
Clean out your pantry of all the old junk and instead fill it with these healthy staples:
Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, & Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Let’s start with the basics, your cooking oils. First and foremost, remove any Canola oil or Vegetable oil from your pantry as they are highly processed. Instead sub in any of these healthy oils that can be used for the same purposes but will give you a nutritious boost as well! Coconut Oil and Avocado Oil are great because they can be used at high heat for cooking without burning and losing their nutritional value, while Extra Virgin Olive Oil is very flavorful and goes great in salad dressings or drizzled over things like a Bruschetta or a Crudo dish. Just make sure that when you are cooking with Olive Oil that you mix it with another oil with a higher smoke point.
Almond, Cashew or Coconut Milk: These are all great dairy-free and Vegan subs for any milk or cream, they can be used in soups, sauces, pastas or any other recipe that may call for cream or milk. Use the unsweetened full fat kinds to replicate cream in a dish without overpowering the flavor. All three of these options can be used in any Dairy free, Vegan, Paleo, or Whole30 approved diet. Experiment and try different recipes to figure out which one is best to use depending on what you are making and the desired flavor and thickness.
Coconut Aminos: Derived from coconut nectar, they make a great sub for soy sauce in any Paleo, Whole30 or Gluten free diet. Gives a salty and sweet flavor that can replicate the umami flavor of soy sauce. However for Asian dishes you may want to add a dash of Red Boat Fish Sauce to cut the sweetness if your diet allows for it. Just a dash of this salty, sweet flavored sauce is great for Stir-fry, marinades, dressings and many more Asian inspired dishes.
Clarified Butter or Ghee: Removing the milk solids from butter can make it healthier while also making it into a great cooking oil that won’t brown or burn. Ghee is a form of unsalted clarified butter that has been partially caramelized, so it’s a little darker than regular clarified butter and has a rich nutty flavor. Both are perfect for healthy cooking as they are very flavorful and have a high smoke point. It’s easy to make your own just leave a small pot of butter over the lowest heat possible, it will melt and the white milk solids will float to the top or settle at the bottom. Strain the milk solids off the top, then pour the golden liquid butter through a strainer with some cheesecloth over it into a container.
Almond Flour: The finer the grain the better for this healthy flour substitute that adds texture and helps bind foods. Unlike regular flour, Almond Flour won’t thicken gravies, soups, or sauces (Try ArrowRoot Flour instead). But it is good for a flour dredge for meat to give it a breading or crust. Almond Flour can be substituted for breadcrumbs or Panko in any of your favorite dishes.
ArrowRoot Flour: Also called ArrowRoot Starch, this Gluten free and grain free white powder is derived from a tropical plant. ArrowRoot Flour is a great alternative to Cornstarch, and is very similar in how it cooks and thickens things up. Just like Cornstarch you don’t want to cook it for too long or it will settle at the bottom and burn. Instead you want to be careful to only add it in as a thickening agent at the end of cooking something and make sure to stir it in well.
Tapioca Flour: Another name for Tapioca Starch, this extract is similar to ArrowRoot Flour but it crisps up better for frying. Use this as a gluten free, grain-free and Whole30 approved substitute for frying up some chicken nuggets, chicken fried steak, catfish, or whatever you can think of!
Quinoa & Whole Grains: Not only is Quinoa quick to cook but it’s also perfect for anyone eating a plant based diet because it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids. Whole grains are packed with nutrients and fiber without all the starch and empty calories that rice can have. They can also help prevent diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. Make sure to keep your pantry stocked with different types of Quinoa and nutrient dense options like Farro or Barley instead of just plain old white rice.
Honey, Agave Nectar & Stevia: Honey and Agave Nectar are both great options for unrefined sugars that can give you the sweetness you crave without the negative health effects of processed white sugars. Stevia also makes for a natural calorie free sweetener that goes great in your coffee or tea.
Organic Herbs and Spices: A great addition to your healthy pantry! Organic herbs and spices give you a healthy and effective way to add flavor to any dish without compromising on your health. Plus there are so many different properties to these that can help improve your health, like Ginger and Turmeric which are both great natural ways to fight off inflammation.
Chia Seeds: Can be used as a substitute for eggs in most recipes, and are also a complete protein like Quinoa. Chia Seeds also go great in smoothies, or as a healthy topping with some crunch for Greek Yogurt or Acai bowls. Other egg substitutes include organic Apple sauce or a mashed banana.
Plant Based Protein Powder: Throw it in the smoothie with those Chia Seeds and you’ll have a great healthy Vegan option that will allow you to get regular protein in your diet. Make sure you find a brand that is organic and low in sugar for the best possible dietary benefits.
Whole Grain Pasta: A gluten free option that allows you to keep eating the pastas that you love without feeling bloated. It is easy to find many options for whole wheat dry pastas at most stores, but gluten-free wet pasta made without flour also does exist you just have to look for it.
No salt added Canned Beans or Lentils: A quick and easy way to add some plant based proteins to any dish, beans and lentils are also flavorful and can make a healthy meal feel more filling. Look for organic, no salt added and BPA free cans.
Nutritional Yeast: Often referred to as Vegan Parmesan, nutritional yeast is high in plant based protein. Many brands are fortified with Vitamin B12 which can be hard to get when eating a plant-based diet. Can be sprinkled over any pasta, salad, soup, vegan pizza, or popcorn, or it can be used in making salad dressings and dips.
Chef Logan Broyles works as a personal Chef for Whole Health Everyday, a personal Chef service based in San Diego, Orange County and Scottsdale that specializes in custom meal planning and at home meal prep for those that have special dietary restrictions or just wish to eat healthier. Whole Health Everyday also offers event catering, online cooking classes via Zoom and Facebook Live, Corporate cooking services, and nutritional assessments. Get in touch with Whole Health Everyday and one of our highly trained chefs will help you come up with a great healthy meal plan that’s right for you
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