One of the easiest ways to stay healthy and sane is to simply eat well at home. We can’t really control what oil is used in restaurants or how much sugar they add to their salad dressing. Of course, we can be smart in making restaurant and menu choices, but it’s no fun to be obsessive about it and let's be real: sometimes you just want to eat a basket of fries. Instead of feeling guilty about it, balance out your indulgences by having the healthiest foods you can on your own time and in your home.
Food marketers are savvy and find sneaky ways to hide sugars and processed oils into our foods to make them cost less, last longer and harder to put down (once you pop, you just can't stop). Even seemingly “healthy” food companies and grocers are guilty of stocking these products. Fortunately, there are good products out there, we just need to know what to look for!
So, what can you do? Spend an hour or so in your pantry and fridge diligently looking at the labels of your nut butters, milk, crackers, chips, granolas, condiments, cookies, etc.
Don’t be fooled by fancy terms on the box, like gluten free, no added sugars, or no trans fats, and get rid of the following products:
Processed Vegetable Oils
I’m talking about those highly processed and tasteless vegetables oils, like canola, corn, soybean, safflower or sunflower oil. They are a major cause of inflammation, which leads to a variety of unwanted issues. Staying away from these oils will help you avoid processed foods in general. Note: some food companies are using non-GMO vegetable oils in their products, which in small amounts are not a huge deal.
Refined Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners
Get rid of cane sugar, products with high fructose corn syrup, sugary cookies and treats. Anything with Splenda, NutraSweet, sucralose or aspartame should also go in the bin. These are chemicals.
Anything you cannot pronounce or that sounds like a chemical: Buh-bye.
Really Old Stuff
Condiments, spices, anything in the freezer that has frostbite. The general rule of thumb for spices is two years. Check expiration dates on everything else, and when in doubt, give it a whiff.
After you have detoxed your kitchen, take an audit of what you need and make a shopping list! Here is a quick list of pantry essentials that will ensure that you can always make a satisfying and healthy meal at home.
Good Fats & Oils
Coconut oil, ghee, good quality butter, olive oil, avocado oil. When cooking, a quick rule of thumb is to cook hot foods with fats that are solid at room temperature and use oils, liquid at room temperature, for non-heated applications (like a salad dressing or garnish).
Vegetables and Herbs
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat a plant-based diet. Make plants the cornerstone of your diet. Adding variety in your meals will automatically increase your nutrient intake (and add flavor!). Shop the periphery of the grocery store or head to your local farmer’s market. And don’t forget the herbs too: parsley, basil, dill, cilantro—spice things up!
Good Quality Proteins
Find a local butcher or a grocery store where you can get organic, grass fed meats, free range poultry, pastured eggs and sustainable fish.
Healthy Dried Goods
These items have a long shelf life and can make for easy snacking and quick meals. Examples include, coconut flakes, nuts and seeds, steel cut oats, beans and legumes.
Make sure to keep plenty of healthy and anti-inflammatory spices on hand. Some favorites include, turmeric, ginger, cayenne, cumin and cinnamon. Getting high quality spices and storing them properly (away from heat and bright lights) is important too.
Before you hit the store, do some research. Take your time to find products and brands that use good ingredients. Once you figure out what you like, it will be quicker and easier to shop. A few of my favorite brands to look out for:
- Chocolate: Eating Evolved
- Ghee: Fourth & Heart
- Chips and Tortillas: Siete Family Foods (if you're interested in eating less grains, these are great products!)
- Chips: Brad’s Raw Foods
- Crackers, Cookies, Baking Mixes: Simple Mills
- Dried Foods and Snacks: Navitas Organic
- Eggs: Vital Farms Bullsh*t Free Eggs
- Nut Butter: Artisana Organics
- Kombucha: GT’s Living Foods (they don’t have added sugars like so many of the other brands)
- Bars: Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bars (the only brand I can find without added sugars or a ton of dates)
If you find one or more of your pantry staples on the toss list, don’t freak out! Try to replace it with something a little better and consider moving that item from an everyday item to an occasional treat. It's all about balance and finding alternative products you enjoy just as much (if not more!).