A couple of years ago I led a monthly grocery store tour for patients. We would spend almost 2 hours walking through the grocery store talking about food, nutrition labels, how to use ingredients, better options and every other question you can imagine! One of the most common questions I received was “What do you buy?” Patient’s wanted to know what I placed in my cart and how I filled my pantry and fridge.
Today, I wanted to share 7 items I always purchase and have stocked in our kitchen. These are ingredients I grab routinely to include in meals, substitute for a missing ingredient, or simply enjoy eating as is.
You probably have a lot of these items in your kitchen already. I hope to inspire a few different ways you can use them as you include these nourishing foods into your meal plan.
Plain Greek Yogurt
We generally buy plain greek yogurt for our home- whole milk for my daughter and low fat for myself and husband. Greek yogurt is a great source of protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium. We go through A LOT of yogurt each week because all 3 of us LOVE IT!
One of the most common complaints I have heard about plain greek yogurt is that it is too tart. I agree that greek yogurt has a certain tartness and astringency. However, the little bit of fat in low fat yogurt (made with 2% milk) has a bit less tang than the fat free. Brands also vary in taste and flavor. My absolute favorite brand is FAGE. If you have been weary to give plain greek yogurt a shot, shop around and try out some different brands to see which ones you like the best. You might be surprised!
How we use plain greek yogurt at home:
- As a replacement for sour cream (like on top of a taco salad!)
- In a fruit dip- this one is my favorite right now!
- Incorporated with a dry dressing mix (like ranch or french onion) for a vegetable dip.
- To make my creamy overnight oats!
Oatmeal is a whole grain that can do all kinds of culinary tricks in your kitchen! It is so much more than a bowl of oatmeal and I dare you to find different ways to incorporate this flat, oval grain into your meals.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- In place of breadcrumbs- add to meatballs or meatloaf
- Baked Oatmeal- the perfect breakfast to make on a weekend and re-warm all week for a stick-to-your bones meal. This is my favorite recipe!
- Overnight Oats- Cool, creamy and satisfying. Check out my Overnight Oats Recipe Blueprint to create your own sweet combination!
- Pancakes- Blend oats into flour for these yummy gluten free pancakes. My company loved this recipe when I made it over Christmas holidays!
Edamame & Tempeh
My favorite kinds of whole soy are edamame beans and tempeh. Edamame are the actual immature soybean that comes in a green pod- buy them in the shell for snacking or already shelled for cooking. Frozen is my favorite way to buy edamame- it is ready in a couple of minutes after boiling or microwaving. Tempeh is produced when the edamame beans are fermented together in a cake or patty. Firmer than tofu, tempeh is known for having more ‘chew’ and texture. When comparing protein, tempeh trumps tofu coming in at about double the protein in a 3.5 ounce serving. This makes it a great meat substitute at a meal. Find tempeh in the refrigerated section in the produce department in most grocery stores.
My 1.5 year old daughter is currently refusing meat any time we offer it, but she adores tempeh and sometimes eats edamame. Right now, this is a lifesaver in our house!
How you can include edamame or tempeh in your meals:
- Add edamame to a garden salad for some vegetarian protein in place of poultry or meat.
- Toss edamame into your favorite vegetable soup to make it a complete meal with protein.
- Marinate tempeh pieces in a flavorful marinade and bake.
- Cut tempeh into cubes, toss with oil, spices and cornmeal; bake for ~15 minutes for “Tempeh Croutons”.
Full of protein, fiber, iron and potassium, beans are an undervalued food that contribute great benefits to our health and are so very easy to stock and use. Most of the time, I buy canned beans but when I really plan well, I will grab a bag of dry beans. When buying canned, I always check the sodium of the different brands as some are higher than others. I have found several brands (sometimes the organic ones) that have less than 200mg sodium per serving- I try to choose these most often.
Here are a few ways we use them in our meals:
- Our favorite chili recipe includes several different kinds of beans as all of them add a different texture and flavor.
- Mix 1 can of black beans with ½ pound of lean ground beef for taco night to add nutrients and save some money- meat is expensive!
- When we want a treat, I have made these fudgy Black Bean Brownies that are full of sugar but incredibly delicious! If you are in doubt, I promise you won’t be able to taste the beans at all!
- Add to the top of your salad for vegetable protein- super simple!
Jarred salsa is one of my favorite condiments! It is a healthy and fast way to add pizzaz to any type of tex mex dish and at only 10-15 calories per 2 tablespoons, you can add as much as you want!
Most salsa brands have a pretty simple ingredient list including tomatoes, peppers, onions, vinegar, salt, garlic and spices. The sodium can be high in some brands. There are 2 brands I buy that both have about 170mg sodium per serving, but some brands have as much as 250mg/serving. Simply check the nutrition label when you are shopping for the best option.
How I incorporate into our meals:
- Top grilled chicken with salsa and avocado to add some flavor with flare
- Mix with rice/quinoa and black beans for an easy tex-mex side dish
- Create a lunch bowl with leftover roasted vegetables, whole grain, tempeh/shredded poultry and a bit of shredded cheese; warm through and then add salsa before serving.
- Include in a soup like this one I love (I use chopped yellow bell pepper in place of the corn for extra veggies)
Nuts- Walnuts OR Almonds
Raw walnuts or almonds might seem a bit boring but there are so many ways you can incorporate them into your meals!
Our family’s favorite ways to enjoy:
- Top your favorite bowl of oatmeal or overnight oats recipe with chopped/sliced nuts for some added crunch
- Blend in a food processor to become your crumb coating for baked chicken breast
- Roughly chop along with some of your favorite herbs as a topping for fish
- Add a small handful to your breakfast of yogurt and berries for some healthy fats and nutty texture
Yes, this is a staple in our home. We are never without. I limit my quantity, but I do enjoy a little bit each day. While my husband loves to include dark chocolate bits in muffins and pancakes, I prefer to eat dark chocolate in its purest form- as is!
TRUTH: The mind of the intelligent and discerning seeks knowledge and eagerly inquires after it. —Proverbs 15:14a (AMP)