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How to Stock a ‘Super’ Foods Pantry

Kate Freeman

There are so many reasons to regularly eat healthy food.

Munching on a ‘super’ foods diet will help you lose weight, prolong your life, increase your energy levels, boost your immune system, decrease your risk of developing chronic disease, help in managing stress and much, much more!

When it comes to eating a healthy diet, nothing is more important than good preparation and organisation.

I’m sure you can recall those moments when you reached for ready-made foods or take away because the cupboards were bare and after a long day at work you’re tired with no idea what to feed the family.

One very important part of good organisation is a well stocked pantry; full of ‘super’ foods that are low in kilojoules (energy) to help manage a healthy weight and also packed full of vitamins, minerals and other health promoting compounds.

There isn’t a specific definition for a ‘super’ food and you’ll find many different opinions around on what foods end up with this prestigious title.

In my opinion, there are no such things as ‘super’ foods.

A single food can’t save your life or magically improve your health overnight. However, good quality foods that are minimally processed and offer good nutrient density can benefit your health long term and should form the foundation of your everyday eating pattern.

The foods that I’ve listed below are rich in vitamins and/or minerals, low in energy, high in antioxidants, polyphenols and other healthy promoting compounds, have had minimal processing, should be stored in the pantry and can be easily incorporated into meals and snacks.

There are lots of foods that are good for us for many different reasons, so just because a food is not listed here, doesn’t mean it’s not nutritious and you dismiss it – these are just my top 11 choices.

Spices

Spices are rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. But you do need to eat a decent size serve of them (not just a sprinkle) to get enough of these health promoting compounds.

I recommend to use spices daily, as often as you can and keep it nice and varied. Spices are also a great way of adding flavour to a meal without adding fat or sugar and excess energy, which is great if you’re watching your waistline.

Check out this article – How to Add Flavour Without Adding Kilojoules

Dried Herbs

Dried herbs are a pantry essential.

Add lots of flavour to homemade pasta sauces with dried basil and oregano and reduce your intake of salt and additives by not having to buy pasta sauce in a jar.

High in polyphenols, use them generously and regularly.

I love adding dried herbs to marinades (oregano, basil, tarragon, coriander), roasted vegetables and on top of home made pizzas.

I also like to sprinkle dried mixed herbs over chicken breast of thigh before I pop it on the grill.

Seeds

Seeds include linseeds, sunflower, pumpkin, chia and sesame.

In particular, linseed (flaxseed) and chia seeds are very rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are essential to good health and exhibit a range of health benefits from reducing cholesterol, inflammation and visceral (tummy) fat.

If you are not a big fish eater, which is also a great source of omega 3, than make sure there are a few pantry containers dedicated to these little nutrition powerhouses.

Sprinkle them over your porridge or breakfast cereal. Make up a trail mix to snack on or add them as a crunchy texture to salads.

Nuts

Nuts are a fantastic source of essential fats and in particular walnuts are especially high in omega 3.

Nuts are also a great source of fibre and can be used in so many different meals and snacks.

You can create a snack bag full of nuts, seeds and dried fruit to munch on through the day.

Add them to your muesli, sprinkle them over a salad, add them to a curry or stir fry and you can even incorporate them into your baking.

Muesli slices and biscuits can be made that little bit healthier with the addition of nuts.

Extra-virgin Olive Oil

Not all fat is bad for you and I always make sure I have plenty of extra virgin olive oil to use during cooking and make my own salad dressings and sauces.

Olive oil is a great source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are really important for our health.

Just use oil in moderation because all fats are very energy dense and too much fat can increase our energy intake making weight loss and maintenance difficult.

Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wa’) is a bit of a buzz ingredient at the moment and for good reason.

It is one of the only plant based sources of complete protein, and is a great source of fibre, phosphorous, magnesium and iron.

As women, it can be difficult to ensure an adequate iron intake, particularly if you’re not a big meat eater, so quinoa is a great choice to include regularly in your diet.

Use it to replace pasta, rice or cous cous as it’s great with curries and stews.

I also love it in a salad with lots of fresh herbs and vegetables.

You might like to try this quinoa porridge for breakfast.

Oats

Oats are a brilliant little grain.

They are high in a type of fibre called beta-glucan that helps reduce cholesterol reabsorption decreasing your risk of heart disease.

They also have a low GI (glycemic index) making them great for keeping your blood sugar levels stable and keeping you  feeling fuller for longer – if you have them at breakfast time they can help stave off the mid-morning munchies.

A delicious muesli mix of oats nuts and seeds is awesome paired with greek yoghurt, berries and a drizzle of honey for breakfast.

Wheatgerm

Wheatgerm is extraordinarily rich in fibre and B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate and pyridoxine).

B vitamins have a huge range of functions in the body, mainly the release of energy from food, particularly carbohydrates.

Use it in baking by replacing 3-5 tablespoons of flour with wheatgerm, sprinkle it over your breakfast cereal or muesli, or add a tablespoon to a fruit smoothie.

Soy Beans

Soy beans, like quinoa, are another one of those plant based sources of complete protein making them a really important part of a vegetarian or vegan diet.

They are also a great source of fibre and a hormone-like substance called phytoestrogen.

Phytoestrogens mimic the female hormone estrogen and thus can help release menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and also reduce your risk of heart disease and the brittle bone disease, osteoporosis.

Soy milk, tofu, tempeh and canned soy beans are a great part of your diet every day.

Psyllium

Without adequate fibre in our diet, we can end up bloated, constipated and generally just feeling blah.

Not only does fibre help maintain a healthy digestive system, it’s also great for reducing your cholesterol and helping you feel fuller for longer on a smaller portion making it great if you are looking to lose weight.

Psyllium husk is a great way to boost your fibre intake by adding a tablespoon to muesli, breakfast cereals and baked goods.

Tinned Fish

Salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are rich in heart healthy fats known as omega 3’s.

Omega 3’s have been extensively researched and there is good evidence to suggest that a diet regularly containing seafood offers good long term benefits for your health.

Tinned fish is economical, handy and very tasty.

I always keep a few tins in the pantry for a quick, nutritious meal.

Tinned beans

Four bean mix, lentils, chicken peas, kidney beans and all the other varieties in that family are a delicious, nutritious and economical edition to any meal.

They are packed with fibre, carbohydrate, protein and other nutrients and are a great way to keep you feeling full and satisfied after a meal.

Add four bean mix to a salad or lentils to a pasta or rice dish.

Mash chick peas and serve with chicken or fish or make a Mexican style dish with kidney or black beans.

The possibilities are endless!

Image of ‘Large diet and weight loss superfood selection‘ via Shutterstock

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Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author

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