Whether it’s macrobiotics, Ayurvedic practices, raw food or food combining—I love finding ways to reduce stress and increase energy. I’ll take my research and obsession with freshness and nutrient density, and turn them into approachable tips to help you prosper. Regardless if you are plant-based or not, I hope to help you reach optimal wellness with the most up-to-date information on healthy living.
The first question I get when people find out I’m a plant-based nutritionist is, “what do you eat?” The second is, “does it take a long time to make your meals?” Food is absolutely a priority for me but I understand a busy lifestyle firsthand. For the weekdays I’m always coming up with quick 30 minute meals that can feed the entire family satisfying, nutrient dense and tasty meals because no one wants to spend their entire evening in the kitchen after a long day.
The best way to make that happen is to have your pantry stocked with plant-based staples for swift and healthy meals, even when you don’t have a plan for dinner.
Here is what I keep in my pantry:
1. Beans and Lentils:
Always keep a variety of dried or canned beans and lentils on hand for quick and hearty meals. By loading your dishes with protein and fiber, you and your family will be full and satisfied without spending all night in the kitchen. Some of my favorites are black beans, chickpeas, adzuki beans and red lentils. You can use them to make filling and buttery cutlets or burgers for grilling night, spicy (or not) chili, and even taco meat for Taco Tuesday!
2. Whole Grains:
No kitchen is complete without an assortment of grains. Whole grains provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals to increase your energy and keep you full. You have seemingly endless choices; my favorites are quinoa, millet, brown rice, buckwheat and oats. To speed up cooking time and improve digestibility, soak your grain of choice in some water before you leave in morning, then when you’re ready to start dinner that evening, rinse and cook. Try overnight oats for quick and perfect start to your day.
3. Nuts and seeds:
Add texture, crunch and flavor to your favorite dishes with nuts and seeds. Or, if you’re a midday snacker like me a little handful of nuts is a quick and healthy 2PM boost. Nuts and seeds are a great source of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein and fiber. Some of my go-to seeds are: chia, flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds; in the nut department I reach for walnuts, almond, cashews, Brazil, and macadamia nuts. For quick and easy use toss on salads, beans and grains or in smoothies. For a healthy dessert option use chia seeds for chocolate or vanilla pudding!
4. Coconut oil:
This must-have has many uses in and out of the kitchen. For culinary purposes use it as a butter replacement, for roasting or sautéing vegetables, in baking (as an ingredient or to grease the pan), for dressing, sauces, dips, frosting and smoothies.
5. Coconut Milk:
This is my secret weapon! If you need some last minute flavor and richness to your dishes coconut milk has your back! I’m talking about the version in a can, not the carton, usually found in the Asian cooking aisle. This is great for quick curries, satisfying smoothies, and warm nourishing soups.
6. Nut butter:
When I think about my childhood I couldn’t image a pantry without peanut butter, and not much has changed except it’s usually almond butter these days. Having your favorite nut butters ready to go is perfect for traditional snacks like PB&J, ants on a log, or additions to your smoothies like my famous Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy Bar Smoothie.
7. All-purpose gluten-free flour:
You have no idea how many times gluten-free flour has saved dinner! Having your favorite go-to flour on hand will give you freedom from culinary worry. You can use it in Healthy Tiramisu Protein Pancakes, muffins, Baked Vegetable Pakora, or anywhere else you’d normally use flour.
This zero calorie sweetener is a great option when you need to curb your sweet tooth without the added sugar. It’s a plant you can grow in your garden or on your window sill but is most easily used in its powdered form you can get at the store in the sweetener aisle. Use it anywhere you would normally use sugar: coffee, tea, smoothies or oatmeal. You can even use it in your baking to reduce the amount of sugar in your treats. (note: do not use in a 1:1 ratio when replacing sugar. A little goes a long way with this one.)
If you like Asian cuisines you’ve probably had a bowl of warm, nourishing miso soup. Miso paste is traditionally made from fermented soy beans but can also be found soy-free from barley or chickpeas and is loaded with nutritional benefits including vitamins and minerals. It is also a meal saver! Use it for soups, dips, dressing, sauces, and vegetable stock. It will save you a bundle in vegetable stock and can add vibrant flavor to ho-hum dishes.
Made from crushed sesame seeds tahini is loaded with calcium, protein and B vitamins. It is popular in Middle Eastern dishes like hummus and baba ganoush. I love it for quick sauces and dressings that can save bland meals leaving all the plates on your table licked clean. It pairs great with miso for a creamy light dressing for beans and grains.
BONUS! Ready to take your pantry to the next level? Pick up nutritional yeast: I have three words for you, Mac n’ Cheese... that’s right, transform your old cheat day food into a healthy everyday meal. Nutritional yeast is inactive yeast with a yellow color that makes everything taste like cheese while adding vitamins! Another great addition to soups, dips, Alfredo sauce, quiches, pesto and creams.
A well-stocked pantry gets you one step closer to eating healthy; now you can create nourishing dishes to please everyone at your table at the drop of a hat. If you’re ever in doubt about what to make for dinner, the best method is to cook a bean or lentil, your grain of choice, steam two or more seasonal veggies, mix it in a bowl with a quick sauce and dinner is served!
One of my favorite recipe books is the Saucy Vegetarian by Joanne Stepaniak. It has all the recipes you need for every taste preference that can be prepared in minutes; it’s the best time-saving $11 investment you’ll make all year!