Making healthy choices when hunger strikes is not always easy especially when the only available snack in your store-cupboard is a family-size bag of ghost pops! So, the cliché, “preparation is the key to success” is particularly true when it comes to following a healthy, low-GL lifestyle and a good place to start is stocking your pantry with ingredients that you can use to whip up a delicious guilt-free snack or meal that will not only satisfy your hunger pangs but leave you feeling full of energy too!
Here’s a handy list of easy to find store-cupboard staples to help you take the guess-work out of healthy eating:
- Eggs. Not only an ‘eggcellent’ source of B vitamins, zinc and iron, eggs are also a great source of protein and are so versatile in the kitchen. Buy organic or free range where possible – not because we’re snobs, but because an egg is only as good as the food the chicken is fed. In most cases, organic or free-range chickens are also treated better so you have the added bonus of a clear conscience along with a better tasting egg!
- Dried or canned legumes and pulses. Lentils, chickpeas, beans such as borlotti, kidney and flageolet, and canned mixed pulses are all handy to have in the cupboard for when you want to whip up a quick chili con carne, vegetable curry or throw together a colourful salad. If you go for tinned, choose the ones in water, or rinse thoroughly before use to remove as much salt and sugar as possible.
- Rye bread. No one should have to live a life without the humble sandwich or slice of toast but try find pumpernickel style or sourdough as these are have a lower-GL than ordinary bread which is often full of salt, sugar and gluten. Always check the labels though to make sure there’s no gluten if you’re avoiding wheat.
- Rough oat cakes. An underrated substitute for crackers. These have a satisfyingly coarse and chewy texture and a lower GL than finely milled varieties and make a great snack when hunger strikes.
- Wholemeal pasta. This can be used as a base for a whole host of delicious dishes. Choose a gluten-free variety such as brown rice or buckwheat pasta if necessary – buckwheat has a lower GL than rice or corn pasta.
- Brown basmati rice. With a nutty flavour and chewy texture, this interesting rice makes for a satisfying accompaniment to many wholesome meals and has the lowest GL of all the rices. Score!
- Quinoa. It may sound exotic but this superfood that comes from a South American fruit, looks and cooks like a grain and is very similar to couscous. Pronounced ‘keen-waa’, it contains all the essential amino acids, making it a perfect protein food, and it’s also low in fat and rich in minerals. Its popularity means you can find it in most of the big supermarkets or health shops.
- Whole organic oats. A hassle-free healthy breakfast staple, oats can also be used in a variety of other ways. Get creative!
- Low-GL Get Up and Go. A delicious superfood smoothie mix, that you blend with fruit. You won’t have to think about making sure you have a nutritious breakfast or snack with this ready-to-make smoothie mix.
- Cornflour. Always handy for thickening sauces and puddings.
- Coconut oil. Rapidly gaining cult status as the only oil you should use for cooking, coconut oil is virtually flavourless and can be used for spreading, frying and baking. When heated to high temperatures, coconut oil does not produce harmful trans-fats.
- Extra virgin olive oil. This should be your go-to for salad dressings. Add a bit of Himalayan salt or dried chilli flakes for a dressing with a bite!
- Sesame oil. More of a luxury than a staple, sesame oil is great as an Oriental dressing to liven up couscous, quinoa or rice salads.
- Tamari. Basically soy sauce, without wheat. Soy sauce is always useful to have in the cupboard when it comes to stir-frying or simply as an oriental dressing.
- Tomatoes. Canned and chopped, pureed or sun-dried tomato paste. Cooked tomatoes contain more of the antioxidant lycopene than raw ones, making these a really healthy addition to meals. That doesn’t mean raw tomatoes are not still great for you.
- Artichokes. Choose between marinated artichoke hearts in oil and canned artichoke hearts – either make a great snack and are good for the liver, aiding detoxification.
- Olives. Always good to snack on. Like a nut but without the fat. Avoid any that list colourings and additives on the label. Greek Kalamata olives are wonderfully moist and full of flavour.
- Crunchy (sugar-free) peanut butter. Peanuts are fairly high in saturated fat and low in healthier polyunsaturated fats, but peanut butter is a useful store-cupboard ingredient for a number of recipes like satay sauce. Be careful to avoid sneaking a teaspoon as a snack – before you know it, the jar will be empty. We’ve all been there!
- Xylitol. A naturally sweet, low-carb sugar alternative that doesn’t disrupt blood sugar levels and has a third of the calories of sugar. Great for baking and as a general substitute for sugar.
- Chocolate! The good-quality dark kind (around 70 per cent cocoa solids). This kind is low in sugar and contains iron and magnesium plus the antioxidant procyanidin, which helps maintain heart health.
- Black peppercorns. There’s a reason why pepper is added to most savoury recipes or simply to spice up your food – it actually helps you digest your food. Grind away!
- Low-sodium salt, or sea salt, to be used in moderation.
- Herbs and spices. Stock up on a wide variety such as mixed Italian herbs, oregano, chilli powder and chilli flakes, cayenne pepper, curry powder, and ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika and nutmeg. Try get your hands on organic herbs and spices where possible.
- Oily fish. Not the most popular but good quality anchovies and sardines tinned in olive oil are great to have in the cupboard as a simple and healthy snack or to flavor a variety of dishes. Just don’t tell the kids or your guests (unless they’re allergic of course!).
Once you’ve got the cupboard stocked, you’ll need to stock up on fresh ingredients. Visit us again in the coming weeks for the best fruit and veg to buy and what you should have in your fridge!