This guide will help you choose nutritious staples for your kitchen that fit your life.
Starchy foods often get a bad rap because they are high in carbohydrates, but that reputation is undeserved. Our bodies feel best when we get 45-65% of our energy from carbohydrates. Not all carbohydrate sources are nutritious, though. This guide will tell you how to pick staples that help your body fight disease and feel good!
Choose Whole Grains
Whole grain foods provide extra fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These sources lower our risk for diabetes by helping our bodies utilize the broken down food better, and they keep our digestion regular.
Some choices to have on hand: 100% whole wheat pasta, 100% whole wheat bread or tortillas, brown rice, and rolled oats. Some lesser known (but tasty!) options include quinoa, millet, and barley. If you don’t have a taste for whole grain options, you might try doing half and half to get a more traditional taste. Healthy eating is not all or nothing!
Whole grain items can be hard to spot, and packaging can be deceiving. To find out if a bread, pasta, or other products are whole grain, check the ingredient list for the phrase “whole grain” or “whole wheat.” An item that says “enriched” or “bleached” is not whole grain.
Some examples include potatoes (all types) corn on the cob, butternut squash, and plantains. Potatoes are sturdy, versatile, and nutritious sources of starch-keep these on hand as a side, base, or entree for your meals. Don’t forget that produce is available in canned form, too! Legumes of all kinds, corn, and peas are some options to keep on hand as a convenient way to incorporate vegetables into your diet.
Starchy Snack Options
In the snack aisle, some items to look for might be 100% whole grain crackers, popcorn (Did you know popping corn is also a whole grain? Look for varieties that are air-popped and lightly salted, or make your own), whole grain snack bars, or baked potato chips/sweet potato chips.
For a well-rounded meal, combine your starchy items with a protein and fat source. This will keep you satisfied and energized for hours!
Meals and snacks benefit from the full, savory, and smooth taste that fats add, and our bodies benefit too! Our bodies are happiest when we are getting around 25-30% of our energy from fat. Some sources are healthier than others, reducing inflammation, reducing cholesterol, and supporting immunity. These can easily be incorporated into meals and snacks as a topping or a mix in.
Plant oils are a tasty and useful alternative to animal sources like butter, cheese, and lard. Olive oil is especially healthy; it has properties that benefit the heart, promote immunity, and fight cancer. Other healthy plant oils include avocado oil, canola, oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, and sesame oil. These can be used to fry or cook your meat and vegetables or mixed into any number of entrees and side dishes. Get the health benefits from these oils by swapping them out with animal sources. Store these oils in a cool, dark place in the pantry to keep them fresh.
Some foods contain omega-3’s fatty acids. These fat sources are thought to be good for brain health and protective against heart disease and inflammation, Sources to include in your diet are fatty fish (salmon, herring sardines, trout, mackerel), walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
Tip: Check the back nutrition panel to see what kind of fat is in a food. Choose foods that are low in saturated fat and do not contain trans fat.
Flaxseed and chia seeds can be incorporated into countless recipes and dishes. A quick internet search provides endless options for including these items into foods you already eat every day!
A fun recipe to try:
Combine 1 cup of milk or a milk alternative with 3 Tbsp of chia seeds. Mix well and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, you will have chia pudding! Add in fruits, nuts, vanilla, cinnamon, or some sweetener to add to the flavor.
Other nutritious fats include avocado, olives, nuts and seeds of all kinds.
Tip: Whole-grain cereal can be a nutritious breakfast option, but many individuals do not eat cow’s milk due to preference or lactose intolerance. If this is you, there are many nut- based milks that you can substitute with the bonus of adding some healthy fat into your diet. Try using unsweetened almond, cashew, oat, rice, or flaxmilk instead!
About Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables add add fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your diet. Each day, aim to get 2- 3 servings of vegetables and 1-2 servings of fruit. This can be eaten fresh, dried, from a can, or as a juice.
What fruits and vegetables are good healthy staples?
Fruits and vegetables of all kinds can be good staples. Pick any of your favorite produce and try to include them daily.
Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables have the most vitamins and fiber. When buying canned or dried goods, look for low-sodium vegetables and look for fruits that have been packed in water or their own juice rather than syrup.
My vegetables keep going bad!
If you have trouble with vegetables going bad too quickly, try keeping frozen options on hand. These are just as nutritious if you cook them properly.
The best way to retain nutrients in vegetables is to steam them. Boiling them in water will cause nutrients to leech out, so the less water you cook them with the better.
Animal-based protein staples to have on hand are ground turkey, lean ground beef, chicken, or fish. Check the label for fat content; lean cuts with low saturated fat content are better for your heart. Eggs are a versatile and inexpensive food great for any kitchen. Low- fat cheese works great as a topping for many dishes.
We usually think of meat when talking about protein, but plant-based protein staples like beans, lentils, nuts, and tofu are super nutritious ways to get protein in. These foods double as sources of starch (beans) and fat (nuts) in addition to adding fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your diet.
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