Since I tend to cook a lot, I always like to keep ingredients on hand just in case. Nothing is worse than having to run out to the store to grab something last minute! I’ve noticed that many recipes I use require the same type of ingredients and I also tend to mix and substitute to make my food as healthy as possible.
When it comes to substituting, it’s important to always have certain items and super foods on hand to switch out or add in. A healthy body starts with a healthy pantry! Here’s a look into my kitchen for some of my top healthy cooking and baking basics to make healthy hacks and substitutions effortless:
Rice Flour - A great gluten free substitute. It’s also a good thickener!
Coconut Flour - Another gluten-free substitute yet it’s a bit on the dryer side. I use coconut flour in recipes very sparingly. A little goes a long way! Coconut flour also has the highest percentage of dietary fiber.
Besan Flour - Also known as chickpea flour. It’s super inexpensive and satisfying! It’s a great flour to use as a corn substitute.
Cacao Nibs/Powder - Oh, I love my superfoods! I substitute cacao for any recipe that calls for chocolate of any kind. It’s a mineral rich alternative to chocolate chips.
Coconut Sugar - Obviously, any type of sugar you should use sparingly but when it comes to sweeteners, coconut sugar is a great option. It’s low on the glycemic scale coming in at around 35 (regular table sugar is around 60.) Truvia is also a healthier option.
Pink Himalayan Salt - The pink hues of the Himalayan salt indicate it’s rich iron and mineral content. The main reason I like to use this salt instead of the regular is that it has balanced pH content so it’s not too acidic.
Grains, Nuts & Seeds
Chia Seeds - These nutrient dense seeds are my absolute favorite. Chia seeds contain more Omega-3s than salmon and a tablespoon is more than a glass of milk. I add them to my salads, smoothies, and just about everything!
Flax Seeds - Believe it or not, I use the high-fiber flax seeds as an egg substitute! 1 one teaspoon of ground flax seed meal with 2.5 teaspoons of water to equal an egg. Great for vegan recipes!
Quinoa - This protein-rich super grain makes it’s way into a lot of my recipes! Not only is quinoa anti-inflammatory and lowers blood pressure but also it makes you feel fuller longer. Due to its high fiber content, quinoa will help you eat less overall while also aiding in digestion.
Sunflower Seeds - Nuts can sometimes be a stomach upset to kids or anyone with a sensitivity. Sunflower seeds have less fat but more protein than nuts and those with a sensitivity find them easier to digest. It’s also a nice little savory crunch on a salad or a smoothie bowl.
Pepitas - Another name for pumpkin seeds and another great healthy crunch! Swapping out croutons and bacon bits on a salad for a healthier option can cut some serious calories!
Almonds - Apart from any baking needs, almonds have always been my go-to snack. They help keep my energy up with a protein boost between meals and keep me fuller longer!
Hazelnuts - Just like cacao, the chocolate-like flavor of hazelnuts is a healthy substitute in ice creams, brownies, and nut butter. I love this healthy, Nutella-like butter recipe from The Healthy Foodie!
Oils & Vinegars
Apple Cider Vinegar - Not only is Apple Cider Vinegar nature’s little beauty secret, it’s also a great base for a salad dressing. It lowers blood sugar and keeps your appetite in check, too! For a yummy apple cider vinaigrette, mix:
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1-2 tablespoons raw honey, as needed for sweetness
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
Coconut Oil - My pantry will never be without coconut oil. I can promise you that! I literally use it in almost every recipe that calls for any oil whatsoever. Fat loss and better brain function are just some among the long list of benefits.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - When it comes to olive oil, I always use extra virgin. With other lower quality oils, they are thinned down with corn oil during production, which is inflammatory. I always suggest reading labels!
Ghee - Even though I tend to stay away from dairy, I use ghee if a recipe calls for it. It’s basically a clarified butter, which is heated and separated by water. This process leaves a higher quality product.
Eggs (and/or substitute) - I always make it a goal to at least keep some eggs in my fridge for last minute recipes. Fortunately, if I forget I normally just use the flax seed magic mix as a substitute!
Nut Butter - I ALWAYS, always, always keep some almond butter in my fridge. There is literally nothing better than a banana with almond butter when the 3 pm snack cravings hit.
Coconut Water - Or as Brooksie calls it, “Coco” is as present in my house as the day is long. My family is obsessed! I’m not joking when I say that if we ever run out it would be basically be an emergency. It’s so hydrating being high in electrolytes and a great source of potassium
Fresh Herbs - Now that I have an herb garden, I’m trying to utilize them a lot more in my kitchen. The key to keeping and using fresh herbs is to finely chop them and store them in the freezer. It keeps them super fresh and ready for seasoning as well as pasta and sauces!
Frozen Fruit - When it comes to smoothies, frozen fruit is a smart way to store all your ingredients to make sure you always have them on hand. Berries, bananas, and peaches are my favorite to store and freeze and pop into the blender when needed.
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Actress, model, active humanitarian, & Mom! Author of 'Everyday Chic'.