If you do most of your food shopping at grocery stores or supermarkets, you’ve probably noticed that most of the fresh and healthy food finds its way to the perimeter of the store in the produce, dairy, seafood, and meat sections. The rest of the store will have rows of various cans, boxes and bags of mostly processed goods. There are, however, some hidden gems in these aisles which are packed with key nutrients and add flavour and variety to your meals. Here is a solid list of staples to add to your pantry on your next visit to the grocery store:
- *Oat bran and steel cut oats – avoid the sugary and processed instant oatmeal, and use the real thing to add fiber to your diet with these hearty breakfast staples.
- *Coconut milk – It’s high in saturated fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are both easily burned as fuel by the body. Coconut milk is excellent in smoothies, and is an excellent base for stir-fry sauce. Some cheaper brands use guar gum as a thickener and have cans lined with BPA, so make sure you read your labels.
- *Antioxidant rich teas – green, oolong, white, and rooibos are all excellent and can be used to make refreshing summer beverages by adding ice and slices of fruit after brewing.
- *Stevia – a natural non-caloric sweetener which is an excellent alternative to artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharine, and sucralose.
- *Whole wheat or whole grain spelt pasta – both have more fiber and a lower glycemic index than their regular counterparts.
- *Brown rice and wild rice – avoid instant rice and rice products in microwaveable pouches, rice with sauce, and other concoctions. Wild rice is grass and is a good source of protein and vitamin B5, as well as a variety of trace minerals. Brown rice is a whole grain and is brown because both the germ and the bran parts of the grain have been preserved.
- *Cans of black and kidney beans – Beans are packed with protein, fiber, and antioxidants. They make wraps, stews, chili, and other dishes heartier without adding meat.
- *Tomato sauces and salsas – The mighty tomato is packed with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Always read labels to pick products without added sugars or preserviatives, and you’ll find lots of options for creating Mediterranean and Mexican dishes while keeping calories in check.
- *Dark chocolate – Satisfy your sweet tooth and get a healthy dose of antioxidants at the same time. Many fine chocolate makers sell chocolate with a cocoa content of 90% or greater, and this is what you are after. It’s still calorie dense, so don’t overindulge.
One last bit of advice… many food manufacturers are cluing into our desire for healthier products and are slapping labels like “organic”, “natural”, and “fat-free” onto their packaging. Many stores also feature organic or natural food isles. While taken as a whole, these products may have better ingredients; this does not mean that the combination of these ingredients results in foods that are good for you. Read labels carefully and use your common sense to separate out foods that are truly nutritious instead of those that pretend to be good for you.