15+ Healthy Pantry Essentials From My New Roots
We asked Sarah Britton, Holistic Nutritionist, writer behind the popular healthy-eating blog, My New Roots, and author of My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season, to share what she keeps in her pantry. From whole grains to chia seeds, Sarah’s list of staples just may encourage you to clear out some of the clutter in your cupboard to make room for these plant-based items.
“Lemons are a staple in my diet and my cooking. I drink warm lemon water every morning as soon as I wake up; I blend lemon into smoothies (the best!), use it to dress salads, make pesto, and even clean my wooden cutting boards. I like to purchase organic lemons so that I can use the peel. Adding lemon zest to just about anything makes it taste better.
I not only eat oats for breakfast, I also add them to homemade crackers, muffins, smoothies, and even crumble toppings on savory dishes. They are versatile, widely available and inexpensive. I often make flour out of rolled oats just by blending them in my food processor. They contain high amounts of protein, fiber, and B-vitamins, too.
Brown rice, millet, quinoa, and buckwheat are just a few of the myriad of whole grains I keep in my pantry at all times. They’re simple to cook and easy to incorporate into many meals throughout the day. I like to cook a large pot at the beginning of the week to use in everything from breakfast to dinner and snacks in between.
I can’t believe I ever lived without these miraculous little seeds! Chia seeds are packed with essential fats, protein and fiber, they are easy to add to foods since they do not have a strong taste, and their shelf-life is extremely long so I can buy them in bulk to save money. I like to add them to my smoothies and breakfast porridges, and replace eggs in baking (1 Tbsp. chia seeds + 3 Tbsp. water = 1 egg replacement).
Although fresh is always better, finding a half-decent tomato in February is impossible. Canned tomatoes make a wonderful base for soups and stews. Look for whole canned tomatoes instead of chopped ones to ensure a high quality product.
Tamari is sometimes referred to as the Cadillac of soy sauce due to its deep, rich flavor and balanced taste. It is a naturally fermented Japanese soybean condiment and a by-product of making miso paste. Genuine tamari is made without wheat, so it is gluten-free, but check the labels if you have a sensitivity.
Somehow this miraculous sesame paste has ended up in nearly all of my dishes. I absolutely love it whisked into a dressing for added richness and creaminess, but also spread it onto apple slices for a quick snack, fold it into toasted oats for granola bars, and blend it into smoothies. Although it can be difficult to find in North America, I always purchase whole sesame tahini from un-hulled sesame seeds for added calcium and fiber.
Lentils are a staple in my vegetarian diet because of their versatility, accessibility and quick cooking time. Lentils have a higher protein content than beans, so I try to include them in at least one meal a day. I also love sprouting them! I typically keep three to four varieties of lentils on hand, such as red lentils for soups, Du Puy lentils for salads, green or brown lentils for dips, and black lentils for sprouts.
Like lentils, I rely on beans to fill me up and provide me with plant-based protein. I often keep four to five kinds of beans on hand, as they each have their own flavor and characteristics. Chickpeas, black beans, butter beans, kidney beans, and navy beans are some of my favorites. I like cooking a double or triple batch, freezing half and saving them for a time when I need to make hummus in a hurry, or spruce up a soup or stew.
Being Canadian, this sweetener is close to my heart. I add it to dressings to balance acidity; sauces, soups and stews, smoothies and of course to sweet breakfast dishes like porridge and pancakes. Look for dark maple syrup that is often labeled Grade B – this type has been harvested later in the season, has a richer maple taste, and contains the most minerals.
Honey is a very miraculous food. Due to its antibacterial, antiviral and antioxidant capabilities, it is one food that should be in everyone kitchen and medicine cabinet! I always purchase organic, raw (unpasteurized) honey from a local supplier, and always store it in glass away from heat and light.
Cold-pressed olive oil
I don’t cook with olive oil, so I only use it raw for dressings, garnishing and mixing into already-cooked foods. Because the smoke point of it is relatively low, cooking with it creates free radicals, and destroys its delicate nutrients and flavor. I store my olive oil in the fridge in a dark glass bottle.
Ghee is a class of clarified butter that originated in India and is commonly used today. It’s made by boiling unsalted butter and straining it to remove the lactose. This creates a cooking fat with a very high smoke point, since it is the lactose (milk sugars) that burn when you heat butter to a high temperature. Although you can purchase ghee in a store, it is super easy to make at home, and tastes absolutely incredible when you make it yourself. The bonus? You can store it outside of the fridge for three to four months without it spoiling.
Expeller-pressed coconut oil
I use coconut oil mostly for baking, but it’s also a great vegan alternative to ghee for cooking at high temperatures. I always purchase expeller-pressed coconut oil, which has had the coconut aroma removed so that my food doesn’t always taste like Hawaii.
I am a pretty major food geek, so superfoods are right up my alley. Superfoods are highly nutrient-dense foods that are especially beneficial to health. My favorites are spirulina and chlorella (both algae), bee pollen, maca, wheatgrass powder, baobab, chaga, and mucuna pruriens. I add superfoods to anything that I feel could use a boost – but my favorite way to use them is by blending them up into a smoothie bowl.”