There are a few things I like to always have in the cupboard…staples which are always useful and can be used to make simple lunches and dinners.
Obviously with the current situation having a stocked store cupboard isn’t as easy and I’m not encouraging anyone to stockpile any of the items below. But for now and for the future I would recommend having at least one of each of the following items in your cupboard so you can always conjure up a healthy meal or two.
- Red lentils – these are a really easy plant protein to add to meals like this Lentil Curry and Lentil Ragu. I personally favour red lentils because they don’t require hours of soaking and cooking.
- Tins of chopped tomatoes – another great staple for making soups, curries, stews, ragus, chilli, bolognese, pasta sauce…this list is almost endless.
- Herbs and spices – a great way to add flavour to any dish herbs and spices also have nutritional benefits such as turmeric which is anti-inflammatory and cinnamon which can help balance blood sugars. My top 5 favourites are
– mixed Italian herbs
- Oats – perfect for porridge in the morning, snack balls and flapjacks and can even be used to make a gluten-free bread crumb for fish/chicken. Opt for whole oats where you can as they contain more fibre so are slower releasing, meaning your energy will be more balanced.
- Plant milk – long-life plant milk is a staple in our house as they are used in smoothies, porridge, to make soups more creamy and I love a splash in my rooibos tea. My favourite brand is Rude Health because they don’t add any nasty unnecessary additives, preservative or flavourings. I do try to make my own when I have the time but it’s good to know there is always some on hand if we need it which is why I favour long-life over fresh and nutritionally there isn’t much difference.
- Whole grain rice – by far the most popular grain in our house, I always choose whole grain because it’s higher in fibre and will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Starchy grain carbs like rice are not all bad for us but it’s about eating them in moderation. A portion of cooked rice is the size of the fist of your hand…remember that when you next serve up curry and rice.
- Frozen spinach – okay not technically kept in the store cupboard but it’s something that keeps a long time and is super useful to have on hand when you need it. I add frozen spinach to soups, stews, curries and even my morning smoothie. There aren’t many frozen veggies I buy but this one makes getting greens in every day so much easier as you don’t have do worry about it going soggy in the fridge if you don’t use it quickly enough.
- Protein powder – I always tell clients to try and have protein with every meal. But that can be quite a challenge at breakfast. Having a protein powder in the cupboard means I can boost up my porridge or smoothie with a little plant protein. My favourite is Pulsin pea protein – it contains no added sugar or salt and has 8g of protein per serving. Find out why protein is so important in this “Truth about Protein” blog.
- Nuts and seeds – another great source of plant proteins nuts and seeds also contain valuable healthy fats and can be used in so many ways. And while you still need to be mindful of the volume of nuts you consume because they are naturally higher in calories these can be used to make granola, snack balls or as a really easy grab and go snack. My cupboard always contains
– chia seeds
– sunflower seeds
– pumpkin seeds
Just make sure you choose unsalted varieties!
- Lentil cakes/rice cakes/oatcakes – these make great snacks topped with nut butter, mashed avocado or hummus or as a side with a salad or soup when you need something a little extra. Yes they are processed and some will have high salt levels – so always check the label – but once again it’s good to know they’re there for busy or lazy days.
- Herbal tea – what self-respecting Brit doesn’t have tea on hand for all kinds of life emergencies – is there much a cup of tea doesn’t help with?! Now, while there is nothing inherently wrong with caffeinated tea for most people, too much caffeine, particularly late in the day – adds stress to our bodies and negatively affects our sleep. Even if you’re someone who can fall asleep without problem after a cuppa, research shows that the quality of sleep is never as good if you’ve consumed caffeine 6-hours before going to bed. So give yourself a caffeine cut-off point. Personally I don’t tolerate caffeine at all so always choose herbal. These are my staple herbal teas: rooibos (great with a splash of plant milk – see point 5), peppermint – good mid-afternoon pick-me-up, camomile for evenings or when I feel anxious and lemon and ginger which is my favourite in the morning or if I feel like I’m coming down with a cold.
Perfect recipe using mostly ingredients from my store cupboard – my Lentil Curry. Can easily be adjusted to include no actual fresh ingredients so there’s no excuse to reach for that takeaway menu if you haven’t been to the shop but is still balanced and nutritional and most importantly tasty. Check out the recipe video on my Instagram @eat_breathe_believe.