Thursday, July 7, 2011

Necessary Food Staples for a Healthy Kitchen

To eat healthy it is important to understand that eliminating as many man-made chemicals from your diet is the crucial first step. I am striving to eat simple food for a natural lifestyle. You will find that to do this, you will have to make an effort to keep all the ingredients on hand that will enable you to make meals without the boxed foods that line the grocery store isles. In fact you will find that if you begin to think this way, cook this way and shop this way, it will certainly speed up your time in the grocery store! I don't even buy canned soups anymore, preferring instead to use either broth I have made and frozen or boxed broth that contains no MSG. Regarding the chemicals that we easily ingest because they are declared "safe" - how do we really know that they don't contribute to illnesses and the current obesity epidemic in the USA by forcing your body to deal with an addition that God never intended to be in your body? Man has come up with many inventions that have certainly proved to be detrimental to mankind, why not some of the food additives? Since we can't possible research all the additives that are out there, it is plain to me that we should stay as far away from as many of them as we can. You can do a first good step towards that by not drinking soda's of any kind. Make your own bread with a bread machine - you can make a delicious loaf of bread with nothing but honey to sweeten it, and all you have to do is follow the recipe and put the ingredients in the bread machine and turn it on. Even making a cake - you can make a white cake with about 5-6 ingredients that should always be on hand. Next time you're in the store, read the ingredients on the boxed cake mixes. Do you know what each ingredient is?...But I could go on and on...I'll get down to making this list.

I thought it might help for me to make a list of what I have found to be the items that I need to always have on hand. Sometimes I plan my meals, sometimes I don't. I want to be able to prepare something healthy, and fairly quick, so I make sure that I keep the following items on hand.

salt, pepper, and all the dried herbs and spices you think you will use. I personally use a lot of cinnamon, basil, thyme, rosemary, cumin, cayenne, red pepper flakes, chili powder, parsley. I use a lot of fresh herbs but I'll cover that on another post.

Liquid seasonings - white and red wine vinegar, white and red cooking wine, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce,

Baking Supplies - yeast, baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar, vital wheat gluten

Sugars - turbino, white, confectioners, brown, honey, molasses, stevia

Oils - canola, olive and sesame oil plus olive oil spray.

Grains, Seeds, Nuts - unbleached all purpose flour, unbleached bread flour, whole wheat flour, rolled oats, wheat germ, wheat bran, milled flax seed, whole flax seed, pearl barley, millet, wild rice, brown rice, long-grain white rice, couscous, whole wheat pasta's or any vegetable or whole grain pasta. Walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds (raw). Cornstarch.

Beans (dried) - red, black, lentil (brown and red), chickpeas, white. (Beans do not take all that long to cook if you have a cast iron pot with lid and you think ahead). I try to avoid using canned beans whenever possible, not that I think they are so bad but because I believe that the fresher the food, the more nutrients it retains. I bring my beans to a boil then turn off and let sit and hour or two - drain them, rinse them, then cook the beans in either vegetable or chicken broth.

Fresh produce - onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, celery, kale - I keep these on hand for soups and stock.
- lettuce (anything but iceberg), sprouts (health food stores have seeds you can sprout your own), and just about any other fresh vegetable you enjoy. Have a steamer on hand and in a very short period of time you have your vegetable side.

Fruit - anything! Kiwi's and apples are great to have on hand if you make your own juice as they will add a nice touch of sweet to a celery carrot juice. (Did you know that celery can lower high blood pressure and has a slight diuretic effort? Ironically, although it is made up of 90% water, celery helps rid the body of excess fluid by stimulating urine production with the right combination of sodium and potassium needed).
I like to keep blueberries on hand, either fresh or frozen because I have found that blueberries are versatile for a nutritious snack - muffins, shakes, etc. Banana's getting old? Make a banana nut bread loaf.

Dairy - eggs*, milk, cheeses (grated Parmesan, white cheddar, Feta, mozzarella, ricotta), butter, I use unsalted - (I never use margarine), yogurt, sour cream. Whipping cream instead of those other frozen dessert items.

*Explanation regarding different types of egg labeling:
1. Free-Range Eggs – The eggs come from chickens that have continuous access to the outdoors and food, unfortunately there are currently no standards to what “outdoors” means. This could be interpreted as a fenced in basketball court or an open field, it is up to the farmer because there are no government requirements. If you are getting your free-range eggs from a reputable source it will mean “pasture-raised” but be warned, some of the less-than-honest companies may not be so forthcoming.

2. Pasture-Raised – These are considered the best type of egg because the chickens are allowed to roam open fields and peck at vegetation and bugs. This results in a superior egg that is full of lutein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A & E. In addition, these eggs have a tendency to have less saturated fat and cholesterol.

3. Vegetarian-Fed – This means that the chickens that produce the eggs can only be fed vegetarian foods with no animal byproducts. This is not a significant improvement over conventional eggs because they can be fed corn and other grains that fatten them up but do not improve the nutrition of the egg.

4. Organic Eggs – These eggs must meet strict guidelines that include keeping the chickens outdoors, no antibiotics and all vegetarian feed that is produced without the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. An improvement over conventional eggs, however, if the chicken is fed organic corn then it may not result in the same kind of nutritious qualities associated with pasture-raised eggs.

5. Natural Eggs or Naturally Raised Eggs – This means NOTHING because eggs are non-processed and thus are considered natural.

6. Omega-3 Eggs – These eggs come from chickens that are fed food sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Such sources include algae and flaxseeds. This does improve the nutrition of the eggs by increasing their omega-3 content.

7. Hormone-Free/Antibiotic-Free – All eggs must be hormone-free and if they are USDA graded eggs they must be antibiotic-free as well.

8. Pasteurized – Most eggs that are available to supermarkets are pasteurized. This process heats the eggs to a point that is just below the “cooking point” to kill bacteria.

Does the color of the egg make a difference?

No, the color of the egg has no impact on the nutritional qualities of the egg and should not come into play when choosing your egg.

Dr. Ray’s Notes:
I personally prefer pasture-raised eggs and get mine from Springfield Farms. The eggs are much more nutritious and they taste better! There are some more conventionally available eggs such as Eggland’s Best which are also good quality. In my book though, you just cannot beat the eggs produced from chickens that live a happy life on the pasture pecking away at grass and bugs! Now THAT is an incredible, edible EGG! - AUTHOR - Blythe Alberg

No comments:

Post a Comment