Wednesday, May 5, 2021

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Building Healthy Pantries

"If [over the] age of 10, the question isn't whether or not to eat healthy to prevent heart disease, it's whether or not you want to reverse the heart disease you already have." 

                                                                                          --Michael Greger, MD

I love helping families “health up” their kitchen pantries to make it easier for them to go plant-based.  Here are 5 "must haves" to keep on hand in your food pantry so putting meals together will be a snap!

  1. Lentils (such as green, red, black, French)
  2. Beans (dried and canned, such as garbanzos, black, pinto, cannellini and more)
  3. Rice (jasmine or basmati brown, black, red, wild)
  4. Vegetable broth (unless you always have homemade stock on hand)
  5. Canned San Marzano tomatoes (for making tomato soup, chili, and pasta sauce)

Why you want these in your food pantry:

  1. LENTILS:  These are a nutritional POWERHOUSE!  Full of dietary fiber, extremely versatile, and so inexpensive you won’t look back at the meat counter again.  When you cook lentils for a dinner recipe, cook a little extra to enjoy the next day or two (such as breakfast lentil tacos).  Most lentils cook in 20 minutes.  So easy!  Some of the lentils are used in very different ways from other lentils.  Take red lentils, for example. Soak 1 cup red lentils with 2 cups water for 4 hours.  Add your favorite spices. Pour into blender and blend until smooth, like the consistency of pancake batter. Heat a fry pan to medium high.  Add a dash of olive oil.  Pour about ½ cup of batter.  Cook 2-3 minutes, until golden brown, and flip.  When cooked on both sides, serve lentil flatbread immediately with soup or salad. 
  2. BEANS:  I like to keep dried and canned beans on hand at all times. One-two daily servings of legumes (beans, lentils, and peas) is the goal.  Like lentils, beans are a huge source of dietary fiber.  Most Americans are sadly lacking in their daily fiber, a major contributor to colon cancer and diabetes. Cooking dried beans is SO EASY.  Once you do it once, you will always do it.  One of my weekly food prep tasks is to cook a batch of dried beans (Easiest method for me:  Soak beans in water overnight.  The next morning, drain water, place beans in crock pot, cover with water plus 2” over beans.  Cover and cook on low about 5-6 hours.  Season and enjoy!
  3. RICE:  Like beans and lentils, there are many varieties of rice. The key is to stock whole grain rice.  AVOID WHITE RICE - no fiber or B-vitamins!  When the outer coating is removed, it cooks faster but the rice is stripped of its dietary fiber and B-vitamins. There are so many wonderful whole grain rice varieties.  The first time I tried black ("forbidden") rice, I was overjoyed at the flavor and texture; when I first tried wild rice, served by my mother when I grew up in Sacramento, California, a well-known rice-growing region, I looked for menus to include this wonderful ingredient. 
  4. VEGETABLE BROTH:  I always keep a box of low-sodium vegetable broth in my food pantry.  I also love to make my own vegetable broth (every batch is different, depending on the inventory of vegetable scraps in my freezer) but that doesn't happen every week.  When I have a bag of vegetable peelings (potato peels, onion skins, broccoli stems, carrot tops, mushroom stems, etc.), then I make vegetable broth because it is great to use for cooking rice and soups.
  5. CANNED SAN MARZANO TOMATOES:  What can I say.  These are simply the best and worth the extra buck.  Endless uses for really good tomatoes.  Always buy the best quality you can afford!     

With love and kindness,

Nancy Heinrich, MPH

Founder and Wellness Architect