So you’re moving out…welcome to ‘adult-ing’! It’s a big change and might even feel a bit overwhelming. A lot of things are probably on your mind -such as all the things you need to pack for your new place, including your coveted room décor. But don’t forget about what you’ll need in your kitchen! While eating out might feel like a more convenient option, cooking your own meals at home is a great way to eat a healthier, balanced diet.
Stocking your kitchen with nutritious ingredients can encourage you to cook and eat healthier. If you’re stuck and not sure where to start, this list is a great place for essentials to include in your pantry. Consider including these food staples, which are typically found in many healthy recipes, to your grocery list and you’ll be ready to nourish yourself for the school year!
1) Whole Grains
- Whole grains are a great source of dietary fiber and phytonutrients. Use them for pasta, oatmeal, or toast. Add grains, such as quinoa or barley, to your salad.
- When choosing a cereal, look for one with a higher fibre content (at least 4 g/serving) and is lower in sugar (no more than 8 g/serving)
- Ideas: Brown rice, barley, quinoa, rolled oats, whole wheat pasta, crackers, cereal, whole wheat bread
2) Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
- Did you know that frozen fruits and vegetables are actually just as nutritious as fresh? Frozen fruits and vegetables are often picked at their peak quality, which means that their nutrient content is comparable to the fresh variety.
- Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies, overnight oats, yogurt parfaits, muffins, or as a topping for pancakes. Use frozen vegetables to increase the vegetable content of your pastas, soups, and stir-fry.
- Ideas: Frozen berries, mangos, pineapples, peas, carrots, spinach, broccoli, edamame, corn
3) Canned Foods
- While canned foods often get a bad rep, some can be included in a balanced diet and tend to be more convenient and cheap. When purchasing canned goods, choose ones that are lower in sodium and packed in water (versus oil).
- Canned tomatoes or tomato paste are great to use in salsa, chili, soup, and pasta sauces.
- Use canned fish, such as tuna or salmon, as a source of protein for patties, sandwiches, salads, or with crackers.
- Ideas: Diced/whole/crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, artichoke, tuna, salmon, mackerel
4) Beans and Lentils
- Many people don’t realize that beans and lentils are a great source of plant-based protein and fibre. Add to chili, stews, salads, or use them to make a vegetarian patty. If you are using canned beans, be sure to rinse and drain them before use.
- Ideas: Chickpeas, black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans, french lentils, red lentils
5) Spices and Herbs (fresh/dry)
- We eat for taste as much as we eat for our health. Spices and herbs add flavor to any dish and make your food taste great!
- Ideas: Salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, chili powder, dill, thyme, parsley, cilantro, oregano, basil
6) Cooking Oils
- Choose healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil, as a source of healthy fat for sautéing, baking, roasting, and use for home-made salad dressings.
- Ideas: Olive oil, sesame seed oil, canola oil
7) Nuts/Nut Butter and Seeds/Seed Butter
- Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fat (unless you have a nut allergy). A handful of nuts can make a great healthy snack to pack for school, for adding some crunch to a salad, and in a trail mix with dried fruit.
- Nut butters, such as peanut butter, make a great dip for fruit (such as apples –yum!), are great for toast, and a creamy addition to your oatmeal. You can also use nut butter as a base for sauces, like a peanut dressing, for your salads.
- Sprinkle seeds onto your yogurt or oatmeal, on salads, and baked goods such as muffins!
- Ideas: Peanuts, almonds, cashews, tahini (sesame seed paste)
Seeds such as chia, ground flax, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, and sesame
8) Sauces, Vinegars, and Mustards
- These flavorful ingredients can be used to make tasty dressings and sauces. Make your own salad dressing, such as a vinaigrette, for your salad.
- Ideas: Dijon mustard, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar
9) Fresh Produce
- And finally, the fresh stuff! Stock your fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables for a plant-centered plate with lots of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. I always like having a variety of dark, leafy greens on hand as a base for a salad. Lemon, limes, garlic, and onions are typically used in many recipes to add flavour, so be sure to have those around as well.
- Include dairy or non-dairy milk, yogurt, and cheese for calcium, vitamin D, and protein (check the label for these products as the amount may vary depending on whether the product is dairy or non-dairy).
- Animal products such as eggs, chicken, and fish can also be great sources of protein (unless you are vegetarian, vegan, or have a dietary restriction).
Juggling all the different aspects of your life while making time to cook and eat healthy, might feel like a balancing act, so stocking your kitchen with healthy ingredients is a great start! Find foods that fit with your lifestyle and budget that you truly enjoy eating. If you’re still feeling stuck, you can sign up for a free Grocery Store Tour led by UBC dietetics students, which start in September. Most importantly, get creative and have some fun in the kitchen!