Here’s a nutritionist-approved tip for making healthier food choices, even on a tight schedule: Stock your pantry with long-lasting, nutritional powerhouse ingredients!
Whipping up a healthy meal becomes much easier when you have the ingredients you need on hand, so kickstart your healthy eating life with these 10 ingredients, guaranteed to give any quick meal an instant flavour AND health boost:
Stay away from the low-fat flavoured yoghurts - those are full of sugar and artificial flavourings. Instead, grab a tub of unsweetened, natural-set or Greek yoghurt, which is packed with all sorts of goodness like probiotics for digestive health, calcium for your bones, metabolism-supporting protein, and vitamins and minerals like vitamin B, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Choosing the regular yoghurts over the low-fat ones may seem like a counterintuitive choice, but research has shown that its saturated fat increases “good” HDL cholesterol, which works towards boosting your heart health!
For extra flavour and zing, you could always dress it up by drizzling some raw honey over the top and sprinkling it with berries for a sweet snack, or mix herbs and spices in to create a dip!
Beans, or legumes, are a plentiful, affordable source of protein, antioxidants, fibre, iron, and vitamins that last for ages in your pantry and make an easy, delicious addition to any meal.
Being high in amino acids, beans are an important source of protein - soybeans, like the ever-popular edamame, provide all of the essential amino acids that people need, making them the perfect protein choice for vegetarians or vegans. Edamame also has a high folate content, the vitamin essential for making healthy red blood cells, and preventing neural tube defects in a fetus during pregnancy.
Steamed, lightly salted edamame is the perfect accompaniment to your meals - but you can also incorporate any type of bean into your recipes, from making lentil stews, pureeing beans to make dips like hummus, and even sneaking some extra beans into your family’s diets by mixing cooked beans into homemade meatballs and burger patties!
Steamed, roasted, or boiled into soups and desserts, sweet potatoes are hugely popular - and for good reason: They’re absolutely packed with nutritional benefits! They are a rich source of fibre, and also contain a whole host of vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, selenium and vitamins B and C.
They’re also packed with beta-carotene, an antioxidant your body converts into vitamin A and uses to improve eye health, cognitive function, and skin protection.
Sweet potatoes are one of those pantry staples that last for a really long time: they can stay fresh for up to five weeks in a cool part of your pantry, up to three months in the fridge, and even longer in the freezer!
As beta-carotene is fat soluble, add a drizzle of oil like extra virgin olive oil before serving to increase your absorption.
Fresh berries are delicious - but they can be quite expensive in Malaysia, especially if you want to eat enough of them to fully benefit from the massive amounts of antioxidants, vitamin C, and fibre they pack.
A great workaround is to buy them frozen! Frozen berries can last up to six months in the freezer, and because they’re flash frozen right after harvesting, they may retain more nutrients than fresh berries, which may suffer nutritionally during the shipping and storage process before they hit the shelves.
Add them to your smoothies, make jam with them, or just snack on them whole: The sky is the limit where berries are concerned.
Frozen vegetables are the working person’s greatest lifehack. Instead of letting your fresh vegetables go limp and yellow in the fridge, you can now buy them in large frozen packs, and store them for months in the freezer. They’re quick to defrost, and retain all their nutritional value thanks to being flash-frozen after harvesting!
One cup of frozen spinach, for example, contains more than four times the amount of fiber, folate, iron, and calcium than a cup of fresh spinach, giving you more bang for the buck than fresh.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts like walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, and Brazil nuts can protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes - and while there hasn’t been a ton of research on seeds like pumpkin, chia, sunflower, and poppy, initial findings show similar benefits to nuts.
Both nuts and seeds are rich in protein, healthy fats, fibre, contain minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, plant iron and zinc, and add vitamins B1,B2, B3 and vitamin E to your diet.
And here’s some exciting news for your pantry: They last for ages, when stored properly, and make delicious toppings and/or snacks! Check out our tips on proper walnut storage here - and why it’s always better to buy your nuts unshelled.
Mushrooms are one of the most versatile ingredients you can have in your fridge. While they don’t have the longest shelf life, they’re affordable, widely available, and delicious, and with their meaty texture, a great meat alternative.
A rich, low calorie source of fibre, protein (which is great if you’re looking to replace meat), and antioxidants, mushrooms also come fully loaded with minerals like selenium, copper, thiamin, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Just add them as pizza toppings, into soup, or just stir fry them with eggs or as a standalone dish: this is one fungus you want to keep on hand!
Here at My Naturi, we’re huge fans of this delicious golden superfood - just check out our range of 100% natural, raw honey!
Honey, in its purest, most unprocessed form has health benefits ranging from preventing gastric issues and artery hardening, to improving oral and throat health. Read our article on the scientifically-backed benefits of honey here.
It also has a ridiculously long shelf life if stored properly, retaining its nutritional goodness and amazing flavour for up to a year. Drizzle it over bread, into drinks, or use it as a marinade whenever you need a burst of sweetness - your body will thank you for it.
An unpretentious can of tuna isn’t usually the first thing people think of when looking for healthy ingredients, but if you pick the right one, it’s an affordable, convenient source of lean protein, Omega-3, vitamin D, selenium, and iodine, especially if fresh tuna is out of your budget.
Experts recommend steering clear of tuna packed in mayonnaise, as those tend to contain a lot more sodium and calories - instead, choose tuna packed in water or oils like soybean and sunflower, for a low-fat, high-nutrient meal!
Spices can turn a meal from blah into something fit for a king - and they pack quite a punch, health-wise. Cinnamon, for example, isn’t just good for rolls and toast: the fragrant spice can lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes, and can also boost heart health by reducing high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Another spice you should have on hand is turmeric - the key ingredient in many of our favourite dishes. Flavour aside, its anti-inflammatory properties work to reduce pain and swelling in people with arthritis, and research has shown that it could even reduce inflammation in the brain, which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease and depression.