Graziella Baratta Ventura
Fit Foodie Healthy Pantry Staples
Spring is just around the corner my friends, and this gets me SO excited every year.. but this year in particular. We've had a rough winter, a rough YEAR! I think we're all ready to get out and about but we're also ready to make some positive changes, and Spring is just the perfect time for that! Why? Because Spring is the season of ReBirth..when we have the chance to turn over a new leaf and start fresh. I'd like to help you in your wellness journey with this list of my healthy pantry staples, because we all know that if you truly want to lead a healthy lifestyle, well.. it begins at home, in your kitchen! Once you've got the basic ingredients, add the seasonal and fresh from there. It goes without saying that organic is the best way to go with any food. It's not a theory, it's a proven fact that organic foods retain many more nutrients as well as natural enzymes that help your body process them the way it should, and they don’t contain carcinogenic insecticides and herbicides. But, I digress.. when it's absolutely crucial to buy organic, I will list it in each section. For more detailed and up to date information on toxins in food check EWG’s Seasonal Reviews. I've organized the list into a few categories to make it easier.
Breakfast Foods and Snacks:
Oats (look for gluten-free, organic because of high glyphosate residue in non-organic)
Corn Grits (look for non- gmo, if not organic)
Gluten- free whole grains: quinoa, millet, amaranth
Quinoa Puffs (this is a puffed cereal with literally no other ingredient other than Quinoa)
Dried Fruit- all kinds! Just be sure to get those that are not sulphured, as that is an unnecessary toxic preservative. Read labels!
Nuts & Seeds: walnuts, organic almonds, cashews, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, organic peanuts, sesame seeds, nut and seed butters (no other additives other than salt), tahini.
Plant Milk- This category has blown up in the past year, and for good reason. There’s a growing understanding that conventional dairy (from animal milk) is inflammatory for many or most people. My one recommendation with this category as with any other processed food is to read labels. Can’t say that enough. Many brands of plant milks contain more fillers than actual plant milk. And to be clear, I’m talking about a pantry stable plant milk, not the kind you would find in a refrigerated dairy case at the grocery store. I favor canned coconut milk in this category as it’s the least processed, and a great nutrient-dense staple for not just breakfast, but for baking, desserts, and other recipes, and works just like conventional dairy would. It’s most perfect for human consumption because it’s nutrient composition is closest to human milk.
I don’t use or recommend many, but these few here are great choices for many different uses.
Dark Maple syrup (has much more flavor than light)
Natural No Calorie Sweeteners- Stevia and Monkfruit
Coconut Nectar (I use this one in sauces and marinades)
Legumes & Beans: Dried are best but when purchasing pre-cooked, look for BPA free liners in cans, or pouches. Some of my favorites are:
Lentils (green, black, brown, red)
Alternative Flours: Almond meal, sorghum flour, potato starch, arrowroot, white rice flour, millet, tapioca, cassava root, coconut flour, buckwheat. There are so many, but these are the ones I use most often in my recipes. I’d look for organic with almond, sorghum and potato because they tend to retain a high level of glyphosate residue when conventionally produced. Just to note: gluten-free baking is very different than conventional baking and these flours are not a direct 1 for 1 substitute for regular gluten flour. For a great, nutritious 1 to 1 gluten free substitute, try my Graziella‘s Gluten Free Flour Blend
Miscellaneous Baking: In addition to the flours above, these are my baking must- haves for all my gluten free recipes on the Fit Foodie blog as well as the DanceFit Form nutrition plan.
Flax Seed Meal
Cane sugar free and dairy free chocolate chips (I like HU gems)
Bourbon Vanilla extract
Gluten free pastas- this is an ever-changing category, so much so that my favorites from last year aren’t even available anymore! I recommend reading labels and getting to know your options. Look for the most nutrient dense bang for your buck (organic corn, white rice, quinoa or legume- based) and steer clear of mono and diglycerides if you can because they are emulsifiers/ additives that are present in processed foods to prolong shelf life. Read more about them here.
Rice & Rice Noodles- I only recommend white as brown is known to have an excessive amount of arsenic toxicity, which no one needs! It's difficult to know which brands from what origins contain the most arsenic, so I play it safe and get the lowest known arsenic types which are basmati, jasmine, and sushi rice, preferably NOT from the US. FYI, organic has nothing to do with arsenic content unfortunately because it comes from the waters that rice is grown in, and absorbed readily through the bran, not directly “added or sprayed” on the rice. This is why white rice is the better choice, because the bran is stripped, along with much of the arsenic. Don’t worry, you can make up for the fiber with more veggies or even whole flax seeds added to the rice while cooking. Read more about arsenic in rice from EWG.org.
Oils: avocado, unrefined coconut, extra virgin olive, ghee, tallow. I really use avocado and olive for most things, but when baking I use coconut and ghee. Rarely I use tallow, but it’s a good alternative for savory dishes if it’s available to you. For the ghee and tallow, I’d look for grass- fed, ensuring the cattle is fed as nature intended, resulting in a high omega 3 fatty acid profile. For seasoning only, I use toasted sesame oil, mostly for my Asian dishes.
Vinegars: I use mostly apple cider vinegar because of its versatility and healthy profile, but here are some others I use occasionally.
Rice wine vinegar for Asian dishes
Balsamic vinegar for some Italian dishes
White wine or champagne vinegar for a variety of sauces and dressings
Broth or broth cubes: chicken, beef, vegetable and bone broth. This is a very tricky category, and one you should pay close attention to because ingredients make or break the product. Look for organic first off, in this category because conventional almost ALWAYS contains msg, a known carcinogen and excitotoxin, aka neurotoxin; yeah. Think msg is not such a big deal? Just read this, and I'm sure you'll change your mind!
black peppercorns to grind freshly
red pepper flakes
Nutraceuticals: These are nutrient dense powdered foods I use for smoothies, baking, in my coffee, etc..
Collagen (naturally sourced and responsibly raised) helps to replenish the dwindling, and ever- crucial collagen sources as we age.
Mushroom extract powder- great immunity booster
Moringa Powder- very nutrient dense, beneficial for all but especially for expectant and nursing mothers.
Dragonfrunit powder- used for baking and in smoothies, this exotic fruit is high in antioxidants
This is by no means a totally complete list, as I feel it never can be, but it’s my evolving pantry list ;-). I hope you find it helpful on your wellness journey, and I invite any questions and comments!