It’s that time of year when we all evaluate our yearly goals and resolutions. Many of us plan to re-organize our homes, start new workout programs, or to eat healthier and lose weight. According to recent surveys, most parents resolve to give their families a healthier diet in the New Year. One of the main areas that I like to focus on when it comes to eating healthier is the kitchen pantry. Today, I want to highlight how to replace the foods in our pantries that bulk up our bodies and cause us to feel bloated: flours, sugars, pastas and oils.
All of these healthy replacements are gluten-free and low glycemic, and they are derived from natural sources.
Healthier Flour Alternatives
Instead of using white all-purpose flour, try using one of the following healthier flours:
Almond flour is low in carbohydrates and high in fiber and protein. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, calcium and vitamin E. Compared with all other nuts, almonds provide the most calcium and are beneficial for heart health and lowering cholesterol.
Prices ranges for a 16 oz. bag: $8.00 (Amazon), $8.98 (Walmart), $12.99 (Trader Joe’s) and $13.99 (Harris Teeter). Check your local grocery stores for almond flour.
Shaklee Instant Protein Powder is very high in protein, IPP certified NON-GMO, Kosher, naturally cholesterol and lactose-free, and contains all of the amino acids that we need. It is also high in calcium and very low in carbohydrates. Shaklee Instant Protein is great for making smoothies, cooking and baking, and it retains its nutrient value with baking. Click here for pricing. Not available in stores.
Coconut flour is gluten-free and nut-free! It is high in protein, fiber and manganese. There has been a large shift toward eating gluten-free, and people are looking for healthier alternatives. Coconut flour makes a wonderful substitution for regular flours, and a little goes a long way. Because it is drier and more fibrous than traditional wheat flours, it is more absorbent. Therefore, you will need to add more liquid to your recipes to achieve the right texture. Coconut flour does not have gluten in it, so eggs will be needed to keep your recipes holding together. More and more grocery stores are carrying coconut flour. You can usually find it in the baking isle or next to gluten-free items. You can also buy it online.
Price ranges for 16 oz. of coconut flour: $6.99 (Amazon) and $6.69 (Walmart online). Check your local health food stores for coconut flour.
Healthier Sugar Alternatives
Instead of using refined white sugar or cane sugar which has no nutritional value, try using one of the following natural sweeteners that come from natural sources that our bodies are meant to digest, and are also low glycemic.
Pure Maple Syrup is a great for baking and cooking. It has an incredible flavor, and a little goes a long way. Pure maple syrup’s super sweet flavor is packed with manganese and zinc, is full of antioxidants, great for heart health, and helps to support your immune system. It can be used in tea or coffee, on oatmeal and healthy pancakes or waffles, and on sweet potatoes (amazing flavor).
Prices range from: $5.99 (Harris Teeter), $6.98 (Walmart), $7.99 (Trader Joe’s). Check your local grocery stores for pure maple syrup.
Coconut Palm Sugar is not only great for baking, but it also helps heal your body and prevent illness. It contains potassium and nitrogen which help prevent cardiovascular disease. It also contains magnesium and sodium which are necessary for proper nerve function, and zinc which increases brain function. The phosphorus in coconut palm sugar helps kidneys function and promotes cell health.
Prices for Palm Sugar: $4.99 (online at VitaCost). Check your local health food stores for coconut palm sugar.
Coconut Palm Nectar has a nutritional content far richer than all other commercially available sweeteners. It is especially high in potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron (similar to coconut water) and is a natural source of the vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C. It’s also very rich in other minerals and enzymes which aid in the slow absorption into the bloodstream.
Prices for Palm Nectar: $7.39 (online at VitaCost) and $24.00 for a larger bottle (Healthy Home Market or online). Check your local health food stores for coconut palm nectar.
Pure local honey is the most versatile natural sweetener for cooking and baking. Some people call it “liquid gold” because of its medicinal properties. Pure local honey boosts energy, is an excellent source of antioxidants, supports good bacteria, has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, and slows aging. Honey in its purest form (not filtered, strained or heated over 115 degrees, which is unfortunately what you often find in the grocery stores) is becoming more well-known not just for its amazing flavor, but also because it aids in the following: can relieve morning sickness, is good for sore throats and laryngitis, lowers cholesterol and increases good HDL cholesterol, can help with eczema and acne.
Honey is also loaded with many essential vitamins and minerals like B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 as well as vitamin C. It also contains minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, calcium, copper, iron, manganese, sulphur, zinc and phosphate. Local honey has been shown to help decrease allergies. When bees pollinate on the local flowers in your area, they are helping you build resistance to allergies when you eat their honey.
Prices for Pure Local Honey: varies by location. In the Charlotte, NC area: $3.99 (Harris Teeter), $6.89 (Walmart), $7.93 (Trader Joe’s).
Healthier Pasta Alternatives
Quinoa pasta. Quinoa is an ancient grain that is a nutrient-rich Superfood. Quinoa doesn’t give you the bloating and bulk that regular pasta can give you, plus it is a complete protein source (one cup of quinoa has 32 grams of protein!!). It also contains high anti-inflammatory properties, heart healthy fats, essential amino acids, good dietary fiber, and it’s high in magnesium, iron and calcium. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and highly digestible. My favorite brand is Ancient Harvest. This quinoa pasta can be found in several varieties: spaghetti, penne, tri-color rotelle, shells, veggie curls, garden pagodas, elbow pasta, linguine and mac-n-cheese.
You can find quinoa pastas in most grocery stores and in health food stores. Prices per box range from $2.69 (VitaCost online), $3.15 (Walmart), and $3.99 (Harris Teeter). Check your local grocery stores as well.
Best Pantry Splurge
My #1 best pantry splurge is Coconut Oil. Coconut oil has the most uses and is the biggest splurge for your pantry. Though it is a bit pricey, it’s extremely versatile. Coconut oil has a high smoke point, so it won’t lose important nutrients when cooking on high heat. You can use it for cooking, baking, in raw food recipes….even on your skin, hair and nails! It is the biggest bang for your buck! Try to always use organic, cold-pressed and unrefined coconut oil for the most nutrient value.
Price ranges for coconut oil: $7.22 (16 oz. at Trader Joe’s), $9.19 (14 oz. at Harris Teeter), $16.99 (52 oz. at Costco – best price around). Check your local grocery stores for coconut oil as well.