Real Food Kitchen Staples

Recently a reader (a long lost High School friend!), Leslie, emailed me with a question. She has started to move over to a whole food lifestyle but is unsure of some of the basics she should have on hand. I wanted to share a little of her email because I loved her experience! Here is what she said:

Danika had been sick all the time at the beginning of last year which started when she was at daycare quite often while I was finishing student teaching. So, I decided to make some big changes to keep us all healthy and get her immune system built up. I love to cook and we had already been eating very healthy, or at least what I thought was very healthy. I did work harder to cut out a lot more processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, msg, etc. We also started making sure Danika was getting probiotics. After just two weeks of the probiotics and green smoothies I saw a huge difference in not only her health, but also her mood, behavior, everything!

What an exciting testament of the power that eating good wholesome foods can have! I'm so glad she shared that because I love to hear those stories.

Now, onto some things that would be helpful in a real food kitchen. Obviously there are tons of variables to this, but I've racked my brain and come up with some things that I, personally, couldn't live without or feel are very necessary (these are in no particular order). As you read this, please feel free to comment and let everyone know the things you couldn't live without too! 
  1. Coconut oil: How I ever lived without coconut oil, I will never know! Now when I'm running low, I start to get panicky :) I use it all the time. It is my daily facial moisturizer, a diaper rash ointment, an ingredient in our morning oatmeal and attempted daily green smoothie...I basically incorporate it as much as I can. The benefits of coconut oil are simply phenomenal and it is an oil I would highly recommend stocking (and using!) in your kitchen. Use extra virgin (should smell very much like coconuts) for most everything; use refined (should have no coconut aroma) for high temperature baking/frying or when you don't want a coconut taste in the food.
  2. Natural sweeteners: Eighteen months ago I threw out the refined sugar and haven't looked back. Really, I haven't baked with it ever...I haven't needed to! We now only use traditional, natural sweeteners and replace them basically 1:1 for white/brown sugar (I often use less sugar than the recipe calls for so as to reduce sugar intake). My favorite natural sweeteners that I couldn't live without are pure Grade B maple syrup (more nutrients than Grade A), coconut sugar, raw honey, sucanat, and stevia.
  3. Whole grains: Begin trying new grains and finding ways to incorporate them into your usual meals. I like to add quinoa to my taco mixture or soup. It is also delicious alongside veggies. When I bake, gluten free or regular, I always strive to use 100% whole grains. Soft white wheat (sometimes called whole wheat pastry flour) is a wonderful flour to use for baking as it results in a lighter end product than regular wheat. We use brown rice as opposed to white rice. It is really not difficult to switch to whole grains in my opinion because they are so widely available. When purchasing store bought items like bread, always read the ingredients and make sure they are truly 100% whole grain (must say "whole" in the ingredients list) and don't have undesirable additives.
  4. Probiotics: Leslie mentioned above how much of a difference probiotics have made for her little girl. I feel the same way. From the moment my daughter was born, she never had regularly occurring bowel movements. At four months old, I discussed this with a naturopathic pediatrician and she recommended that I start giving her probiotics orally. I did this and within just two days or so, she became regular and as long as she has her probiotics, she stays that way! About 80% of your immune system resides in your intestinal tract so it is incredibly important to constantly be supplying it with good bacteria to help keep it in balance. Probiotic foods like milk or water kefir, yogurt, kimchi, and saurkraut are best but I also recommend taking a daily probiotic supplement since most of us do not get the desired amount of "fresh" probiotics each day. If you are struggling with anything digestive, allergies, skin problems, etc. I highly recommend a probiotic. Really, I recommend them for everyone, period! You can get a good probiotic supplement through Shari's apothecary shoppe.
  5. Raw food: Strive every day to eat more raw food. We consume so much food that is cooked, which is fine, but it destroys many beneficial enzymes that are available before cooking. Because of that, we don't benefit as much from the food when it is cooked. This is something we hardly do perfect on but it is always in the back of my mind to consume more raw or "live" food because it is so beneficial. A great way to do this is to incorporate a daily green smoothie into your diet. Also focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably with every meal. A green salad makes a wonderful addition to any dinner. This is my new favorite salad dressing...it's so easy to make and tastes very fresh...best of all - it is super healthy too! 
Beginning next week, I am going to start a mini series entitled "Stocking Your Real Food Kitchen." I'll focus one at a time on separate areas such as natural sweeteners, oils, etc...so stay tuned! Any requests?