When you are trying to make healthier lifestyle choices and focusing on nutrition, cooking has to take center stage. The daily spotlight will be on your kitchen itself – how things play out will depend on accessibility and preparing yourself.
To set yourself up for success, start by doing a pantry/kitchen makeover. This means removing as much processed food as you can – and that can sometimes include a lot of the ingredients you use in cooking every day.
How do you move forward?
Find healthier substitutes for the ingredients that you’re used to using!
Here’s a quick list to get you started:
1. Instead of store-bought salad dressing, try making homemade dressings.
When you think veggies and quick clean meals, salads easily come to mind. Just take your pick of favorite greens, toss in some crunch, add some proteins, and squeeze in some dressing. Since your store-bought dressing or dressing mix has now been eliminated from daily rotation, you can start using some real food to make your very own homemade dressing.
You can combine apple cider vinegar, olive oil, season with a bit of sea salt, pepper, and add some fresh chives for a quick vinaigrette. Check out this recipe for an easy Grapefruit Vinaigrette.
Want something creamy?
You can still use your basic vinaigrette ingredients, and add some almond milk and organic dijon mustard like this recipe.
2. Instead of corn or canola oil,try avocado, olive, or coconut oil.
Avocado, olive, and coconut oil are clean options that are not only heart-healthy, they also give an interesting flavor to your recipes!
Olive oil and avocado oil are great instant additions for your salads and marinades, while coconut oil is awesome for main dishes and even desserts. They are also delicious substitutes in recipes that require baking.
3. Instead of sour cream or whipped cream, try Greek yogurt.
Creams are a major ingredient in a lot of our favorite comfort foods. Unfortunately, many of the commercially-available ones are riddled with chemical additives – you don’t even know exactly what you’re putting into your meals. 'Fat free' and 'Low fat' labeled foods are a chemical shit storm so try to avoid those and just go for the real deal.
Greek yogurt, with its thick consistency and distinct sour taste, can work wonders in your healthy cooking adventures. You can use it to make creamy dressings, appetizers or light lunch ideas. Despite its rather tart taste, Greek yogurt is also awesome in desserts!
4. Instead of regular milk, try almond milk or coconut milk.
Dairy milk is used in a number of recipes we all enjoy daily – from breakfast, lunch, to snacks, and even dinner, it has been instrumental in many dishes for much of our lives. Unfortunately, preservatives, hormones, and chemicals have found their way into this household favorite. If you want a cleaner, non-dairy way to enjoy it everyday, go for alternatives like almond, cashew and coconut milk. Hemp milk is another alternative that’s worth trying!
These non-dairy options are not only extra-healthy (almonds are protein-rich and cholesterol-free, and coconuts are vitamin-rich and lactose-free) they’re fantastic for a wide variety of recipes.
5. Instead of white rice and white bread, try brown rice, quinoa, rolled / steel-cut oats, or sprouted bread.
The best thing about eating cleaner, healthier food is that you don't miss out on any major food group – including important, healthy carbs. Consuming healthy whole grain carbs also means that you should be replacing your usual stash of white bread, rice, sugary cereals, and similar food items with good carb sources.
These healthy whole-grain options offer more health benefits including a lower glycemic index, higher fiber content, and more vitamins and minerals. You can also cook them in a ton of delicious ways!
6. Instead of soy sauce and powdered seasonings, try coconut or liquid aminos, fresh herbs, and other natural seasonings.
While your cupboards may look sad and lonely without your usual soy sauce, taco seasoning, table salt,and the like – you can easily replace them with the beautiful colors of natural herbs and spices like rosemary, basil, mint, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne and many others. Their naturally inviting aroma is a definite plus to have in the kitchen too!
Sea salt and liquid aminos will help give that savory flavor to your favorite clean main courses.
Dried, all-natural herbs are fun to play around with, and add to your favorite meals. Watch the ingredient labels on the spice blends – if you don’t recognize an ingredient, then stay away!
Find ingredients that bring out flavor without kicking your sodium intake way up.
7. Instead of processed noodles, try spiralized vegetables.
Pasta dishes are a must for most of our dinner tables. But, if you’re committing to a truly nourishing and healthy lifestyle, most of those packs of processed noodles have to go. OR, just make sure you are purchasing a whole-grain pasta.
Don’t you worry, you can still enjoy ‘pasta’. One option is to enjoy pasta in the form of nutritious alternatives like spiralized vegetables! Use homemade sauces or if you are buying sauce, make sure to purchase one with no added sugar and you're still guaranteed to enjoy your veggie noodles.
Your revamped pantry will still give you mouth-watering dishes to fill you up and keep you healthy! So make your ingredient swap today!
Do you have any suggestions on clean options for processed ingredients?
Share them in the comments section below!