If you haven’t realized it by now, good health starts in the kitchen! Nutritious, vitamin rich foods are the foundation of your physical and emotional well-being. Unfortunately, too many of us rely on prepared foods which contain additives, unhealthy fats, preservatives and other less than favorable ingredients. And our kitchens reflect this, with cabinets stocked to overflowing with snack foods, instant mac and cheese, and microwave popcorn.
If you are serious about your health, you should pay thoughtful attention to transforming your kitchen from a glorified snack counter into what I like to call The Healthy Kitchen. There are a whole list of things that could be found in a healthy kitchen, but I’ve narrowed my list down to ten to make things manageable.
Before I list my ten essentials, I want to encourage you to take a block of time and really take stock of what is in your kitchen. Chances are you know when something on your pantry shelf should get the heave ho and what should stay.
And please don’t tell yourself you’ll just put that bag of orange-y chips up on the top shelf where it will be out of sight. The next time you’re frustrated or upset over something, those chips may be out of sight, but they won’t be out of mind, and you may find yourself eating three fourths of the bag in one sitting before you regain control. Do yourself a favor. Take an honest inventory of what you have and get rid of the things you know aren’t good for you.
Now let’s look at what I consider the Ten Essentials for a healthy kitchen.
One – Proper Equipment
You might be surprised that I’m not starting out with a list of foods, but proper equipment is so important to enjoyable cooking. If you are frustrated by not having the right equipment, your kitchen experience will be less than enjoyable. And the right equipment doesn’t necessarily mean expensive either.
I’m referring to the basics: a good chef’s knife that will hold a sharp edge, a food processor with multiple blades, a good stainless steel stockpot, a Dutch oven and (my own preference,) a large cast iron skillet. Your choices may vary, but the point is to have good equipment you’ll love to use.
Two – Recipes
Recipes may seem like a no brainer, with everything you can find on the internet, but many of these recipes are laden with heavy fats and unhealthy ingredients. You can’t go wrong with respected chef and internationally known food writer Mark Bittman’s books, which include How to Cook Everything, How to Cook Everything: The Basics, and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
Three – Pure Water
Good water can affect the flavor of food and beverages more than you might think. And please avoid bottled water, which leaches chemicals from the plastic containers in which it is stored. A good water filter brand to install at the kitchen tap is Aquasana or purchase a pitcher type filter, such as Pur or Brita.
Four – Spices
Variety really is the spice of life and spices add so much flavor and variety to your food. Spices I just can’t do without are bay leaves, rosemary, basil, dill, oregano, fresh ground black pepper and sea salt. And don’t get me started on fresh garlic, as it deserves a category all its own.
Five – Oils
In spite of all the rage over coconut oil, my mainstay oil is extra virgin olive oil. I use it to make a quick salad dressing with some good quality vinegar, drizzled over over steamed or roasted vegetables or for lightly sautéing.
Six – Nuts
Nuts can be great as they contain healthy fatty acids and are so versatile. I love keeping shelled walnuts and pecans on hand at all times. Store in your refrigerator in a sealed bag for longer shelf life.
Seven – Lemons
A squeeze of tart lemon juice can add just the right note to dressings and vegetables. And warm water and lemon is a great way to jump start your day when you drink it in the morning.
Eight – Vegetables
I’m not sure you can eat too many vegetables, especially when they are of the green, ‘above the ground’ variety. Kale, spinach, crunchy Romaine lettuce, green or purple cabbage, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, collards, turnip greens, beet greens and more all have their charms. Again, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is a great resource.
Nine – Grass Fed Butter
Yes, butter! Fats get a really bad rap but there are some healthy fats. I am not talking about slathering butter on everything but having it in moderation. When you do eat butter, choose a butter made from the milk of grass fed cows, as it is rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Kerry Gold Irish Butter is a good brand and can be found in most supermarkets.
Ten – The Cook
Lastly, you bring yourself into the healthy kitchen. I encourage you to bring your enthusiasm, curiosity and willingness to experiment. Have fun with your cooking. It is truly satisfying to plan a meal, buy fresh ingredients for it, and prepare and serve it to your family or friends.
Customize this list by adding your own essentials to it and enjoy meals in your new, healthy kitchen!
I love to hear from you so please share any thoughts or comment below.