Anyone who knows me knows that I could easily live off of pizza for the rest of my life. Some may even argue that I did live off of pizza between the ages of 15 and 18. So, when it comes to meal preparation, I have to plan ahead in order to avoid falling into old habits. Anyone else?
I find walking into a grocery store much like a kid walking into a candy store – and to be honest, it pretty much is, with the number of unhealthy options we’re bombarded with the minute we set foot through the door. Making a list before you enter the lion’s den gives you a plan of action and keeps you on track to get in and get out.
Grocery shopping and meal preparation are the two most important parts of healthy eating. I find meal preparation to be the only way I can stay on top of my healthy eating game with a busy schedule, and I know I’m not alone in that. So, I’m breaking down the top five items I ALWAYS have on my grocery list to ensure I don’t fall victim to the Cupboard of Crap (n. A designated cupboard, drawer, or any form of storage space in the home that is packed to the brim with all things delicious but terrible for you).
1. Eggs – I love eggs for a few different reasons. One, Gaston ate them, and Gaston was the best Disney villain of all time. Two, and probably more relevant in this context, they are the easiest, fastest, and most versatile food for any time of day. Having eggs on hand guarantees a high-quality, protein-packed meal no matter how busy a day you’ve had. I always keep them on hand for snacks on-the-go, and they’re my favorite I didn’t make dinner ingredient that can be added to anything. Make an omelette packed with veggies, throw them in a salad or on top of a veggie stir-fry and you’ve got a minimum of 6 added grams of protein right there. Not a fan of the yolk? No problem! Double up on egg-whites to get the equivalent amount of protein as a whole egg.
2. Greens – No matter what type of diet you follow, or what type of food sensitivity you may have, there is always at least one green vegetable on your safe list. Green vegetables are packed with nutrients, namely fibre, folate, iron, and calcium. Aim to have at least one serving (1 cup raw, or 1/2 cup cooked) of greens in your day to start, and slowly work your way up from there. My favorite? Arugula. The unique flavor adds a delicious kick to any salad…and I’ll even throw it onto a homemade cheese pizza because well…why not? Wash and dry your greens when you get home from grocery shopping and store them in your high-humidity refrigerator drawer to maintain the crispness and freshness. Quick tip: Keep greens away from your high-ethylene producing foods like apples, avocados, bananas and mangoes to avoid them ripening too quickly.
3. Frozen Fruits & Veggies – Believe it or not, frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as your fresh produce. The flash freezing process helps to retain all the good stuff we’re looking for when we eat our colorful fruits and vegetables, which is GREAT news for those looking to buy in bulk and avoid breaking the bank to eat well. Frozen vegetables are an excellent time saver for stir-fries and stews, and the cooking process can even make them easier to digest for those suffering from digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Packing small portions of your frozen fruits and veggies in small baggies can help you with portion control, and be a great time-saver for your morning smoothies or omelettes!
4. Legumes – Beans, lentils, and chickpeas have become quite the popular kids in school lately. With the popularity of plant-based diets increasing, legumes are the go-to protein source in most vegetarian and vegan dishes. Buying them canned can be convenient and cost-effective. Just rinse, drain, and throw them on a salad, in a chili, soup, or even a tomato sauce for a protein and fibre-packed meal. A word of advice: avoid buying baked beans as they can contain as much as 6 added grams of sugar per serving. Instead, try roasting chickpeas as a healthy and nutritious side.
5. Healthy fats – Fats are slowly but surely gaining back a good reputation as we’re becoming more knowledgable of their power-packed benefits. Having nuts and seeds available for snacking can save you from a drop in blood sugar after workouts, mid-day, and in the evenings. For nut-allergic people such as myself, there are plenty of alternatives that can be purchased for easy snacks and spreads. Sunflower seed butter, olives, and avocados are just a few healthy fat sources that should always be on hand to boost the nutritional value of a meal or snack. Cooking oils should also be top of your grocery lists – olive oil, flaxseed oil, and sesame oil make for excellent fats in salad dressings as they are most stable at room temperature. Look for brands that store the oils in dark bottles that block light – as unsaturated fats are most stable when they are kept away from both light and heat. Coconut, avocado, and grapeseed oil are great for cooking – they have much higher smoking points and remain more stable at high temperatures.
There you have it folks – five staples for your grocery lists to ensure that you are making the best food choices. What are your grocery list must-haves?