Monday, December 10, 2012

Building a Healthy Kitchen: Must-Have Ingredients

As you start to build your healthy kitchen there are some essentials that must make their way into your cupboards. Below I have listed some of my favorite staples, why it is a better option, where to find it, and a brand I like. I am constantly expanding my staple ingredient list, if you have a favorite ingredient that you always have in your kitchen please share!

Below are just little snippets of why these foods are a great addition to any kitchen  I don't claim to be an expert, like I mentioned, I just like to share what I know and have read. If you are interested in learning in more depth about each item listed below, you can find pages and pages of research and data on a number of other healthy food blogs. Some of my favorite healthy food blogs include:

Coconut Oil: any brand that is extra-virgin, organic and possibly raw. Coconut Oil is a fabulous replacement for butter and vegetable oil. Unlike many other oils, coconut oil can stand high temperatures without becoming damaged. It is great for cooking, baking and I use it as a moisturizer as well.

Young Coconut: Not the brown coconuts, these are picked earlier and have a higher coconut water content. They are highly nutritious, young coconuts have also been exceedingly revered as having medicinal qualities for heart, liver and kidney disorders. In fact, the coconut has recently been reported to reduce the viral load of HIV.

Natural Sweeteners:

Natural sweeteners are a wonderful alternative to white and brown sugar, corn syrup, and Karo syrups. Natural sweeteners are in their whole and unrefined state and therefore can be accepted by your body more readily. And since they are not processed they are not stripped of their minerals and nutrients. They are still sugars, so use in moderation. I usually half or use a 1/3 less than the sugars that are recommended in the recipe.

Coconut Sugar: Can be found in bins at Good Earth (or your local health food store).

Sucanat (unrefined cane sugar): “Wholesome Sweeteners” Sucuanat -10 lb bag at Costco. SUgar CAne NATural - if you’re curious where the names come from.

Maple Syrup: Choose Grade B or Grade A (Grade B has less sugar content than Grade A). Say goodbye to Mrs. Butterworth’s which is an industrialized version of maple syrup made with corn syrup and artificial flavors.

Agave Nectar: This mild sweetener is made from the Blue Agave plant. It has a distinct flavor that you may or may not prefer. It is heated and lightly processed so it’s not a raw sugar.

Honey: Always choose raw honey from local sources for best quality.

Farm-fresh eggs: Cage free, farm fresh eggs are full of more nutrients and hormone free than the thin-shell white eggs that are usually purchased at Walmart. Look at your local health food store or a nearby farmer’s market. Good Earth sells some from a local farm in Lehi for about $3.50

Whole Wheat Flour: Whole wheat flour is a much better option than all-purpose white flour which is just one part of the wheat grain (basically the middle “glue” part). The danger in white flour is that it is no longer a WHOLE food and your body has a difficult time assimilating anything that is processed or refined from it’s natural state. White flour is digested the same as sugar, and can cause weight gain and increase in blood sugar.

You can buy the whole grains and blend them yourself or by the ground flour in bulk at any health food store. Soft white wheat is best for baked good. 

*Spelt flour is another great alternative to wheat that is has fewer calories and 10 to 20 percent more protein than wheat flour. Also, many people with wheat allergy find themselves able to tolerate wheat. In terms of taste, spelt has a distinct chewy consistency with a strong nutty flavor. Wheat flour, however, has more fiber than spelt, which many people find easier to digest. You can also buy spelt grains and grind them yourself.

Sprouted Flour: Sprouted flour is a fabulous alternative to just ground wheat. Anything that is sprouted has been soaked in water and in a way “has come to life.” It’s like planting a seed, you add water to make it grow. Sprouting soaks wheat berries just long enough to open up vital nutrients and pre-digest the gluten. Many people who have gluten sensitivities can tolerate sprouted grain. 
You can sprout your own flour, but it’s very labor intensive. I like to buy mine at REAL Foods in Orem or you can buy it online

Almond Meal/Flour: A wonderful gluten-free flour to bake with. You can buy it in the bins at the local health food store or grind your own almonds to create a flour.

REAL Salt: Basic table salt (what is in the salt containers on the tables of restaurants) has been stripped of many of its nutrients and can be harmful to the body because it can’t break it down. Redmond Farms sells a fabulous real salt that is harvested from a mine in Redmond, Utah.

Unsweetened Shredded Coconut: can be found in bins at health food stores or online and makes a great addition to any baked good. Sweetened shredded coconut has been coated with refined sugar.


  1. Great post! :) (a side note - I love your "Me", "Mine" and "Ours" headings)

    Some of my staples:
    Old-fashioned oats (Quaker or the generic brand- whatever's on sale)
    blueberries, strawberries, or other frozen fruit
    quinoa (I buy Alter Eco in bulk from amazon)
    sweet potatoes - just love them
    nutritional yeast (use it to make a really yummy "cheese" since I avoid dairy, plus it's high in B vitamins. Also sprinkle on popcorn. I just get mine from a local health food store, but amazon sells it too)
    protein plus peanut flour - really versatile flour (get from
    ...I could go on and on :)

  2. Oh dear, how could I forget leafy greens?! Well, my favorites are kale (for kale chips or sauteed "cheesy" kale (just kale, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, and sea salt), frozen or fresh spinach, and other veggies like frozen yellow squash and any type of beans are stables too. Okay, now I'm done ;)

  3. Hi Anne! I love your blog and I am very inspired to eat healthier. I try to buy almost all organic, as I have been reading alot about foods gmo foods, its an eye opener!
    I've been weening myself off of gluten foods, dairy, soy,peanut products, sugar, corn, eggs and artificial sweetners. I've introduced lots of organic veggies,grass fed beef, organic chicken, whole fruits, and just good whole fresh foods.
    I'd love you to start a blog on healthy eating as I for one would be so excited to follow it! Thanks for all your info, great recipes and tips!

  4. Hey Anne,
    I really enjoy reading your blog, it very informative and very interesting:) I also love learning healthy habits to help prevent and maintain the healthy body that I have been given! I recently found a book that has a lot of information and it has similar eating habits that it one your blog. It is called the "Paleo Diet" I just googled it and found lots of information. Thought you might want to check it out:)

    1. Hi Tessa, Thanks for reading!

      I have heard about Paleo, but haven't tried it for myself, although I have tried a lot of "diets" ie - vegan, raw, vegetarian, etc. And I believe they all have good points, and I like to take bits from each of them.

      Paleo cuts out all grains from your diet and I think there is room for grains - whole, sprouted in my diet so I haven't tried it.

      More than anything after trying so many different styles of eating I have come to realize that there is no ONE right way, you have to listen to your body and do what you feel is right. And this may change from one period of time to the next.

      Thanks for reading! I hope I continue to post content that you find valuable!

  5. Anne,
    Is the Wholesome Sweeteners Sucanat sugar you get at Costco a white color or the brown color? I saw the white sugar but it didn't say Sucanat so I was not sure if that was the right stuff.

  6. Just FYI, agave is actually quite heavily processed. :-( AND, worse than that, it has a much higher percentage of fructose (sometimes as high as 90%, HFCS - about 50 - 60%) than high fructose corn syrup. Because of that, it doesn't have all of the synergistic qualities that fruits do (where we get fructose), so rather than your body using it properly (which is why it does not raise your blood sugar much) and getting health benefits, it goes straight to your liver and is stored as fat. Fatty liver disease is becoming epidemic and is even starting to show up in children. We have been sorely misled about agave, and I used to use it in everything, including canning!