Okay, so you’ve made the decision to change your eating habits and clean the junk food out of your kitchen; congratulations! You’ve made a giant first step. Your cleaning began with the pantry, and now you’ve moved on to the fridge. Fruits and vegetables are a given, but what else can you put in it? While the majority of your refrigerator should be brimming with organic produce, you might want a few additional items to create those healthy, culinary masterpieces, and even among fruits and veggies, there is somewhat of a hierarchy. Here are a few ideas.
- Vegenaise. Made by Follow Your Heart, Vegenaise is what the name suggests: vegan mayonnaise. It’s delicious and versatile, and even comes in flavors like chipotle and roasted garlic. Loaded with nutrition? Maybe not. But Vegenaise is proof that you don’t have to give up comforting favorites like sandwiches and coleslaw just because you’ve stopped consuming animal products. Plus, most traditional mayo found in grocery stores contains hydrogenated oils or other artificial and/or unhealthy ingredients; vegenaise contains none. If you want to buff up the nutrition a bit, choose the variety made from grapeseed oil, which may help stabilize cholesterol levels.
- Earth Balance spread. Okay, so buttery spreads are nothing new, but the variety made by Earth Balance contains no hydrogenated oils, GMO’s, or artificial ingredients, and it’s just as delicious. Available in spreadable formulas and in baking sticks, Earth Balance spread allows vegetarians, vegans, and health fanatics alike to enjoy a buttery taste without the guilt, so it’s a must-have in any butter-lover’s kitchen.
- Carrots. Okay, so carrots are nothing strange. You’ve probably eaten hundreds of carrots in your lifetime and spent countless hours watching Bugs Bunny chow down on his own carrot stash. But their cost-effectiveness and vast availability are certainly not their only benefits. As little as a quarter cup of carrots per day can significantly reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease. They’re also versatile and taste great sautéed, steamed, roasted, juiced, and raw, as a crunchy snack. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even use carrots as a hotdog substitute. Chances are, you already have carrots in your kitchen, but make sure they’re organic. Carrots do have a propensity for absorbing things out of the ground, which includes pesticides and even heavy metals.
- Hummus. Just in case you don’t know, hummus is a dip composed of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), tahini (sesame seed butter), and seasonings and is available in a wide variety of flavors. It’s addictively delicious served with crackers or on a sandwich. What you may not know or realize, however, is its health benefits. Garbanzo beans are a great source of fiber and protein, which can aid in appetite suppression. They have also been shown to stabilize cholesterol and blood sugar and promote colon health. In addition, tahini, made from ground sesame seeds, may aid in digestion and also is a great source of calcium and B vitamins.
- Avocado. You’ve probably heard that avocados are a healthy source of fat, but it goes far beyond that. The fats in avocados have wonderful anti-inflammatory properties and also aid in the absorption of lycopene (from tomatoes) and beta-carotene (from orange veggies, like carrots). Avocados are not only healthy, but they’re also super versatile. Put diced avocado on a salad or sandwich, mix with a little salsa for instant guacamole, or you can even serve avocado for dessert in the form of a mousse or milkshake. Yum!
- Sprouted-grain wraps. Sprouted-grains have significant advantages over their regular counterparts. They are higher in nutrients, especially vitamins C and B, and also contain enzymes, making them easier for your body to digest. Products made from sprouted grains are also a bit lower in calories and carbs, so if you’re a bread lover, sprouted grain wraps and breads, like those from Food for Life, are the way to go. Food for Life also makes sprouted grain pastas and cereals.
- Strawberries. Again, not exactly a rare find in the average American household, but strawberries are often under-appreciated for their nutritional content. They are extremely high in antioxidants and have also been shown to aid in blood sugar regulation and inflammation. Do be sure your strawberries are organic, though, and eat them raw. Also, the sooner you eat them the better; once picked, strawberries lose nutrients very quickly.
- Tempeh. Tempeh is a dense, burger-like block made of soybeans. While similar to tofu in content, tempeh is quite different. The soybeans in tempeh are slightly fermented, giving tempeh an extra boost of nutrition, and the general consensus would give tempeh a lead in flavor, too. It has a slight nutty flavor, absorbs flavorings well, and makes a great vegan substitute for ground beef in everything from tacos to sloppy joes to chili. Tempeh is pretty low in calories and high in protein and mineral, as well as boasting soy’s other benefits, such as that on cardiovascular health.
- Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts typically top the list of vegetables that most kids do not want to see on their plates, but Brussels sprouts pack a nutritional punch and are delicious when oven roasted. Brussels sprouts have been shown to aid in cholesterol and DNA stabilization, as well as cancer prevention.
- Coconut milk. Don't do well with dairy? Coconut milk is one of the numerous dairy alternatives on the market, and it holds a plethora of health benefits, thanks to the coconut it's derived from. Coconuts are comprised of medium-chain fatty acids, which have many benefits to the body, including helping you fight off bacteria and viruses, digestive health, and thyroid function. Not to mention, coconut milk is super delicious and can be found in plain, vanilla, and chocolate varieties. Try the organic coconut milk from So Delicious.
- Truwhip. Who doesn't love whipped cream? Whether it's on top of pie, fruit, an ice cream sundae, or straight out of the container with a spoon, whipped topping is the ultimate treat. However, if you care about your health, you might think whipped topping is totally off limits, considering the kind found in most grocery stores is laden with hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. Alas, there is hope, thanks to a company called Truwhip. Truwhip is all natural and perfectly delicious, making it okay to have some pie and eat it, too.
- Fresh sprouts. Sprouts are a delicious superfood boasting quite a nutritional resume, being packed with vitamins and enzymes, and they're delicious on sandwiches and salads, especially paired with avocado and tomato. Sprouts are available in a variety of types, from clover to alfalfa, and can also be easily grown yourself with a simple sprouting kit for sprouts on demand.
World's Healthiest Foods. George Mateljan Foundation. Web. 3 Dec 2012. <http://www.whfoods.com/ >.