Your first healthy eating defense is a good offence: a kitchen filled with healthy food. If you have plenty of healthy food on hand when hunger strikes, you won't need to call for take out or run to the store for chips. But they food won't end up in your pantry if you don't put it in your grocery cart!
Shopping smart is about knowing the difference between what is good for you and what isn't...and not being fooled by marketing. You don't need carts full of granola bars and frozen pizzas. The healthiest food in the world doesn't come in packages: you can make a beautifully healthy diet with nothing but fruits, vegetables, whole intact grains, nuts, seeds and lean meats or vegetarian proteins (okay...so beans come in packages!).
However, there are times when packaged foods come in handy and add to your nutrition so here is a list of packaged and prepared foods that I routinely recommend to my clients. The companies I have listed here have not paid for this placement - these are foods that I have researched and actually eat myself! I will continue to add to this list as I go...
Avalon Organic Milk: Avalon was the first organic milk producer in BC and I love that they deliver milk in reusable glass jars. They still have home delivery too!
Liberte Greek Yogurt: Beware imitators! Real greek yogurt is high in protein, thick and yet low in fat. Popular in the US for years, Liberte is the first manufacturer to bring this unique product to Canada. It takes a gallon of milk to make a sour cream sized container of Greek yogurt so it is a bit more expensive than regular yogurt but it packs a nutrition punch! A single serving has 20 grams of protein instead of the usual 4 - 8 grams which helps you to sneak in a protein rich snack.
Whole Grains, Nuts and Seeds
Raw Almonds: Almonds are a fantastic food...an ounce of almonds comes in at 160 filling calories, with 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fibre. Almonds are also rich in natural vitamin E, with 35% of your daily intake in just an ounce! Rich in magnesium, an important mineral for heart health, almonds also contain iron, calcium and plenty of potassium.
Mum's Hulled Hemp Seed: Hemp's time has come...it is a uniquely Canadian product, very pest resistant and therefore easy to grow organic, rich in omega 3 fatty acids and a uniquely anti-inflammatory omega 6 called gamma linoleic acid (GLA) and 2 tbsp offer 11 grams of protein. It is inexpensive and tasty to boot. Add to your breakfast cereal, sprinkle on salads, casseroles and add to baking.
Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats: Steel cut oats are a notch above rolled oats; dense and chewy, these oats have a real stick to your ribs quality and 7 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre per 170 calorie serving. Steel cut oats are slowly digested and will stay with you through the morning.
Nature's Path Optimum Cereals: High fibre, simple, organic ingredients and not loaded with sugar. Enough said. If you eat breakfast cereal, these are the ones for you!
Quinoa: Hailing from the Andes, Quinoa is the ultimate faux-grain! Faux, because although quinoa functions like a grain food, it is actually related to greens like spinach and chard. It is naturally gluten free and contains a more complete protein profile than any other grain. Rich in magnesium and iron, it cooks up just like brown rice but in only 15-20 minutes so it fits well into busy lives. There are many brands out there, but I must show a little respect for Ancient Harvest as they were the quinoa pioneers. The also pre-wash their quinoa to remove the bitter coating so you don't have to!
Sprouted Grain Breads: Sprouted grain breads are super nutritious and much higher in fibre than most regular whole grain breads and can help you increase your fibre intake and control blood sugars. Check out my UnDiet week 8 post for more information on sprouted grains. Silver Hills is a local BC manufacturer and Ezekiel is a brand found commonly across North America.
Barley: Ah barley, how we have forgotten about you. You sit there, dusty on the bottom shelf, with nary a look from a shopper. Barley is the wallflower of nutrition; no one buys it, let alone knows what to do with it (besides turning it into beer). But barley is packed with soluble fibre, which helps improve the health of your digestive tract and keep cholesterol at bay. Barley even helps to control blood sugars. Rich in magnesium for proper insulin secretion, barley also boasts plenty of trace minerals and antioxidants like selenium. And it is dirt cheap. Cook it up in place of rice; try it in a "risotto" or stir it into soups or use it make a hearty main dish salad.
Fruit and Veggie Products
Bremner's Cranberry Juice: I am not a huge fan of juice; we don't really need it in our diets as it can't hold a candle to the whole fruit. However, a half cup of not from concentrate berry juices such as blueberry, pomegranate or cranberry can boost your daily fruit servings and deliver a dose of antioxidants. Cranberry is an especially good choice for women who want to prevent urinary tract infections and the regular stuff is loaded with sugar. Go with Bremner's.
No Salt Added Canned Tomatoes: Canned tomatoes are a pantry must have. Flavour with garlic, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil for a quick pasta sauce or use as a base for a soup or stew. Canned tomatoes, with a bit of olive oil added, are also an ideal source of the powerful antioxidant lycopene in addition to a host of other nutrients like vitamins C, A and potassium. Eden Organic is a favourite for being organic, salt free and having cans that are BPA free.
O.N.E. Coconut Water: Coconut water is nature's sports drink - and a far better choice than day glo, sugar-filled versions. Just 60 calories per 330 ml container, coconut water delivers 670mg of potassium, 60mg of sodium, 40mg of calcium and 25mg of magnesium for optimal rehydration on a hot day.
Numi Pu-erh Tea: Pu-erh Tea is new to us...but it isn't new! Pu-erh is a tea from old growth trees that is fermented for 60 days and traditionally made into bricks that can be aged for years. The company claims that Pu-erh has even more anti-oxidants than green tea and aids in healthy metabolism, digestion and weight maintenance. I haven't looked into their claims enough to be able to support them but there is no concern with tea as a healthy beverage: rich in anti-oxidants, low in caffeine and tasty! My favourite part is that Pu-erh has a wonderfully rich flavour (the Chocolate Pu-erh is my favourite) that is very satisfying.
Canned Beans: Be they kidney, chick pea or lentil - we should be filling our cart with canned or dried beans every single week! With more fibre than any other plant food on earth, beans are loaded with protein, slowly digesting carbohydrates and are incredibly filling. Beans also supply many minerals often lacking in our packaged and processed lives: magnesium, iron, potassium and folate. The Food Habits in Later Life study showed that beans were the only food type associated with a longer life. All beans are good beans, rinse salted versions to remove some of the salt. If you have a little extra money, spend it on Eden Organic beans. Eden's cans are BPA free and they add no salt.
Plum Organics: It goes without saying that fresh is always best for baby, but if you need to choose a prepared baby food, you cannot get better than Plum Organics. Organic, very lightly processed and delicious. The blends make foods like broccoli and spinach easy for a baby to love. The leading jarred organic food tastes like canned food: overcooked and bland. These don't. And the packaging is awesome; when you are on the go, you can just squeeze out directly onto the spoon. No bowl required!
On the Go Foods
PRO BAR: I like food too much to generally be satisfied by food in bar form - it just gets in the way of another meal opportunity! But sometimes you need emergency, stash-in-your-glove-box-for-crazy-days food. PRO BAR is great for a lot of reasons: it contains real whole foods, it is actually sized for a small meal (or large snack) and it is vegan and organic. I prefer the ingredients and nutrition of the original bars to their newer offerings; my favourite is the superfood slam.