It can be incredibly difficult when you’re overhauling any part of your lifestyle, but especially when it comes making better food choices. If you enter in any grocery store, you can quickly become overwhelmed with the number or products that are available and many of them are marketed as “healthy.” If you go into a health food store, you may find yourself in an even more confusing situation as products might be labeled, “paleo,” “keto,” “gluten free,” “vegan,” “grain-free” and on and on it goes. We all work so hard for our money, so what’s worth purchasing and what isn’t? Here you’ll find my SIX pantry staples that you can always find in my own pantry and are totally worth purchasing. They’ll provide you with the most bang for your buck, and you will keep reaching for them again and again as you learn to make healthier recipes.
1. Almond Flour
Almond flour is the golden child of Paleo baking. From pancakes, muffins, cookies, and cakes, they will more than likely be calling for almond flour, and once you get used to cooking with it, it really is a good alternative for regular all-purpose flour (however, consider yourself warned that you can NOT sub in almond flour in place of all-purpose flour in a recipe. Baking and recipe development is an exact science and almond flour will behave differently and will need different ingredients to hold together while cooking since the gluten, or the biding protein, is not found in almonds) *Pro-tip: find a brand of almond flour that is very finely ground for best results. My favorite brand is actually Thrive Market, and recently, I just tried the CostCo brand and it was great as well…as long as you don’t mind investing in a 5-pound bag! 😉
2. Coconut Palm Sugar
Here we have yet another award winner in the Paleo baking category. Now, unlike Paleo flours, coconut sugar can almost always be subbed in cup for cup in place of regular refined sugar. Beware, however, that since coconut sugar is brown, the coloring of your baked goods will be off from what you’re used to seeing. For this reason, it is great as a substitute for brown sugar. I also use coconut palm sugar frequently in savory dishes as well to provide just a hint of sweetness in sauces and seasonings. Another fun fact about coconut sugar: it scores lower on the glycemic index therefore, it doesn’t spike your blood sugar in the same way that refined sugar does.
3. Canned Coconut Milk
Canned coconut milk is one of those things that I wasn’t too sure about to begin with. It’s pure fat, and as a general rule, pure fat doesn’t taste too great alone. However, I started playing around with it and found some really yummy uses. For starters, it tastes really good mixed into smoothies. I use half almond milk and half coconut milk when I want additional fat to keep me satiated for a longer period of time. Coconut milk from the can is also really good to use if making chia pudding…it makes it so much thicker and less runny than almond milk. Finally, it can also be used in place of heavy cream and can still give soups, stews, even mashed potatoes that delicious rich flavor without the inflammatory effects of dairy, and I PROMISE, it won’t make your dishes taste like coconut. I know coconut is very polarizing…you either love it or hate it, but either way, when used in this way, it just adds a better and richer texture.
4. Almond butter
Okay, here’s my full confession: I haven’t totally given up peanut butter. I know it’s technically a legume, and legumes are not permitted on a strict Paleo diet, but peanut butter is one of my all time favorite foods. However, I read an article recently about the effects of peanut butter on those dealing with PCOS and how it messes with your hormones and since then, I’ve made a conscious effort to cut back. Enter, almond butter. Its still a rich, salty-sweet taste that can be used in place of anything that calls for peanut butter. Baked goods, PB and J (AB and J?) maybe even almond butter on a baked sweet potato? YES PLEASE! This is an easy replacement for your pantry!
5. Coconut aminos
Just like almond butter, this is another super easy pantry swap. Use coconut aminos in anything that calls for soy sauce. Soy is another no-no on the Paleo diet, and there is a lot of research that shows that soy wreaks havoc on your hormones. Everyone can benefit from less soy in their diet. At least once a week, we have an at-home Asian food night. It always tastes so much better and fresher than take-out! Coconut aminos literally taste and look just like soy sauce. I make our dips and sauces for Asian night using coconut aminos, and not even my husband can taste a difference-he’s my ultimate taste tester and if he gives it the green, I know it’s a winner!
6. Spices, spices, spices
I can’t begin to tell you the importance of spices in any pantry. It’s the easiest way to dress up any old, boring protein. Using a few different spices, you can take that same, tired chicken breast and turn it into an Italian, Mexican, Asian, Tuscan….well, really…any kind of dish. Find what flavor profiles you like best and then grab those spices to have on hand when you find yourself in a pinch and need to liven up a dish.