Here are some of my very favorite pantry staples I keep on hand to ensure I always have the right foods for healthy-ish eating. (*Note: You still have to exercise moderation here. It’s nutritious, not calorie-free.) I also try to give specific brands I have personally tried and love. And unless you live close to a Natural Grocers, you’ll probably do better shopping online for some of these products.
Erythritol (Granulated) — This is my very favorite sweetener. Ever. It is a naturally derived sugar found in berries and birch bark. It is nearly calorie-free, does not impact your blood sugar, and works just like sugar when you bake. It won’t cause any weird stomach issues (like it’s friend Xylitol), and isn’t fake-sugar poison. It does have a slightly cooling effect, so sometimes it won’t dissolve completely. However it’s sooo delicious. I don’t miss sugar at all with this. Natural Grocers has a great price on it, otherwise shop online for the best deal.
Stevia — Okay, before you automatically give me crazy face for suggesting it, hear me out. All stevia is NOT created equal and chances are you’ve used the wrong kind or have used waaay too much. The only brand I ever use is liquid NuNaturals, specifically the Vanilla. It’s a tiny bit expensive, but it’s so good and a 2 ounce bottle has lasted me for 5 months. I typically use 10-20 drops per day in my coffee, and use it to boost sweetness in recipes. Try it. If you hate it, give it to your favorite diabetic.
Raw Honey — What’s the difference in raw honey and processed honey? Everything. Raw honey contains superfood plant enzymes that are destroyed when it is heated and processed. It loses all nutritional value when heated. Most of my recipes which call for raw honey will use it only in small amounts. It is flavorful, adds a great punch in a tiny taste, and you don’t need much to get the full benefit. It also “warms up” the erythritol a bit, making it even MORE palatable.
Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil — One day soon, I will devote a post as to the unending power of the mighty coconut. For now, just trust me. And buy quality here. I like the Trader Joe’s brand, but whenever I order bulk shipment of Erythritol, I also get a massive jar of EVCO.
Coconut Milk: For those who have dairy sensitivities, or just like coconut milk, it is one of the most diverse ingredients you’ll find. I buy organic when I can, and BPA-free cans when the pocketbook allows, and I urge you to do the same. I always use full-fat milk because it is SO GOOD and very versatile.
Coconut Flour: This is pure fiber. It is a great grain substitute and makes a great addition to many recipes. I usually blend it with almond meal, but it’s great on it’s own.
Almond Meal/Flour: This is my go-to for many recipes that would use flour. It’s packed full of protein, healthy oils and nutrients. Although my personal preference is blanched, finely ground meal, Trader Joe’s sells a lower quality meal at a great price. You can go to the bulk bins at Whole Foods and buy what you need there or shop for a bargain online. Pre-packaged nut flours tend to be over-priced and cost prohibitive, though.
Nut Butters: I prefer peanut butter. No, scratch that; I LOVE peanut butter and probably use way too much of it. It’s just so good. No matter what kind of nut butter you choose, always make sure there is NO SUGAR OF ANY KIND, including agave. I like using this as a main ingredient because it’s pretty affordable and readily available. If you have nut allergies, you can always substitute the nut butter for Sunbutter, which is derived from sunflower seeds and is delicious. Whole Foods carries one with no sugar added, as well.
Cocoa Powder (unsweetened): Make sure, once again, that you get quality here. It will make a difference in the overall outcome of your product.
Unsweetened Baking Chocolate: You can find this on the baking aisle of your local grocery store. I keep at least a full bar around at all times.
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar: Alkalizing, enzyme building, and detoxifying, I use ACV whenever I can. In gluten-free baking, it creates a wonderful lightness to pastries. I use it in marinades and salad dressings. I do a straight shot of it everyday (which is not enjoyable) because it’s just SO GOOD for me. That means it’s good for you, too.
Arrow Root: This is a great grain-free thickener that won’t impact your blood sugar. It’s used in very small doses, and a little goes a long way. In fact, I bought a one-pound bag of it two years ago and I’ve barely used half. It is also excellent for digestion, and I use it in place of dry shampoo!
Chia Seeds: These little guys have ZERO FLAVOR. They’re also more well known for their 80′s sprouting pet franchise than their amazing health benefits. They have tons of minerals, fatty acids, and can hydrate you faster than Gatorade. They are also full of fiber which makes you feel fuller, longer.
Nutritional Yeast: Before you automatically dismiss it, educate yourself! This is a great alternative to cheese. It provides that nutty cheesy flavor without the side effects of dairy. It also won’t interfere with candida or other fungal problems, is an excellent source of protein and B vitamins. Did I mention it’s cheap? Because it is ridiculously cheap and readily available in any bulk section of almost any grocery store.
So there you have it, friends. If you want specific brand suggestions, ask me in the comments. Happy cooking!