Your college days are not known as a time in your life when proper nutrition is a priority. Many nights are spent eating “late night” meals, you frequently consume study snacks and vacations home mean bingeing on homemade cooking. Having a diverse palate meant that I was not one to settle on pizza dinners more than one night in a row and made it necessary for fresh fruits and veggies to be a part of my daily diet regimen. While I wasn’t very strict with myself, I was proud that my roommates and I always had a mutual understanding that kitchen cabinets should make sense and provide for sustainable meals. It is for this reason that I decided to take the guesswork out of grocery shopping for those who make not know how to build a meal, get inspired to cook or have resolved to eat at home a bit more this year.
Keep reading to find out what items to pick up!
Agave: “If you enjoy baking or you just like a little extra sweetness in your cup of tea, agave sweetener is an alternative to sugar that allows you to sweeten up anything you eat or drink. Unlike artificial sweeteners, agave sweetener is a natural product that is found in agave plants in Mexico. Though it’s refined and processed to an extent, it’s one of the safer choices if you’re considering using a sugar alternative.” (Read more here.)
Balsamic vinegar: “Balsamic and ripe summer tomatoes have a well-known affinity for one another. From that simple summer salad, it’s not too hard to make the leap to tomato-based soups and sauces. I add a splash of balsamic to these dishes at the very end of cooking to bring the flavors together.”(Read more here.)
Canola oil: “One way to reshape your diet is by choosing heart-healthy oils. Canola oil, which is made from the crushed seeds of the canola plant, is among the healthiest of cooking oils. It has the lowest saturated fat content of any oil commonly consumed in the U.S., at just 7%. By comparison, sunflower oil has 12% saturated fat, corn oil has 13%, and olive oil has 15%.” (Read more here.)
Dried fruit: “Dried fruits are some of the healthiest alternatives to refined sugar, and they are an excellent way to satisfy a sweet craving. While many manufacturers use the natural sugar found in fruit, called fructose, to sweeten their products, eating fruit itself in moderation is a great way to get needed nutrients and vitamins. Dried fruit is a quick and tasty way to get those same benefits during a busy, fast-paced day.” (Read more here.)
Edamame: “You’ve probably been to a sushi joint where edamame are served up whole, in the pod, with a sprinkling of course salt over top, and maybe a lemon wedge. This is my favorite way of eating them – simple and unadorned. In Japan, edamame steamed or boiled in their pods are commonly served at izakayas, as a snack to go with beer. I usually toss the whole pods in the microwave, with a little water and salt, to steam them until the seeds can be easily popped out of the pods. (Compost the pods; they are too tough and fibrous to eat.) Here’s how to do it without the microwave, and here are ideas from Mark Bittman about how to jazz up boiled edamame, including drizzling the pods with sriracha (yes please!).” (Read more here.)
Frozen healthy meals: We’ve all been there; a day or night when you’re just too busy to make anything and are in danger of skipping a meal. STOP! Don’t do it! Try out some of these frozen meals that can be cooked while you refresh your make-up, change your outfit, hop in the shower or take a power nap.
Ginger ale: “Ginger ale, or ginger beer depending on who you’re talking to, is a fantastic home remedy for nausea, upset stomachs, and even sore muscles, but 99 percent of what the big companies pass off as ginger ale contains tons of sugar and little to no real ginger. Not so with Reed’s ginger brews, which contain the most ginger of any brand out there. And the company has just introduced a new “light” variety that, at just 55 calories per bottle, is sweetened with honey and stevia.” (Read more here.)
High-fiber cereal: “The high fiber cereals of years ago offered little taste for the nutritional benefit they provided. Today, that has changed and you can get a great tasting cereal that is also a good fiber source. Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. Not only does it aid in weight loss by helping you feel full and satisfied longer, it also helps reduce risks of heart disease, lowers blood pressure, and aids in blood sugar control. Many people need more fiber in their diet and breakfast cereal provides a great option for maximizing your daily intake by getting the day started with a fiber rich meal.” (Read more here.)
Iceberg lettuce: If you don’t think lettuce is fun then you’ve been doing lettuce wrong.
Try these recipes and you’ll be rethinking this leafy green in no time!
1. Taco night: Shredded iceberg lettuce adds texture to any kind of taco and is a good way to get some fiber into your kids. (Try these carnitas tacos, these fish tacos, and this taco salad.) You can also use it to garnish these addictive potato nachos.
2. The Iceberg Wedge: Reacquaint yourself with the classic appetizer of a wedge of iceberg drizzled with blue cheese dressing. Even better with chopped bacon bits sprinkled on it.
3. Make yourself an honest-to-god club sandwich. (In general, there is probably no sandwich that wouldn’t benefit from a layer of iceberg.)
Kosher salt: “Kosher salt, which is more uniform in size than sea salt, has a coarse texture which makes it easy to pinch when cooking. This helps when seasoning your food, as you can better control how much you are pinching than with other salts. Kosher salt also has a less intense and more pure, salty taste than the other types of salt.” (Read more here.)
Lemons: “Most people are familiar with the traditional uses for lemons to soothe sore throats and add some citrus flavor to our foods.” From freshening your fridge to controlling high blood pressure, read more here for some great uses for lemons.
Macaroni & cheese: It’s not the healthiest thing you can eat but it sure is cozy and sometimes we all need to indulge in some comfort food. Check out this list for a definitive ranking of store bought mac ‘n cheese.
Nuts: “Nuts are nature’s way of showing us that good things come in small packages. These bite-size nutritional powerhouses are packed with heart-healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals.” Check out this slideshow for the pros and cons to eating certain kinds of nuts.
Oats: “Apart from consumption, wild oats have an important role to play in skincare. They were used as early as 2000 BC by the Egyptians and Arabians to beautify their skins. Oat baths were largely used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for healing skin ailments.” (Read more here.)
Panko breadcrumbs: “Panko makes a wonderful crisp topping for casseroles. Toss panko together with some grated parmesan, salt, pepper and maybe some herbs. Then, drizzle in some melted butter. Spread this topping liberally on a casserole, and upon baking, you will be rewarded with a light, crunchy and flavorful topping a nice contrast to your creamy casserole. Try this trick on top of scalloped potatoes, lasagna, tuna noodle casserole or macaroni and cheese.” (Read more here.)
Quinoa: “A good gluten-free source of protein, iron, and fiber, quinoa is a quick and flavorful way to get in a serving of whole grains. About the size of pellets of couscous, quinoa cooks in about 20 minutes. The only special handling required with quinoa is to give it a good rinse before cooking; otherwise, the grains can be bitter.” (Read more here.)
Red wine: It can help to lower cholesterol, protect your heart and be used for cooking?! Nothing has sounded better to indulge in than this sweet treat. Rumor has it that red wine can also be beneficial in controlling blood sugar but don’t just take my word for it. Read more here.
Shrimp: “While shrimp may be small in size, they are huge in terms of nutritional value and the health benefits they offer. Read on to learn how shrimp can help you lose weight, provide you with important beauty nutrients — such as the antioxidant astaxanthin — and add cancer-fighting minerals to your diet.”
Thyme: “During the spring and summer, fresh thyme is abundant and perfect for adding flavor to your favorite foods. The longer fresh thyme cooks, the milder the flavor will get. You can make an easy butter rub with thyme by adding 1/4 cup of fresh diced thyme to 1/2 cup of olive oil or softened butter and rub it on chicken or pork before grilling or roasting.” (Read more here.)
White wine vinegar: “White wine vinegar consists of fermented ethanol and other sugars, which are aged to form a less acidic form of traditional vinegar. People throughout the world include white wine vinegar in a variety of recipes, and also use it for cleaning. Over the years, many people have touted the health benefits of white wine vinegar, and modern research offers some support for their beliefs.” (Read more here.)
Okay, so I didn’t go through the entire alphabet but that’s because it isn’t necessary! Shopping for food can be fun, easy and productive as long as you’re not stocking up on junk food that won’t last as an energy source in your stomach or your kitchen. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr and let me know what you buy, bake or create with some of these things or any other delicious treats you happens to find!