This year I will be doing different segments on the blog. There will be various recipes, which I will label as my "Kitchen Concoctions", both those that are crazy simple and those that are a bit more in depth, there will be nutrition information in my "Fun Food Facts" segments and there will be what I will call "Quick Picks", which will range from restaurant finds to grocery list picks.
TODAY, to kick things off, I'm going to introduce my first segment of Quick Picks that I'll be doing to kick of 2017, which I'm calling my Taylored Pantry Top 10's. In 2016 one of my most frequent requests from clients, friends and busy moms and dads was, "Can you just send me a list of the things I should grab at the store to whip up something quick and healthy?". Some people simply needed to know what to buy and then they could take it from there. I realized that, for some, the thought alone of entering the grocery store was overwhelming and so was their biggest obstacle to getting healthy food choices in the home (and thus into work and school lunches). So, I will be sharing with you a different Top 10 list each week for the next 4 to 5 weeks. My hope is that it gives you ideas, information and understanding as you enter into this new year and makes it so that on days you are pressed for time, you can run into the store and quickly pick out items to get breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table or in the lunchbox that week!
I will start my Taylored Pantry Top 10's with GRAINS. These are the grains that I typically have on-hand in my pantry to help throw together a quick and healthier breakfast, lunch or dinner any day of the week. I do not always have all 10 but I usually have about 4 or 5 and I switch it up to keep meals from getting monotonous. These typically keep pretty well so that I can use them right away for a planned recipe or I can store them and pull them out when in a bind. Also, please note, I am not working with any of the following brands; these are strictly my preferences based off of experience and label and ingredient reviews. Other dietitians may have a different Top 10, but here is what has and continues to work for me and for clients that I have worked with in the past.
Taylored Pantry Top 10: GRAINS
Benefits of Grains: Whole grains are a must for my pantry. They add fiber, a little protein and complex carbohydrate, along with iron, folate, magnesium and a myriad of other nutrients. They help keep me fueled for long days, help me recover after intense workouts, and keep me full for days I'm just feeling extra hungry. Grab some grains and make them a part of your pantry....
OLD FASHIONED ROLLED OATS
Uses: Oatmeal for breakfast or a snacks | include it in homemade granola bars | include it in homemade cookies | add to casseroles.
My Picks: I usually grab my oats from the bulk bin at the grocery store. You can get as much or as little as you want and it is SUPER friendly on the wallet.
WHOLE GRAIN CEREAL (maybe 2 varieties - 1 natural & 1 regular)
Uses: Easy breakfast served with low-fat milk or yogurt | throw it in a baggie for a snacks on the go | include it in a homemade trail mix.
My Picks: Barbara's brand Morning Oat Crunch (Original variety) & Spoonfuls (fiber + protein + lower sugar content = winning combo!). I also love basic plain Cheerios and Quaker Oatmeal Squares (again, fiber + protein + lower in sugar)
To Know: Many times "Natural" cereals are low in iron because nothing is added to them / they are not fortified during processing (Example: Quaker Oatmeal Squares contains about 90% daily iron needs while Barbara's Morning Oat Crunch only contains about 10%). If iron is a concern for you, and your favorite cereals are labeled "natural" (which, be careful - that does NOT mean healthier), you may want to alternate between your favorite "natural" cereal and a regular cereal, mix the two, or switch over completely. And don't forget to include a source of vitamin C with it (orange juice, strawberries, etc.) for optimal iron absorption!
WHOLE GRAIN BREAD
Uses: Toast in the morning | avocado toast any time :) | sandwiches for lunch or dinner | egg breakfast sandwiches | croutons for salads (once it is a little stale) | French toast | freeze it for later use!
My Picks: I love the whole grain bread by Dave's Killer bread and Central Market's Chia & Flax Seed bread. The hearty quality and all of the seeds in the bread give it a deep, hearty, nutty flavor when toasted, mmmmmm.
To Know: Make sure the first ingredient in the Ingredient List says "whole wheat" or "whole grain". Don't just go off of what it says on the front of the package.
WHOLE WHEAT PITA OR FLATBREAD
Uses: So many possibilities! Stuff the pita with your favorite sandwich fixings and wrap up for lunch at school, work or on the go | eat it cold or grill it in a panini press for a quick hot dinner sandwich | stuff with scrambled eggs & cheese for a quick breakfast on the go | cut into triangles, drizzle with a teaspoon or two of olive oil and bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 8 to 10 minutes for your own baked pita chips | use a whole pita as a pizza crust for individual pizzas and top with marinara and fun toppings before baking in the oven!
My Picks: I really don't have a "go-to" for pita bread. As long as "whole - wheat flour" is that first ingredient, I am good. Regarding flatbreads & wraps I tend to like the Flat-out flatbread products. They have a good texture, good flavor and they work well as wraps and flatbread (I use them for my turkey lime avocado wrap - recipe coming soon to the blog).
QUINOA / BULGUR / BARLEY
Uses: Morning hot cereal (quinoa) | the base of a cold lunch salad bowl | a complement to dinner (add in various ingredients like pine nuts, spinach & feta or sun dried tomatoes) | an ingredient in soups & stews.
My Picks: I also like to get these from the bulk bins at the grocery store. I can get just what I need and it is usually more budget friendly.
WHOLE GRAIN CRACKERS
Uses: An easy snack | pair with peanut butter, hummus, or cheese | serve with soup | eat them on their own.
WHOLE WHEAT PENNE
Uses: An easy pasta night (play with the ingredients like marinara sauce or fresh roasted tomatoes & basil or a little lemon, olive oil and capers, yum!) | incorporate into macaroni & cheese | create a cold pasta salad.
To Know: Whole - wheat pasta can be tougher than white refined pasta. Try to cook your whole - wheat pasta a bit longer to better reach your desired texture.
Uses: Great snack any time | buy it plain and add your own flavors like grated Parmesan, cinnamon, chili powder, etc. | 3 cups = 1 serving so you get a lot more per serving than a snack of potato chips!
LOWER SUGAR GRANOLA CERAL
Uses: Easy topping for yogurt in the morning or afternoon snack | topping for ice cream or frozen yogurt (yep, I said ice cream!) | add into unsweetened cereal for a little bite of sweetness.
My Picks: My favorite store-bought is KIND Cinnamon Oat Clusters with Flax Seed and I also love making my own when I have time either using the recipe a friend of mine gave me or using the Pumpkin Spice Granola recipe from The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte
To Know: a lot of granolas are higher in sugar and are more calorie dense. I found this one to be a good compromise between nutrition and taste. But as with all granolas, remember to watch your portions. Serving sizes are typically smaller for granola than the average dry cereal.
WHOLE GRAIN FROZEN WAFFLES
Uses: Fun breakfast for kids ( and adults), you can top with nut butter, fruit, yogurt, or honey. In a youth (grades K - 5) nutrition & fitness program I have been involved in over the last 3 to 4 years, one of the recipes the kids make is called a "wafflewich". It is a regular whole - wheat waffle topped with vanilla yogurt, fresh fruit, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and then topped with another waffle (if desired) to create a waffle sandwich. The kids love it - it has been a hit every year!