When people hear that I am plant based, they most often follow up with a series of questions concerned about what I actually do eat. The short answer is a lot, plantiful choices are abundant. I focus on what I can eat versus what I don’t eat or what’s different about my diet and mainstream diet choices–and you can too.
In this first part in a series of Plantiful Plates Kitchen Essentials, I am showing you the top 10 things that are always in my fridge, why I depend on them and the many ways I cook with and eat these plantiful must haves.
This is meant to show you that what’s in my fridge may not be very different from what’s in yours and that anyone can access plantiful foods and incorporate them into their day. How is this any different than your top refrigerator essentials? What plantiful staples are in your fridge?
While the produce changes from season to season, there are a number of things that I consider staples in my refrigerator. If any of these items aren’t in my kitchen, they get put on the list to be restocked pronto.
Top Ten Plantiful Refrigerator Essentials:
Onions are a fundamental building block for adding flavour into your cooking. Whether they are diced and sautéed, sliced thinly to caramelize, or even grated finely to flavour mushroom gravy, onions are essential for starting the flavours off. It is crazy how a little oil and onions sautéing lets the whole house know something good is cooking.
Not only are onions essential to flavour, they are also incredibly nutritious. The simple onion is heart healthy, bone strengthening, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune boosting, blood sugar regulating, and is a prebiotic food (meaning it feeds the good bacteria in our gut).
A staple fruit in my diet. Whole or sliced with organic almond butter, this is a go to snack, lunch side, or sometimes breakfast. I also love to dice them up and add them into steelcut oats for ‘apple pie’ oatmeal, and whiz them up with almond milk, oats, honey and cinnamon for a delicious smoothie.
Apples are heart healthy, linked to reducing the risk of athsma, cholesterol reducing, blood sugar regulating and a good source of fibre. In addition, I always eat apples with the skins on, to ensure you are getting maximum benefit. This is why it’s so important to buy organic apples–according to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen, apples are the second most likely produce to be contaminated with pesticide residues, even after they are washed for eating.
I was probably in my late twenties before I even tried an avocado, and I was not an instant fan. But once I learned how to make a killer guacamole I was hooked. The fact that they are so nutritious and so widely available makes them a must have in my refrigerator at all times. If they are too hard when I bring them home, I ripen them on the counter for a day or two, then put them in the fridge. As I said I love to use avocados in a guacamole and will eat it as a dip or as a spread on wraps, burritos and tacos. Avocado, is also delicious in salads or on toast topped with tomatoes.
These delightfully creamy fruit are beneficial for our skin and digestive system. They also can help lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels.
Parsley is for more than just garnish folks! Yes, we know it freshens breath, this is true, but it is anti-bacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. It will help you feel less bloated, help your body detoxify efficiently and effectively and boosts your immunity. It is a powerhouse little leaf! I love using it with garlic and lemon as a gremolata type topping on pasta, rice, tofu and salad. I toss it whole into green salads, or chopped into grain or bean salads. I will also add it into a green juice and smoothies.
The mostly likely greens in my fridge at all times, are baby spinach and kale (big surpise a vegetarian loves kale—but everyone should!!). However, on a semi-regular rotation these are also joined by collards or swiss chard (above are some pea shoots and a medley of juicing greens I got fresh at the market that morning). I use spinach in smoothies and juices all the time, will bulk up the nutrition of fast and quick pasta dishes, pizzas and wraps. Spinach, is of course a great source of iron and folate for blood health, but also for the illusive plant source of vitamin K for strong bones and is helps reduce certain cancer risks. I love kale on its own, of course as kale chips, in a salad (always massaged) or in smoothies. Kale, is no lightweight green either, compared to equivalent calories of beef kale has more iron, and compared to milk, it has more calcium per calorie (and it is more absorbable into your body). It is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and beneficial for your eyes, skin, heart health.
6) Maple Syrup
This natural sweetner is preferable to standard sugar, is local (my parents made this from trees on their property) and organic. I use it in baking, hot drinks, stir-fry sauces, salad dressings, and marinades. To be clear, this is still sugar and should be consumed minimally. I include it in my fridge essential list as it is my preferred sweetener and I always have it on hand.
There are a number of nutrients that are found in this natural sweetener, including antioxidants, vitamin B2, zinc, magnesium, potassium and calcium.
I eat hummus on a daily basis and would love to say that I exclusively eat homemade hummus, but the truth this it is most often it is store made. There aren’t too many ingredients required to make hummus, but to get the texture that I like (and I am a big texture person) has alluded me at every attempt. Hummus is most often made from chickpeas, tahini, garlic and some form of acid (vinegar or lemon juice). There is one recipe that I will be testing and posting about that promises to be the absolute best recipe ever, I will post when the verdict is in.
I love having hummus on hand as it is an easy way to get a quick hit of protein, iron, B6 and fibre. You can eat it as a dip with vegetables, as a spread on crackers or flatbread or a filling component of vegetable sandwich or wrap. One of my favourite snacks is gluten-free crackers, topped with hummus and kimchi (below).
Kimchi is a delicious, fiery fermented cabbage condiment (Korean pickle) that is rich in natural probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in our large intestine that contribute to a healthy digestive system, stronger immune system and the production of vitamin B12. I make my own kimchi using nappa cabbage, daikon, carrots, scallions, chili pepper (this stuff is spicy).
In addition to eating it as a snack with hummus and crackers, kimchi is a great condiment to add to any meal, wraps and sandwiches, toss into salads or as a topping on stir-fry, rice or veggie burgers. It is important to eat some form of fermented foods throughout the day, in order to build an maintain a healthy microbiome. Other great food sources of natural probiotics that are often in my fridge include, kombucha, water kefir, and sauerkraut.
9) Raw almonds
Raw almonds are a staple in my refrigerator because they are a common snack, breakfast topping and basis of quick baked goods. But they are also the main nut that I use to make my own milk alternative. It is important to buy raw nuts because they contain the most nutrients and healthy fats that will help your skin and hair look healthier, keep you filling fuller longer, and can contribute to heart health by regulating blood pressure and lowering bad cholesterol levels.
For my basic almond milk recipe, click here.
10) Sweet potatoes
These tuber vegetables are nutrient packed and delicious in a number of plantiful dishes. While I grew up on white potatoes, and still love to eat them, sweet potatoes are more regular in our rotation because of their versatility, adaptability and slightly higher nutritional edge. Sweet potatoes can have more fibre, vitamins A & C, and calcium than a standard white potato. I love roasting them with a little cumin, salt and nutritional yeast to make a baked chip or french fry alternative. They are delicious cooked with kale and black beans, can be used to add flavour and colour to soups and stews, and are the perfect base for savoury stuffed potatoes or veggie burger patties.
Call to Action:
An important step in becoming more plantiful is to have fresh, healthy and nutrient dense foods in your kitchen. Take stock of some of the must haves in your fridge, and make an effort to slide the balance from processed or non-plantbased items to nutrient rich and vibrant plantiful foods.