Healthy Cooking Must-Haves

Healthy eating has become a priority to me since my diagnosis. As explained in Food for Thought, I try to restrict carbs and sugars from my diet since there’s a strong correlation between what you eat and how you feel. So, my cooking philosophy is pretty simple: I cook easy, low carb/sugar, nutritious meals in 30 minutes or less.  I don’t believe in using a lot of ingredients or complex recipes – all that equates to is a mess in my kitchen and time I don’t have. I stick to lean proteins, tons of veggies and avoid cards (especially those with gluten) and sugar as much as possible. I not only feel good about the healthy dishes I make but think the meals are delicious too. Win, win!

Before I kick off the new series, Tasty Tuesday, where each Tuesday I feature a new, healthy dish that meets this criteria, I want to make sure you have the “essentials” stocked up in your kitchen to ensure you’re prepared. I use these ingredients frequently, and consider these staples to cooking a healthy meal:

  • Sea salt – less sodium than regular salt and I think it tastes better because of the crystal texture!
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil– I not only cook with it daily but often use it with lemon for salad dressing
  • Earth Balance butter spread – so much healthier and less fattening than regular butter
  • Spices – my go-to’s are chili flakes, cumin, and oregano
  • Herbs – I prefer fresh but it’s also good to have dried rosemary and thyme in your pantry
  • Honey – natural sweetener that you can swap for sugar and keep in your pantry for 10 years. I don’t use this often but it’s good to have!
  • Minced ginger – I personally love the taste of ginger and it’s an anti-inflammatory so I try to incorporate it often to help with MS symptoms
  • Lemon and garlic – These two items add a lot of flavor to any dish without the calories
  • Dry white wine (like a Pinot Grigio) – I keep a bottle in the fridge for marinades  and when I’m cooking protein. Just a splash or two adds a punch of flavor

I’ve found if you keep these healthy basics stocked up at home, you’re already off to a good start with your diet. It takes no time or extra effort to buy sea salt instead of regular salt, for example, and you’ll minimize your sodium intake without even knowing it. I recently learned that people with MS who have a high sodium intake have about a 3 times higher risk for exacerbations in symptoms as well as disease activity than those with low sodium intake. Minimizing and/or nixing salt seems like a no brainer! Spices, herbs, wine, lemon and garlic go a long way with flavor so you don’t need to add all that extra salt, cream or butter.

What are the healthy staples that you stock up on? Tell me in the “Comments” – I’m always looking for new “must-haves”!

*If you’re curious about learning more about salt intake and MS, click here.

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