If you’ve been inspired to clean up your diet, eat more raw foods, or simply replace more processed and cooked foods with healthier choices, here are a few simple ways you can start.
The more you stock up your cupboards with good stuff, the easier it will be! Start by tossing out (or giving away) those bags of hard brown sugar, refined and processed oils, chemically preserved condiments, sugar filled jams and jellies and artificial sweeteners.
This is a list of some alternatives to traditional kitchen staples. You can find many of these items at Healthy Planet, Whole Foods, Loblaws, Bulk Barn, your local food co-op or your neighbourhood natural food store.
Agar: A sea vegetable that helps improve digestion, waste elimination and reduces cholesterol. This can be used to replace gelatine, and can be used as a thickening agent for sauces and desserts. It makes you feel full which will help you lose unwanted weight.
Arrowroot: This is a great alternative to cornstarch and can be used wherever cornstarch is used eg. sauces, gravies. It is much easier to digest and is lower in cholesterol.
Beans & Legumes: These are a fantastic low-fat, meat replacement. They are high in complex carbohydrates, fibre, iron and folic acid and have more protein than any other vegetable source. Use them to make black bean burgers, spicy bean dips, homemade chili, taco filling and just about in any place you would have meat. If you want to make a complete protein like meat, eat them with grains or seeds.
Carob: This can be used to replace cocoa. It is high in minerals and B vitamins, with a small amount of protein and a smaller amount of far. It is also a good source of pectin (which makes it a good colon cleanser).
Chia: It is the richest whole food source of Omega-3 fatty acids and fibre found in nature and are packed full of antioxidants, magnesium, calcium, iron and folate. Chia seeds can be used to replace eggs when baking desserts, lasagna or thickening a recipe. For one egg equivalent, add 1 Tbsp chia seeds to 3 tbsp. water. Allow them to soak for 15 minutes. Stir and then use as you would eggs in baking.
Raw Cacao: This can be used to replace chocolate. Raw cacao has many healing and feel-good properties and are to the brain what blueberries are to the body – a superfood! Add cracked pieces to “raw vanilla ice cream” or stir them into cookies or even smoothies.
Coconut butter: When exercising it is most likely to be used for energy and less likely to be stored as fat. It also has powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties and good for boosting immunity. Add a tablespoon to shakes or in desserts. It’s also been used as a natural lotion for your skin.
Dried fruits: Dates, raisins, cranberries, mango, dried papaya, etc. are all better options at school, work or while travelling when you are looking for a healthy snack. Medjool Dates are also an excellent source to use as a sweetener in smoothies. You can also blend them with water to make a syrup.
Fruits and Veggies: This is a given. Add a variety to your diet. Stock up. Buy organic (or at least the top 12 dirty dozen: http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/dirty-dozen-foods#slide-1) and local. Freezing is a great option to avoid letting anything go bad and then throwing them out.
Nama Shoyu: Can be used to replace traditional soy sauces that quite often contain preservatives and have all the beneficial enzymes removed.
Nutritional Yeast: This can be used to replace cheese in many recipes. It is packed with vitamins especially the B-complex vitamins as well as essential amino acids. It is savory and almost cheesy and is great when added to nut cheeses, on crackers and in sauces.
Nuts and Seeds: These can be used for sauces (pesto, cashew cheddar cheese sauce), cheeses (macadamia feta, pine nut parmesan), milk (almond milk, hemp milk), etc. Best kept in the fridge.
Soy foods: For those considering a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, soy can be used to replace meat. This is the only vegetable to provide complete protein. Packed with vitamins, iron, calcium and fibre. Look into Tempeh (a fermented soy food) that has a nutty or smoky flavour. You can cut it into patties or cakes to be steamed, baked, fried or broiled. Marinating tempeh brings out more flavour. The other option to look at is Tofu. This is also protein-packed and has high calcium, iron and B vitamins. There are many varieties so make sure you check what your recipe calls for. It is very versatile and can be baked, broiled, grilled, deep fried or tossed into a salad/stirfry. It is also used for condiments, cheese substitutes and desserts.
Vinegars: The high acidity in many types of traditional vinegars can actually destroy healthy bacteria in the intestines. Replace with raw apple cider vinegar, unfiltered rice vinegar and umeboshi plum vinegar. All of these have a more balanced acid level.