I get a LOT of questions from patients and readers about the types of foods and ingredients I use at home.
So today I’m throwing open my pantry doors (yikes!) and giving you a full list of the must-have staples we cook with at home.
As you read through, please know I believe everyone’s nutritional needs and food sensitivities are unique and I don’t expect everyone to eat, shop, and cook like we do.
The purpose of this post is to give you some starting points on how to stock your pantry with REAL foods that support optimal energy, immunity, digestive health, and longevity.
Also keep in mind…
- We are working a family of four, with two small children…this makes convenience and high-quality nutrition a double priority.
- That said, we aim to eat as many vegetables as possible and limit sweets, refined carbs, juices, dairy (because of sensitivities) and certain grains.
- We buy organic/sustainably grown foods as much as possible to maximize nutrient uptake.
- We shop at local farmer’s markets, natural foods stores, AND take advantage of Costco for great savings on bulk organic items…yes, Costco.
- Even WE enjoy healthier treats on occasion.
Now that you know what motivates my pantry choices, let’s take a peak!
What’s in Dr. Alex’s Pantry?
Flours: gluten-free for coating meats, thickening sauces, and healthy baking
- Tapioca flour—an excellent thickener for sauces, dredging meats, and gluten-free goodies
- Almond flour—makes tasty chicken fingers, pancakes, and delicious grain-free baked goods
- Coconut flour—a little goes a LONG way in baking, good sauce thickener, great for dredging too
Sweeteners: Unrefined, minimally processed, and rich in minerals (use sparingly)
- Raw honey—for teas, beverages, homemade bars, and some baked goods
- Liquid and Powdered Pure Stevia—for beverages, baking, dressings, etc.
- Coconut sugar—use 1 to 1 in place of refined sugar in baking
- Dates—enjoy plain or puree into a paste for a delicious natural sweetener (get an easy date paste recipe here)
- Molasses—delicious on hot cereal, granola, or used in baking
Oils: unrefined and unprocessed
- Avocado oil—look for 100% avocado oil in glass bottles, neutral taste, great for high-heat cooking and frying, and delicious in salad dressings
- Coconut oil—look for virgin coconut oil in glass containers. Use for baking, sauteing, roasting, making personal care products, as a hair treatment, for oral health, zapping pimples, supporting immunity…pretty much everything. You can also freeze it and grate it into pastry for a flaky grain-free or gluten-free crust. Has a delicate coconut-flavor
Non-Dairy Milks: unsweetened with no added flavors
- Almond Milk—a favorite for splashing on granola, in teas, for baking, pancakes, and as a stand-alone beverage
- Coconut Milk—excellent for smoothies, coffee, baking, pancakes, and blending with fruit for popsicles.
Canned Meats: sustainably harvested, wild-caught, no soy, sugar, phosphates, artificial preservatives, or fillers, cans are as BPA-free as possible
- Vital Choice Products– are wild caught and sustainably harvested
- Safe Catch® brand Tuna—higher in Omega 3s than traditional tuna. Safe Catch fishes smaller, younger tuna fish which are lower in mercury
- Wild Planet® brand Wild Alaska Salmon—high in Omega 3s, low to no mercury
Snacks: aside from organic veggies and fruits we also enjoy…
- Nuts & seeds—almonds, macadamias, pecans, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds
- Dried fruits—Unsulfured. Use sparingly
- Granola—gluten-free for the kids
- Coconut chips/flakes—great quick snack, used on chicken fingers, or toasted for salads and soups
- Nut butters—almond is our favorite, look for sugar-free brands
- Olives—great source of healthy fats, look for no added sulfites, preferably in glass
- Organic Applesauce—in glass jars. Organic is important as apples are on the dirty dozen list (highly sprayed)
- Pickles, capers, chilies—choose organic pickles to avoid pesticides, aluminum, and Yellow #5
Drinks: Probiotic, low-sugar, antioxidant-rich
- Kombucha—look for no added sugar
- 100% Pomegranate Juice—no added sugar, dilute or omit for the kiddos
- Sparkling mineral water—in glass bottles (add a little lemon juice and honey for a yummy sparkling lemonade)
- Coconut water—no added sugar, flavors, or artificial preservatives. If you can get raw even better
Pastas: 100% veggie
- We use a spiralizer (like this one) to make veggie noodles out of zucchini, squash, or beets
- You can also now buy pre-spiralized veggies in the produce section of many natural foods markets
- Pumpkin puree—great for grain-free pancakes, nutrition bars, and baking
- Full fat coconut milk—soups, smoothies, homemade ice “creams”, popsicles, even coffee
- Coconut butter (AKA creamed coconut)—for baked goods, ice “creams”, and soups. Look for sugar-free in glass jars
- Chicken, Beef, and Seafood bone broths—for soups, sauces, and sipping. Excellent for promoting gut health. You can also make your own
- Tomatoes—IN GLASS JARS!!! If you only splurge on one thing in glass, make it tomatoes as they are notorious for leaching metals and toxins from can linings
- Avocado oil mayonnaise—the best pre-made mayo you can get. Make sure it’s made with 100% avocado oil
- Coconut Aminos—for seasoning, has a similar flavor to tamari
- Organic Tamari—fermented gluten-free soy sauce
- Fish Sauce—for Asian cooking, look for no preservatives, sugar, or MSG
- Hot Sauce—look for pure hot sauce with no preservatives, MSG, sugar, or sulfites
- Balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, ume plum vinegar—look for organic, no added sulfites
- Apple cider vinegar—great for dressings and as an alkalizing tonic/digestive aid
- Dijon mustard—no added sugars, flavors, colors, or preservatives
- Gelatin—a beautifully simple source of protein and gut-friendly amino acids. Makes perfect desserts, homemade gummies, and can be added to smoothies too.
- Cacao chips—delicious antioxidant-rich addition to smoothies, bars, and treats
- Organic cocoa—100% cocoa, fair trade
- Chia seeds—a powerhouse of omega-3s with a million uses
Where to buy, and save on healthier pantry items
- Thrive Market (an online, Costco-style price club with a variety of gluten-free and grain-free products. Savings of 25-50%)
- Local health food stores and natural foods markets
- Costco (recently surpassed Whole Foods as America’s #1 provider of organics…and a great source of organic Chia seeds)
- Mainstream grocery stores (nearly all stores now have great natural options and organics
- Farmer’s markets
- Azure Standard Bulk Organics and Natural Foods Co-op (you can type in your zipcode to find a co-op in your area, then ask to join. You order online then pick up at a designated location. Great savings on thousands of natural food products)
- Local CSAs (many also offer pantry items)
Makeover your pantry without wasting food or money
If you’re looking at this list and thinking: oh my GOD! I’m going to have throw everything out and start over again!
Stop. Take a breath, and ask yourself three simple questions:
- What items are running low that I can replace this week with healthier options?
- What do you and you family eat every day that is not exactly healthful (these items should be replaced first)?
- What are you health goals? Do you want to stop eating so much sugar? Cut down on refined grains? Eat more vegetables?
Start there and then replace items based on those answers. Before you know it, you’ll have your full-pantry-makeover.
And if you’re the type of person who likes to go all out “Extreme Makeover Style”, go for it…but donate the foods you are discarding, don’t throw them away.
Wishing you happy, healthy, and joyful eating.