By now, we all know that the healthiest meals are those that are home-cooked. But if you don’t pay attention to the quality of the ingredients that you’re using, you could end up making a dish that’s not much better for you than take-out.
Holistic nutrition and lifestyle consultant Meredith Geller is an expert in optimizing pantry items, tossing out high-sodium seasonings, inflammatory cooking oils, carb heavy pastas and the likes, and replacing them with healthier cooking ingredients. And yes—they taste just as good, if not better. Meredith’s nutritional focus is deep tissue cleansing and detoxification, with a penchant for raw alive food and fresh juicing. She coaches private chefs, as well as at-home cooks, and even takes her clients on shopping tours of local health food stores to show them the ropes of mindful cooking. Meredith let us in on four easy, nutrition upgrades for common cupboard pitfalls that you can do today (I already have!):
Toss: Soy Sauce
Swap conventional soy sauce for low-sodium and wheat-free alternatives, such as Tamari (cooked) or Nama Shoyu (raw version). The unpasteurized version contains living enzymes, making it popular among raw eaters. Both products taste just like soy sauce, so you can enjoy the flavor but skip on salt-induced dehydration and bloating. Meredith’s picks: SAN-J Organic Reduced Sodium Tamari and Ohsawa Organic Nama Shoyu.
Toss: Butter and traditional cooking oils
Try: Coconut oil
Coconut oil has the highest smoke point of any oil, making it the most stable to cook with. Since it can be used in almost any cooking application and at varying temperatures, it’s an ideal replacement for butter and common cooking oils, namely those that cause inflammation, such as corn, vegetable, sunflower and safflower oils. Coconut oil contains unique fats that are efficiently metabolized by the liver, resulting in a long list of potential health benefits, including decreased abdominal fat, regulated blood-sugar levels, and improved thyroid function and digestion. Meredith had discovered an aroma free version that doesn’t impart a hint of the coconut taste: Omega Nutrition Aroma Free Coconut Oil.
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Toss: Nut butters
Try: Raw sunflower butter
The nutrient-rich spread contains a healthy portion of protein, along with fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. Seed butters are lighter than nut butters, which make them easier to digest. Because the antioxidant-rich super food, sunflower lecithin, is a natural emulsifier, sunflower butter creates a lovely consistency in nutritious salad dressings, dips, and other unheated applications. The characteristic earthy, sunflower taste also makes it great for using as a spread on veggie sandwiches, or making a grown-up version of PB & J. Meredith recommends Blue Mountain Organics Raw Sunflower Seed Butter.
Toss: Wheat pasta
Try: Kelp noodles
This gluten-free, wheat-free noodle alternative doesn’t require cooking, making it an easy addition to both cold (raw!) and warm dishes. The very low-carb, low-fat plant-based noodles are rich in iodine and minerals and virtually tasteless; so, they work with any sauce or dressing. Because they are considered a raw product (although some agree they are heated during processing), kelp noodles are a popular way to add texture and substance to raw dishes; though, using them with cooked sauces works just as well. Soaking and rinsing well before using in recipes increases its wow factor. Meredith’s pick: Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles.
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WORDS: Elaina Patton