Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start when you want to make healthy changes. Switching from an unhealthy diet, to a natural, organic, real food diet, can seem overwhelming. You may not want to completely throw away all of the items in your pantry, so instead, I encourage you to replace items in your pantry little by little. When we started this journey three years ago, we couldn’t afford to just trash everything and start over, so I replaced items after we finished the products that we already had (unless I felt it was truly necessary).
This pantry series is meant to be simple for those who are just starting out on this real food journey. So to prevent this post from being overwhelming, I’m sticking to giving you basic options to switch to. I’ll get more in depth on certain topics like flour, pasta, sugar, etc. in later posts, since you could take many of these food items a step or two further.
I’ve broken this article into 3 parts. You can make these changes in any order that you desire, but I think it’s important to know the reasoning of why these switches are healthier alternatives. Each part of this article will break down 5 different pantry items that you can switch for a healthier pantry. So lets get started!
First, switch to an organic, non-GMO brand of flour. One of our favorite brands is Arrowhead Mills.
The first healthy switch would be to buy whole-wheat flour. Regular wheat flour (which is white flour) has been refined, which means it’s been extremely processed, as opposed to whole-wheat flour, which has been minimally processed and contains all of the grain.
While whole-wheat is a very healthy switch, I personally had trouble switching over from white flour at first. To make the transition easier, start by putting ¼ whole-wheat flour and ¾ white flour for recipes. Then switch to ½ of each and so on. I personally like the taste of ½ of each, as does my husband, and occasionally bake with this blended mixture. Another favorite flour of ours is spelt flour, which I enjoy for baking bread.
And to take it one step further, the absolute healthiest flour is from sprouted grains. Sprouted grains are packed with more vitamins and minerals than whole grains, and are much easier for the body to digest. But I’ll talk more on the world of flour in a later post. J
There are several natural sweeteners you could use to replace sugar. I’ll start with what I think is the easiest switch, since you don’t have to adjust the measurements for recipes. Sucanat or Rapidura is a great start towards a healthier pantry. I had some confusion on the difference between these two, but after researching, I have come to realize that they are one in the same. They are both whole cane sugar.
Whole cane sugar is different than cane sugar in the way that it’s processed. Unlike other sugars, it is unrefined and unbleached. It has a higher nutritional value because it is minimally processed – just squeezed, dried, and ground.
Honey (local honey) and maple syrup (see part 2 of this article) are also great replacements for sugar. Be sure to look up conversions for these, since it won’t be an even switch for measurements in recipes.
This is a tough one, because many of the available oils are extremely harmful to our health. Most contain GMOs, are highly processed, and have negative effects on our bodies. I decided to get rid of our vegetable and canola immediately after learning just how unhealthy they are.
One of the best oils to use is coconut oil. Coconut oil is a ‘good for you’ fat, and is beneficial to our health. When choosing a brand, it’s important to look for a few things. Make sure it’s organic and is non-GMO. Also choose a virgin coconut oil that is unrefined. The brand we currently use is Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil.
Also, do a quick search, and you will see that there are tons of other healthy uses for coconut oil!
Extra-virgin olive oil is another alternative, but use caution with this. It is healthiest when consumed raw (such as in salad dressings), or when cooking at a low temperature. It should also be cold-pressed and unfiltered (should be cloudy in appearance if unfiltered). Many olive oil labels are faulty, because there are no labeling regulations for olive oil. Be sure to take time to research before choosing a brand.
Avacado oil, red palm oil, and seasame oil are also healthy oils to try! I have yet to try these, because I’m so impressed with coconut oil.
Just like with flour, start transitioning to whole-wheat pasta by slowly mixing white and whole-wheat together. If you still aren’t crazy about whole-wheat, try using Einkorn pasta (or flour too!). Einkorn is loaded with more nutrients than regular wheat, but the flavor is so much lighter than whole-wheat. Because Einkorn has never been hybridized, it’s known to be good for those who have difficulty digesting gluten. We sometimes use Jovial Organic Einkorn Pasta and love the flavor!
#5. Baking Powder
Most of the baking powder found in grocery stores contains aluminum, and consumption of aluminum has been linked to developing Alzheimer’s disease. There are two options for a healthier alternative. The first option would be to buy aluminum free baking powder. Since most baking powder contains cornstarch, (which most likely contain GMOs) the second and best option would be to make your own. You can quickly make your own by mixing up 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder, and ¼ cup of cream of tartar.
I hope these five switches help make your transition to a real food diet a little smoother. Check out part 2 next week, for five more simple pantry switches!