My fridge is always bursting with fresh seasonal ingredients, but I love to have a nice stash of my ten fridge staples to nourish me during the week. Having my essentials at hand allows me to plan my meals and be prepared for the week. Smoothies or eggs for breakfast, salads and veggies for lunch and nourishing soups for dinner… .it's a no-fuss formula that creates quick, healthy meals that taste delicious.
When I go shopping, I always select brightly coloured, seasonal fruit and vegetables. Fruit and veggies start to lose nutrients immediately after they're harvested, so the fresher the produce, the better!
I shop at farmers' markets or my local greengrocers as they let me know which are the best foods in season and where they are sourced. Whole foods are alive with all of nature's enzymes, proteins, vitamins and minerals. I eat as cleanly as possible because I believe my body deserves the best nourishment it can get. Nutrition isn't as complicated as it's made out to be. There's a sense of 'food anxiety' among many people trying their best to do the right thing. We're all different when it comes down to it, and it's not a one-size-fits-all scenario. We should all take the time to think about what foods make us feel good nutritionally and what foods don't. My advice is to eat whole foods and customise your diet based on your unique needs. Check out my top 10 foods below.
1 - FRESH VEGETABLES
My fridge is filled with antioxidant-rich bundles of broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, zucchini, leeks and Tuscan kale. Perfect for making into nourishing soups, which I make daily as a quick healthy dinner. Broccoli, for instance, is a great superfood. Broccoli is loaded with cancer-protective glucosinolates (a type of phytonutrient) and antioxidants. Check out my Superfood Green Tabouli or a delicious broccoli soup from my new cookbook. Studies show that enjoying a diet that focuses on a daily intake of fresh vegetables have many health benefits, such as weight loss, lowered insulin secretion, improved sports performance and reduced risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
2 – NUTS + SEEDS
Nuts and seeds are high in fibre, minerals, healthy fats and protein. Perfect for total body nourishment. Just one handful will satisfy your hunger and keep blood sugars stable for hours. Pumpkin seeds, for instance, are also high in the amino acid tryptophan that helps to make serotonin.
Almonds are anti-inflammatory for the body and are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help fight free radicals for a healthy immune system. They are also a great source of potassium – a mineral necessary for nerve transmission and the contraction of all muscles, including the heart.
I love making my nut + seeds milk and butter for smoothies and generously scatter them into salads or over yoghurt bowls with fresh berries.
3 – FRESH FRUIT
Fruits are incredibly high in antioxidants and fibre that help fight free radicals in the body, reducing the risk of disease. Choose colourful seasonal fruits, such as berries, kiwi fruit, citrus, apples, pears, pomegranates, pineapple and papaya. Use fresh fruit to sweeten your recipes, such as desserts, cakes, cookies, smoothies and juices. It's incredible how something as pure as a grated apple or mashed banana can add natural sweetness to your recipes and add a lovely depth of flavour, texture and delicious nutrient boost. Try it in your next wholegrain muffin recipe.
4 – FERMENTED FOODS
Fermented foods are naturally packed with probiotics that promote healthy gut bacteria. Examples include kefir, kombucha, labneh, yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and various fermented vegetables. I was raised on sauerkraut and yoghurt. My Polish great aunt was a specialist sauerkraut maker, and I remember we used to have it most days with our meals. Sauerkraut produces incredible amounts of lactobacilli - a healthy probiotic that helps with digestion and a healthy immune system.
Cultured unsweetened yoghurt is rich in acidophilus and lactobacilli. These cultures can nourish your immune system and support digestive health. Be sure to check the label to ensure it contains live yoghurt cultures with no added flavours, emulsifiers or thickeners.
I love to make yoghurt bowls for breakfast, top them with smashed raspberries and banana, or add a few spoonfuls of yoghurt into my breakfast smoothies. Thick Greek-style yoghurt also makes the perfect base for dressings or can replace sour cream or cream Fraiche.
5 – OLIVE OIL
I am genuinely in love with cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil! I use it liberally in all types of cooking. This oil is beautiful tasting, velvety and bursting with health benefits. It's a rich source of antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids – one of the main reasons why a traditional Mediterranean diet is excellent for heart health. I adore the versatility of olive oil. It's a lovely heat-stable and all-purpose oil, so it's great for most cooking purposes, including sautéing over medium heats and baking, as well as making dressings. Cold-pressed olive oil is also an excellent base for fresh homemade salad dressings or delicious on its own with some fresh, crusty sourdough bread. I store all my oils in the fridge, which helps to keep them fresh.
6 – LEAFY GREENS
The most nourishing alkalising foods are green foods such as leafy greens, green vegetables including broccoli and cabbage, and green tea leaves - matcha. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that eating at least five greens a day is ideal and an effective strategy in preventing and treating obesity and chronic disease. A serve is about a large handful of leafy greens. Make up a large leafy salad, then pour over a bit of dressing. Use cold-pressed vegetable, nut or seed oils as they contain heart-healthy fats that can promote good health. Most dressings need a slight acidity to add flavour and balance and improve digestion; my top choices are balsamic and apple cider vinegar and lemon juice.
7 – EGGS
I love eggs. They are one of the most nutrient-dense foods available and make the perfect high-protein meal any time of day. An egg provides 13 essential nutrients and is an excellent source of B-group vitamins.
The vitamin E in eggs helps protect us against heart disease, and vitamin D promotes mineral absorption and good bone health.
When it comes to sourcing your eggs, make sure to buy the best quality you can find. Organic or pasture-raised eggs are laid by chickens that aren't fed antibiotics, growth hormones or additives. You can find good pasture-raised eggs at your local farmers' market.
8 – AVOCADO
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats to help support cardiovascular health, manage a healthy weight and support wellbeing. They are loaded with the antioxidants lutein, vitamin E and beta-carotene and can promote blood sugar reduction and support digestive and skin health.
Avocados are perfect chopped into salads or smashed with citrus aromatics and garden herbs as a side for breakfast. Avocado makes the best chocolate smoothie or healthy chocolate mousse. I love drizzling avocado oil over salads as well as cooking with it. The fatty acid profile is similar to olive oil, so it's an excellent choice for medium-heat cooking.
9 – GREEN / SUPERFOOD POWDERS
These nutrient-dense powders are a great way to add more mineral-rich superfoods to your meals. Make a green juice or smoothie a daily habit. Cold-pressed green juices are rich in chlorophyll, which helps to alkalise the body and works as a natural anti-inflammatory. Chlorophyll also helps to nourish the digestive system, supports detoxification and the elimination of waste. Mix two teaspoons of Healthy Chef Everyday Greens into the water and enjoy a great start to the day.
10 – FRESH HERBS
Herbs are little bundles of superfood goodness….They help stimulate digestive function, relieve bloating and protect the immune system.
Parsley, for instance, is adored worldwide and makes a mean base for my pesto and stirred through a classic minestrone. Thyme works nicely with slow-braised dishes, freshly roasted figs and Mediterranean style veggie soups.