I often get asked what I buy in my weekly shop and although I like to try out new recipes each week, there's some key bits that always end up on my weekly shopping list. Here are the top 15 foods I use most often in my kitchen.
1. Onions, peppers and courgettes
I’ve grouped these three vegetables together because of how versatile they are. I use them to make all different kinds of meals including bean chillies, green Thai curries, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, shakshukas, omelettes and fajitas. They are low in calories and a good source of fibre for a healthy digestion, vitamin C to support the immune system and antioxidants to help fight free radical damage.
2. Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
These are the two oils I always have in my cupboard. Extra virgin olive oil is rich in healthy fats which helps to reduce cholesterols levels, and is a good source of polyphenols which reduce inflammation. I drizzle it over vegetables that I roast in the oven, on salads and to make dressings. Coconut oil is a very different type of fat and as there is surprisingly few studies carried out, the health claims are still under debate. It’s suggested to not raise ‘bad’ cholesterol as much as other high saturated foods and this is thought to be due to the presence of a type of saturated fat called lauric acid. I don’t use this oil as often but I think it has a lovely flavour and it’s my preferred choice of oil to fry with as it has a high smoke point, plus you can also use it as a moisturiser and add it to your bath.
3. Sweet potatoes
One of my favourite meals is roasted sweet potato wedges with salmon, roasted red peppers, Greek salad and a dollop of yogurt. I love to roast them in the oven until they begin to caramelise or pop them in the microwave for a quick sweet potato jacket with tuna. They are rich in complex starchy carbohydrates which break down more slowly and a good source of vitamin A which is improves eye health.
I usually only buy raspberries and strawberries in the summer but I buy fresh or frozen blueberries all year round. These berries are rich in phenolic compounds which have an antioxidant capacity higher than vitamin C and E. They’re also a good source of vitamin K and fibre. I add them to pancake mixture and smoothies, and top them on yogurt, muesli and porridge.
5. Greek yogurt
I always have a tub of yogurt in my fridge and I usually choose Greek yogurt as it’s rich and creamy, and higher in protein. Yogurt also contains probiotics which help to boost the healthy bacteria in your gut, which controls digestion, the immune system, and helps to extract key nutrients from foods. I eat yogurt with berries and honey, with homemade granola, to make dips such as tzatkaki, and on top of fajitas and sweet potato wedges.
This is the one spice I use every day in my overnight porridge oats but I also add it to pancakes, yogurt and sprinkle it on sweet potato. The depth of flavour it gives to porridge means I don’t need to add any sweetener to it. I use it because I love the flavour but it’s also thought to contain polyphenol antioxidants and have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
7. 70% dark chocolate
Chocolate is by far my favourite food and I eat a square or two of 70% dark chocolate every day. I don’t eat chocolate for the health benefits but because I enjoy it. Chocolate is high in fat and sugar but the higher the cocoa percentage, the less sugar it will contain. Cocoa has been shown to contain flavonols which are antioxidants that protect the body from free radical damage. It’s also thought to reduce blood pressure, improve mood and be a source of minerals such as manganese, copper, potassium, zinc and iron. However, the heating processed used to make chocolate reduces some of the flavonols and minerals.
As I don’t eat meat I get a lot of my protein from beans and lentils. They’re also a great source of fibre for digestion and to keep you full, and if you pair beans with brown rice, you create a high quality protein similar to animal products. I make sure my cupboard is always stocked with tins of chickpeas, black beans, butter beans and kidney beans. I add them to stews, soups, chillies, salads and fajitas.
I always like to have some type of leafy green in the fridge and it’s usually spinach (or sometimes rocket or watercress). I add spinach to most of my meals including curries, omelettes, bean chillies, salads and pasta dishes. It’s a good source of iron for oxygen carrying red blood cells and vitamin K for bone health.
I go through tomatoes in my house very quickly and often find myself popping to the shop to buy some more. I love eating fresh tomatoes as a snack and I always keep tins of plum tomatoes in my cupboard as I use them regularly in dishes such as bean chilli, curry, pasta, shakshuka, ratatouille and aubergine parmigiana. Tomatoes are rich in a type of flavonoid antioxidant called lycopene, which helps protect the body from free radical damage. They’re also a good source of vitamin A for eye health and vitamin C for the immune system. When tomatoes are cooked the lycopene content increases however the vitamin C content decreases.
11. Mint tea
I love a warm drink especially in the winter but I don’t like the taste of tea or coffee. Mint is my go to herbal tea but I also drink ginger, chia and green tea. I always have mint tea bags in my cupboard but in the summer I use fresh mint leaves from the garden. Mint is thought to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and may be effective at relieving an upset stomach or indigestion.
Who doesn’t love cheese? It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t go vegan. Cheese helps to add a depth of flavour to all sorts of dishes. I add goat’s cheese to a roasted vegetable salad, enjoy vintage cheddar with a tomato and a slice of sourdough bread, and grate parmesan over a risotto. Cheese is high in saturated fat so I try to not eat too much of it however it’s also a good source of calcium and high-quality protein.
13. Almond milk
We don’t drink cow’s milk very often in my house as were trying to reduce the amount of dairy in our diet. I always have a carton of almond milk in my fridge which I use it to make porridge, pancakes and hot chocolate. I choose to buy unsweetened almond milk that has been fortified with calcium and B vitamins. Almond milk is a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E but it contains less protein that cow’s milk.
14. Almond butter
Almonds are my favourite nut so it’s no wonder I love almond butter. I sometimes make my own almond butter in a blender but I always have a jar of it in the cupboard. Almonds have been shown to help reduce cholesterol levels and they’re a good source of healthy fats, protein and the antioxidant vitamin E. I add a teaspoon of almond butter to my porridge and yogurt, and use it make oat bars.
Sauerkraut is finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria. These bacteria help to improve gut health which regulates digestion, boosts the immune system, and helps to extract key nutrients from foods. I add a tablespoon of sauerkraut to my plate most evenings or have it in a salad or sandwich. You can get different types of sauerkraut but I would definitely recommend spending a bit more on the nicer tasting ones. I buy Raw Health Fresh Organic Sauerkraut, which you can buy on Ocado and from health food stores.
Speak again soon,
Gemma, The Food Doctor nutritionist