In the Kitchen with Keri: 5 Staple Ingredients I’m Never Without

in-the-kitchen-with-keriWe share heaps of healthy information on Nutritious Life’s blog every day, but “In the Kitchen with Keri” is your chance to spend some quality time with the wonder woman behind it all, Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN. It’s where she invites you into her space to share the ingredients she’s currently obsessed with, recipes she can’t get enough of, and other tips and tricks learned over many years of life as an always-ahead-of-the-curve nutritionist and wellness expert.


Years ago, I used to take more time to cook with interesting, unique ingredients regularly. (You know, in the B.C.—before children—era.) Now, I’ve definitely become more of a creature of habit. That means having go-to ingredients I can depend on is key.

Don’t get me wrong, I always love when a recipe calls for something new. Keeping an open mind in the kitchen is important, because you don’t want to get so bored that you end up making the same things over and over. (Remember, variety is key to getting all of your nutrients and not downing a dozen chocolate chip cookies after dinner!).

You have to push yourself to go and look at new things at the grocery store, or when you try a new recipe, don’t feel like it’s a bad thing to have leftovers of a new ingredient. Look at it as a way to expand your kitchen repertoire. When I have to buy a new ingredient for a recipe, it undoubtedly will be used again and again.

staple ingredients

I was making a new dish recently that called for pepperoncinis. I fell hard for the flavorful, nutrient-dense veggies as soon as I tried them. Now, I always have them around and I chop them up to add to all kinds of things. Pepperoncinis and eggs? You bet.

The key is having a few staple, go-to ingredients always on hand so that you then have the freedom to get creative with things like toppings, dressings, and new combos.

These are the five staple ingredients I’m currently never without.

Oats

Oatmeal is such a go-to breakfast for me and my kids, especially since you can make it in so many ways by just adding different things to it, like nuts, nut butters, seeds, fruit, and spices. It’s filled with fiber and protein and is super satiating. For the busiest mornings I make overnight oats. And, I will use oats when I want to bulk up a smoothie. Plus, you can bake with them whole, grind them and make oat flour, or make a healthy homemade granola.

RELATED: Are Steel Cut Oats Healthier Than Rolled Oats?

staple ingredients

Cinnamon

I literally add it to so many things, sprinkling its many health benefits all over the place. That includes my coffee, smoothies, oatmeal, and baked goods. I’ll put it on a slice of Ezekiel Raisin Bread toast with coconut oil for breakfast. I sprinkle it on apples and pears for my kids for a snack. I’ll put it on sweet potatoes with coconut oil at night. I even have a chili recipe that calls for cinnamon.

RELATED: 3 Incredible Benefits of Coconut Oil

Avocado

Predictable, I know, but you may already know I’m totally obsessed with healthy fats. Avocado is so satisfying because of the fat and fiber, and it’s loaded with antioxidants. You can put it on toast, of course (do it for the Insta!), or in a smoothie, salad, grain bowl, or creamy salad dressing. Pro tip: Cut it in half, toss the pit, add a little lemon juice and sea salt, and eat it with a spoon directly out of the skin as a snack. I do it all the time.

RELATED: Why Healthy Fats Don’t Make You Fat

staple ingredients

Almond Butter

Nuts and nut butters are really important staples for me. They’re such a great way to get in plant protein that’s delicious and satisfying. Almond butter has plenty of antioxidants and calcium, too. It’s funny, I definitely liked peanut butter better for a long time. I feel like almond butter is a bit more of an acquired taste. I grew to love it equally and now find it’s more versatile. It has less of a distinct, strong flavor so you can use it in creative ways, like in place of tahini in a recipe.

RELATED: Is Almond Butter Healthier than Peanut Butter?

Sweet potatoes

I could eat sweet potatoes at every meal, seriously. They’re a great source of complex carbs, antioxidants, and fiber. I like to make them in big batches for the week. In the morning, I’ll eat half of one with coconut oil, cinnamon, and chopped nuts. At lunch, I’ll slice and throw them on arugula with other leftover veggies, and maybe a little goat cheese. You can make them savory or sweet, and if you slice them and make them into sweet potato fries, kids love them too.

Missed my love letter to fried pickles and how I gave them a healthy makeover? Read all about it, here.

 

What Is Carrageenan and Why Should I Care?

carrageenan

Sometimes it feels like everything we eat is so complicated.

It can be really hard to say with 100% confidence that the salad dressing you love is really clean of fillers and junk, or the ice cream from the corner store isn’t using some food coloring that could rot your insides.

You can make yourself crazy looking up the the seemingly millions of food additives that are GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe), or you could choose to not look at the ingredient list and save yourself from the potential horror (don’t make this latter choice, please).

By the way, GRAS doesn’t guarantee a “clean” ingredient.

It’s a good idea to be informed. It may make you crazy (at first) but will remove the stress of the unknown and give you the opportunity to make decisions you feel good about, when you put just a little time into educating yourself.

Today we’re spotlighting  carrageenan <kara-gee-nan>, which has been of hot, hot, hot controversy in the nutrition world.

What is Carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a food additive that can be labeled organic and natural. We put it in dairy products and beverages to keep them from separating.

When added to foods, it keeps your yogurt from getting that layer of water on the top, the fat in your milk from floating on the surface and the frozen dinner you heat up from looking entirely unappealing.

We’re usually grossed out by separated foods, but if the labels on our dairy and beverages told us to shake ‘em before we consume ‘em, carrageenan would be most likely be out of a job.

Where Does Carrageenan Come From?

Carrageenan is made from algae and can be cultivated or wild. Most of it is from the Kappaphycus alvarezii and Eucheuma denticulatum varieties.

The seaweed gets harvested from the ocean, cleaned, put through an extraction process, filtered a couple of times, concentrated, mixed with chemicals, pressed, dried, milled, blended and refined.

It’s not exactly seaweed with all its nutrient dense-ness after all of that. Eeeeek.

 

Should We Be Concerned About Carrageenan?

There’s strong evidence that carrageenan is linked to cancer, damaging the GI tract, diabetic precursors and inflammation.

We’re not talking just a little gas or bloating found in many GRAS additives, but it may be a factor in serious health problems.

While there are solid animal studies to support the toxicity of carrageenan, the implications for humans is not kicking the food industry into action.

 

Is it OK To Eat Carrageenan?

I tell my clients to steer clear of carrageenan. The Cornucopia Institute has made it really easy to find carrageenan-free foods with a list of common brands to look for and avoid.