How to Stock a Clean Kitchen
Author and M.D. Alejandro Junger shares his step-by-step guide to assembling the perfect pantry.
Hold whomever you like responsible—Gwyneth, maybe Gisele—but clean eating is one trend that's here to stay. The basic tenets? Consume whole, organic foods (namely produce and lean meats) while cutting back on (and ideally, eliminating) caffeine, processed sugar, alcohol, gluten, and dairy. “Removing these toxic triggers from your diet can make a hugely positive impact on your health,” says Alejandro Junger, M.D., author of the new book Clean Eats. “Most people have more energy as a result, and some have even overcome issues like chronic headaches and seasonal allergies.”
We’re all for eating clean, but the path to doing so isn't always obvious. According to Junger, the secret to success starts in the kitchen. “Keeping your kitchen well-stocked will make cooking with the right foods easy and fun,” he says. In other words, you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Here, the 10 essentials Junger suggests you have on hand:
A wide and colorful array of organic fruits and vegetables should lay the foundation of your clean eating diet. Stock up on inexpensive—and antioxidant-packed—leafy greens, such as arugula, Swiss chard, collard greens, and kale. Carrots, turnips and other root vegetables are also good choices since they’re great for adding density to a meal. Keep fresh onions, garlic, ginger, and herbs (like basil, parsley, thyme, and dill) on-hand to boost flavor without adding calories.
The key here is purchasing good-quality beef and poultry. Grass-fed, organic, and pasture-raised are all good labels to look for. Duck, goat, wild game, and rabbit can make interesting additions to your meals, but may be a bit harder to find. Try buying meat in bulk from your local farmers’ market (and storing leftovers in the freezer). And remember to save the bones—instant flavor-boosters in soups and stews.
Go for smaller, cold-water varieties, which contain fewer heavy metals and toxins. Salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, herring, and small halibut are all good options. If you're supplementing whole fish with the canned stuff, be sure to look for “wild-caught” on the label. Junger’s picks: Canned anchovies, sardines, and salmon, which are all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and protein.
Organic. Cage free. Free Range. Pasture-Raised. Hormone-Free. It can feel like you need a dictionary to sort out the meanings on egg cartons these days. According to Junger, there are only two labels you need to look for: organic and free range, which means the eggs are lower in inflammation-causing omega-6 fatty acids and higher in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and other good-for-you nutrients like vitamins A, E, and beta-carotene.
Junger recommends staying away from gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye and barley. Instead, fill your plate with gluten-free grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and rice. They’re great for making breads, pancakes, and side dishes. Try soaking heartier grains (like millet and buckwheat) for a few hours before cooking to make them easier to digest.
Beans and legumes
Protein-packed beans, legumes, and lentils are ideal for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. They make hearty additions to soups and stews and will help keep you full for hours. Like grains, soaking them before cooking can help make them easier to digest.
Nuts and seeds
Whether you go for raw or toasted varieties, nuts and seeds are impressive sources of healthy, unsaturated fats and are packed with protein. Look for packages that are free of added salt, sugar and preservatives. It’s also a good idea to keep nut butters in your cabinet. Junger’s favorite is almond butter because it can be used to quickly create sauces and dips, thicken shakes and smoothies, and tastes delicious straight out of the jar. Almond milk is also a staple in his clean eating arsenal for making soups, dressings, sauces, and shakes.
Oils and fats
Fats may get a bad rap, but Junger says they’re essential for every system in our bodies to function, especially our digestive system and brain. Look for organic expeller and cold-pressed, unrefined oils. Junger is a fan of coconut oil for all-purpose cooking, olive oil for medium-temperature cooking and salad dressings, and avocado oil for high-temperature cooking. Avoid oils high in polyunsaturated fats, such as soybean, peanut, corn, cottonseed, and canola.
Yes, you read that right. “Salt is essential to the human body,” says Junger. “We need it for adrenal function, proper digestion, and overall cellular function.” Choose real sea salt such as Celtic or Maine (white or gray), or Himalayan (pink) salt for the highest mineral content. Stay away from refined and bleached table salt, which typically contains added chlorine and aluminum.
Having the right sauces and dressings on-hand makes it easy to add instant flavor to any dish. Junger recommends stocking up on whole-grain mustard, which can be used to create a quick, clean sauce (look for sugar-free varieties made with apple cider vinegar). Another favorite: wheat-free Tamari, a gluten-free fermented soy sauce that adds just the right amount of saltiness to dishes. Junger also loves balsamic vinegar for adding zing to soups and salads.