A while ago I comprised a list of kitchen staples and shared it with some friends who were considering doing the plant-based diet. While that list was comprehensive (and expensive), I thought I’d condense it and narrow it down to 10 essentials. Only this time I’m including kitchen gadgets as well. After all, having the right kitchen tools is just as important as stocking the right foods. Just think of that one kitchen gadget you can’t live without and you’ll know exactly what I mean. I have about 5 can’t-do-without gadgets, but not all are imperative to going plant-based. So, here they are (and, again, in no particular order).
- Blender/juicer – When I first started this diet, I was working with an old Oster that was on its last leg. My first month of making baby food, combined with my plant-based blending/juicing needs, made that poor baby kick the bucket. I love shopping for new kitchen stuff so I didn’t cry over it; instead I headed out to the stores. I finally bought the Ninja blender I’d been eyeing for months. Boy, what a difference it made! Now that I’m blending with ease, I have my eyes set on a “for real for real” juicer. Yeah, yeah…as my husband would say, “lust is never satisfied” LOL!
- Hemp/chia/flax seeds – Just like the commercial for Frank’s Hot Sauce, “I put this s*$@ on everything :D!” The added nutrition from just a few sprinkles of any of these seeds is soooo worth it. Just 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds contains 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein – plus it contains all essential amino acids…wow! That’s a real superfood! Two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds contains 4 grams of fiber and 2.4 grams of omega-3.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds contains 10 grams of fiber and over 3 grams of omega-3. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that helps prevent blood clots, lowers blood pressure and reduces inflammation among other healthy benefit. If you have any one of these superfoods on hand, sprinkle away!
- Fresh green leafy vegetables – By now, you know the importance of fresh produce versus their processed counterparts. I won’t beat a dead horse here. What I’ve found through plant-based eating is how easy it is to get your daily green&leafy (aka greefies) intake by throwing them into a smoothie, juice blend, pasta or soup entree. Before this diet, I hardly ever kept these on hand. Now, I make sure I purchase at least two (chard , spinach and kale are my favorites). If you keep them on hand, you’ll find yourself using them in any and everything just to avoid wasting food. It’s soooo worth it!
- Apple corer – Okay this sounds sophomoric because who doesn’t have one of these by now, right? Well, I’ve added it to the list because it’s just one of those things no kitchen (plant-based or not) should be without. And, let me stress, you need a good one! I have broken one or two in my day before I invested in a sturdy kitchen-aid apple corer. I’ve never been much of a fruit snacker. Even going plant-based, it was easier for me to eat my veggies than fruit. I quickly figured out that one of the main reasons is because fruit is so much dog-on work! Geez…you either have to cut it, peel it or core it before enjoying it and that doesn’t make its snacking qualities as comparable in the “ease-of-use department” as say…a bag of chips or a cookie, right? LOL! Loaded with vitamin C, 4 grams of fiber and a sweet-tooth superhero at a mere 95 calories, apples are the bomb! Since we grab most snacks out of laziness, having this kitchen tool makes it convenient to grab the right snack and in enough time to avoid the bad stuff.
- Fresh fruit – So you thought I’d let you get away with buying an apple corer without buying the apples, huh? Tsk…tsk…tsk (shaking index finger) :). Seriously, whatever your favorite fruits are, make a habit of stocking up on them. If you have a sweet tooth like me, sweet fruity treats like apples, pears, mangoes and kiwi will become your superheroes. Although I hated to do it, there were many days I spent way more than the lowest market price on pre-cut melon or a pre-washed pack of strawberries to avoid munching on a dark chocolate peanut butter Twix (eat the top first, cookie part last…I digress). Keeping your kitchen well-stocked with fresh fruit will ensure your plant-based success and do wonders for your health.
- Whole wheat/brown rice/flaxseed meal/quinoa/almond flour – These are just a few of the flour/meals you can use to bake with. I’d used whole wheat flour for years. I added almond and flaxseed meal as a result of this diet and because I have to have variety. I’m eager to try the others (when my bank account allows). Most of these are interchangeable when used for baking and cooking anything that requires flour.
- Plant milk (almond/rice/soy/coconut) – I’ve never been much of a milk drinker except for with my cereal so this was an easy switch for me.
I have been slowly weaning the family off of cows milk as well; we’ve been drinking fat free milk for years. Cooking/baking with plant milks has yielded no difference in taste in my opinion. I love the fact that there are so many varieties with added nutrition and flavoring. Have a ball with discovering which ones best meet your taste temptations. My only advice is watch the calorie count on these. Most of those with added flavors have the added calories. And if you’re feeling adventurous (as I usually feel with food), you can make your own almond milk.
- Dates/raisins (unsweetened) – I hated these sweet, thick and chewy bites before going plant-based. In fact, if there was a word worse than hate, I’d insert it here. I would bake carrot cake and oatmeal cookies sans the raisins for this purpose. My family only ate these if they didn’t get them from home. When I finally realized my kids liked raisins, I stocked them in ready-to-eat boxes in the pantry, but I dared not touch them. I don’t think I had eaten a date since childhood. On the diet, I purchased dates because it was an ingredient in a sweet treat that I just had to make. I tasted one of those babies and I was absolutely, positively, undeniably in love! If you have a serious sweet tooth, you’ll want to keep these handy. As well, they work great to add sweetness to baked goods in lieu of sugar. I even used dates to sweeten my daily morning ritual – hot tea!
- Chickpeas – Getting your daily intake of legumes is a must for plant-based dieting. Legumes (peas, beans and lentils) provide necessary protein and minerals. While I normally don’t purchase very many canned goods, I overloaded on canned and frozen chickpeas. For one, I looooove hummus – always have! You can buy
hummus in the stores, of course, but if you want to make the healthiest hummus with ingredients you can pronounce and oil-free, you’ll need to make it yourself. Aside from hummus, chickpeas make a great filler for most vegan dishes including quick sandwiches or wraps.
- Whole grain crackers/rice cakes – Well you’re going to need something to spread those chickpeas on, right? Plus, rice cakes and/or whole grain crackers are great to snack on and very filling. Again, you want to check the calories and ingredients and ensure you’re getting as close to oil-free and low calories as possible. I love plain rice cakes (something I wouldn’t have dared touch before this diet). They’re great to add hummus, fruit, natural peanut butter or for eating plain.
I hope this list is helpful in getting you started on plant-based living. I’m excited to be sharing this journey with you and hope you’ll join me in the plant-based challenge starting January 2. I know we can do this together! Do you have the beans? 😉