5 Nutritious Ingredients To See You Through Corona
As access to online grocery shopping is currently restricted, I am relying on ingredients that have a longer shelf life. There are still plenty of highly nutritious options and so I thought I would take the time to share a few of my favourites. I know some of these are currently proving difficult to get a hold of, but day by day this seems to be easing, as people realise there is enough food to go round and we don’t need to hoard and panic buy. I’m still managing to eat a minimum of 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but just approaching it slightly differently.
My preference is always for fresh fruit and vegetables, However due to the current climate, this is not always possible. I’m generally having to go 2 weeks or so between each grocery shop and a lot of fruit and vegetables don’t store well for this length of time. Thankfully most frozen fruit and vegetables contain similar levels of nutrition to fresh, so this is one of my main solutions. I have always used frozen berries in my morning porridge and this hasn’t needed to change since corona. I’ve stocked up on frozen peas, broad beans and sweetcorn as these make versatile and nutritious additions to most meals. One other nutritious vegetable i’ve bought frozen instead of fresh is spinach. This comes already cooked, so you don’t need much of it as it has already wilted. It is great added to a curry, a stew or a rice dish, but not good cold in a salad. Just remember to add it to whatever you are cooking with around 5 minutes to go and not at the end like you do with fresh, as it needs time to defrost. Other fruits and vegetables can be relied on to store well. These include root vegetables, sweet potatoes, cucumber and apples, to name a few. Some other examples of nutritious ingredients I’ve been turning to during lockdown to keep my diet healthy and varied include:
Chickpeas are a legume. They are high in fibre, a good source of plant based protein and also contain some carbohydrate for energy. Even the fluid that tinned chickpeas come in is highly useful in cooking. It is called aqua fava and can be used as a substitution for egg in baking. One of my favourite things to make with chickpeas is hummus. So long as you have a food processor or blender then it is really easy. You simply drain the tin of chickpeas, tip them in to the blender with a garlic clove, a splash of olive or rapeseed oil, a spoonful of sesame seeds if you have them and some lemon juice. Then blend to form a thick paste. This will keep in the fridge for a few days in an air tight container. This is a really basic recipe and you can definitely experiment with different additions. You can spice it up with chilli, paprika or cumin. I also like to blend extra vegetables in to my hummus, so far I have tried beetroot and avocado. Other suggestions would be to use sun-dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers. Hummus can be served as a dip, a spread or even just dolloped on a salad.
If you don’t have a blender, then you can still very easily make use of chickpeas. They are a great addition to a curry or a stew. They can be added to a pilaf and even simply served cold in a salad. If you don’t have kidney beans, then chickpeas make a suitable substitution for them in chilli and the same goes the other way round. If you can’t get hold of chickpeas, then try using different types of beans.
2. Cannellini Beans
These are pretty much a white kidney bean and can be used in the same way. Nutritionally they are similar to chickpeas in that they are a great source of fibre, plant based protein and carbohydrate. When blended they become creamy and so make a great base for dips and pate, as well as helping to thicken soup. One of the recipes I have made during lockdown is to blend a tin of them with a tin of tuna, some lemon juice and a pinch of paprika. This made a really tasty, high protein dip which I served with some carrot sticks, cucumber and ryvitta for lunch. Something else I plan to make this week with cannellini beans is to blend with hot smoked salmon and yogurt. This will make a creamier dip, but can be served the same way.
Again, if you don’t have access to a blender, you can easily still include them in your diet. Try putting them in a chilli, adding them to a jambalaya or a stew or even making a salad out of them. If you are struggling to get your hands on baked beans, then use them to make your own and If you can’t find cannellini beans then try pinto, red kidney or black. They might look slightly different, but they will do the same job and contain similar nutrition.
Pre-packed, freshly cooked beetroot can be kept in your fridge for months. I have already outlined how highly nutritious this vegetable is in it’s ingredient of the week feature. I’ve been stocking up a lot on beetroot as it has such a long shelf life. I have already given one suggestion on what to do with it in this article by including it in hummus. Another thing I’ve tried is adding it to a curry and came up with this turkey beetroot keema. I made this beef and beetroot couscous salad one night and several versions of this feta and beetroot salad. On Good Friday I even blended some beetroot in to my pancake batter to make smoked salmon and cream cheese blinis for our lunch. Its best to try and buy the freshly cooked varieties and not the pickled ones, as these impact the overall taste of the dish. However, if this is your only option, then they are still better than nothing. Pickled beetroot is delicious with cheese in a sandwich and added to a salad. We even used to have some pickled beetroot with homemade beef stew when Mum cooked it.
Nuts keep for ages, so long as they are stored in a cool dark place. This is why I tend to try and buy mine in bulk. You can easily get hold of 1kg bags, which work out cheaper from reputable shops like Holland & Barrett, Amazon or Grapetree. Nuts can be added to both sweet and savoury meals. I like to sprinkle pecans in my porridge with some frozen blueberries and maple syrup, or toast them and add them to a feta and beetroot salad with some tinned lentils. Walnuts also go well in this salad and can be added to this cardamom spiced roast chicken dish or this baked hake with wild rice, which also uses beetroot. Most nuts, especially almonds or walnuts, can be blended with avocado, basil, parmesan and garlic to form a pesto. Leave out the avocado and use olive oil if you prefer. I’ve been making my own peanut butter by literally blending them until smooth in my Vitamix and i’ve also done this with almonds too. The result can then be added to this chicken peanut stew or this satay prawn stirfry. The almond butter is delicious again stirred through porridge with some frozen cherries. Most nuts, including peanuts, can be sprinkled over several dishes including this Brazilian prawn stew to add texture to the dish. A handful of nuts make a great nutritional snack and this can be any or a mix. Just remember, although highly nutritious, nuts contain a high amount of fat. This fat is good, healthy fat but comes with a high calorie content and so you only need a small amount. I try to work off around 30g per portion.
Lentils come in many varieties, the most common being red split, green or puy. Dried lentils take a little longer to cook but you can generally find tinned green or sachets of precooked puy for ease. Lentils, like beans and chickpeas, are another legume and have a similar nutritional value. They are high in fibre, contain plant based protein and good levels of carbohydrate. Dried red split lentils are the easiest and quickest to cook and are great added to soups and stews to help thicken them and add texture. One of the meals I’ve made a couple of times already during lockdown is dahl, a lentil curry and here are a couple of suggested recipes: turkey aubergine dahl and chicken root veg dahl. Green and puy lentils are bigger than red and tend to hold their shape when cooked, making them better for salads. I’ve already highlighted their use in a cheese and beetroot one, but here are a few other suggestions. This egg and bacon brunch salad, or this roast bacon, chestnut and sprout salad as well as this roast fish with green lentils.
My diet might be slightly restricted and not have quite the same variety as I am used too, but I am still definitely able to eat healthily. One thing is for sure, all these lentils, beans and nuts are ensuring I’m getting plenty of protein. I’m still training from home and able to do both cycling and gym work, meaning I still need plenty of protein to build and repair my muscles. I’m also ensuring I’m getting plenty of fibre, which is looking after my gut and all the vitamins and minerals to keep my body working efficiently. In many ways I actually feel healthier and happier than I have in a long time. The one thing I am really grateful for is my Vitamix as it has enabled me to be far more creative with my cooking in the past few weeks. If you are struggling to come up with nutritious ideas for meals during lockdown and need a little inspiration, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Also if your access to grocery shopping has been limited and you can’t get the ingredients you are used to using, then I’m more than happy to help if I can by suggesting suitable substitutes, just ask.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.