Plenty of the foods you have in your cupboard and freezer are rich in health benefits. Get inventive and start cooking nutritious meals without the need for a trip to the shops!
1. Tinned tomatoes
Tinned tomatoes contain vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium and fibre. They’re also loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and lycopene. Interestingly, lycopene is more absorbable by the body in its cooked form. Since tinned tomatoes are cooked during the canning process, they’re actually higher in this cancer-fighting nutrient than fresh tomatoes.
While most health professionals would agree that moderation is important when it comes to saturated fats, there are health benefits attached to eating small amounts of real Irish butter. To begin with, butter contains protein, calcium, phosphorous, selenium and vitamins A, D and E. In Ireland, our grass is rich in beta-carotene; this gives our butter its distinctive yellow hue, but is also an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A and plays a very important role in eye, bone and brain health. Butter from grass-fed cows — like ours here in Ireland — also contains conjugate linoleic acids (CLAs), compounds which have been shown to prevent cancer and reduce body mass. Not only does it keep for a long time in the fridge, but butter also freezes very well.
Now might be the perfect time to make these all-butter shortbread biscuits.
Oats are loaded with important vitamins and minerals, as well as being a fantastic source of fibre and folate. Whole oats are high in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols; most notable is a group of antioxidants called avenanthramides, which are almost solely found in oats and may help lower blood pressure levels.
4. Tinned tuna, salmon and mackerel
Besides high levels of protein, oily fish is an excellent source of healthy fats like omega 3s and helps raise our levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol. Oily fish has been linked to a range of health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, improved mental ability, and protection from cancer, alcohol-related dementia, and rheumatoid arthritis, and this is all still true when it comes from a tin.
Why not make a batch of these sun-dried tomato and tuna fishcakes for your freezer?
5. Pulses or legumes
Whether dried, like lentils, tinned like beans or frozen like peas, legumes (or pulses) are one of the healthiest foods around. Low in fat and calories, yet packed with protein and fibre, their slow-release energy will keep you going for hours.
Top tips for eating out of your storecupboard
- Make the choice: The first step is making a proper commitment to eating only what’s in the house, rather than going to the shops unnecessarily.
- Pies or bakes: Almost any combination of vegetable, rice or pasta and tinned cream-of-something soup will produce a tasty pie or bake.
- Salads: Beans, tinned fish and pasta can all be worked into salads.
- Frittata: Practically any pantry staple can go into a frittata.
- Soup’s up: There is very little that can’t be turned into a soup or stew — tinned tomatoes are a larder hero for this kind of cooking, while legumes like beans, chickpeas and dried lentils will add protein and fibre.
- Curry: If you have coconut milk, curry paste and rice, you’re sorted. Add any fresh, frozen or tinned veggies you have.
- Cupboard carbs: Long-life basics like pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous and oats are your friends for this kind of cooking, while plain flour can easily be turned into quick flatbreads — enjoy them as a side the rest of your meal, or use whatever you have on hand to top them.
- Tis the seasoning: Don’t forget all your dried herbs and spices — they’ll help your storecupboard supper to shine.
- Tinned fruit: Use tinned peaches in a salad, or add tinned pineapple to a sweet and sour dish.