Top Ten Kitchen Staples For Athletes

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Read on for my top ten whole food kitchen staples to always have on-hand for easy, healthy meal prep.

1. Eggs: Pasture-raised, organic eggs are a terrific source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Keep a dozen hard-boiled in the refrigerator for on-the-go meals and snacks. After a long day, breakfast for dinner can be comforting — simple scrambled eggs or a vegetable omelet does the trick. And eat the yolks! That’s where most of the nutrients are. If you’re on a budget, pasture-raised organic eggs are worth the splurge.

2. Ground beef, turkey, or chicken: Organic, free-range ground meat and poultry is an easy go-to for dinners. Grass-Fed beef has more omega-3 fatty acids then regular. Browned and seasoned with garlic and spices, ground meat/poultry are like a blank canvas that you can turn into just about any ethnic-inspired meal. Think taco bowls, chili, burgers, meat sauce, hash, or scrambles.

3. Avocados: Full of healthy fat; mix with eggs, into salads, use as a spread or dip for chopped vegetables, make guacamole, or just eat them plain. Their creamy texture makes them great as a butter and mayonnaise replacement. To reduce oxidation (browning) of an already-sliced avocado, sprinkle lemon juice on the exposed flesh and then refrigerate in a plastic bag. Store with the pit still inside for freshness.

4. Cauliflower: This may be the most versatile vegetable in the kitchen. You can purchase it riced, fresh, or frozen. If buying it whole, grate in a food processor and sauté with fat and spices to make cauliflower rice, or boil it in broth and mash with coconut milk to transform it into Mashed Cauliflower. Cauliflower also adds a big crunch when chopped raw in salads, and it becomes crisp-tender when roasted in the oven with a sprinkle of sea salt and crushed garlic. It can also be used to make pizza crust, or tossed in the air fryer for a crispy, healthy side.

5. Collard Greens: An excellent choice of nutritious leafy greens. Easier to clean and cook than kale, collard greens are packed with similar nutrients. The leaves are large and flat — and a little sturdier than kale. Collard greens tenderize during steaming without becoming too mushy. Buying them frozen saves money and nutrients, and also works great when mixing in casseroles, omelets, or sauces. Try rolling up your favorite sandwich fixings in a big leaf for a low carb option.

6. Berries: Low in fructose, the type of sugar that is most often stored as fat, berries are very high in immune-boosting antioxidants. Frozen unsweetened berries are loaded with nutrition and flavor that you can enjoy all year long. Try them halfway defrosted, drizzled with coconut milk for dessert, blended in a smoothie, or stirred into protein pancakes or overnight oats.

7. Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, and/or Squash: Roasted whole, cut into dice and sauteed, or mashed with a little cinnamon and nutmeg, these starchy veggies are packed with flavor and nutrition. They are an excellent choice for a snack after a hard workout or as a side at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Try half a cooked sweet potato or some canned pumpkin blended with your protein shake for a great recovery snack. You can also quickly nuke them in the microwave to save time.

8. Coconut Milk: Full-fat coconut milk is an excellent replacement for heavy cream or yogurt in desserts, curries, and creamy sauces. Always choose the full-fat version (“light” coconut milk is just the full-fat kind watered down.) Be sure to check the ingredient list: Guar gum is okay, but avoid brands that include sulfates or added sugar.

9. Nuts: Eaten plain as a snack, toasted in the oven, blended into a flour for baking, or sprinkled on top of dishes, nuts are full of healthy fats and add lots of flavor and texture to foods. While pistachios are the lowest in calories per serving, cashews and pecans are the highest, so save them for a treat. Nuts make an easy grab-and-go snack, just watch portions! Make your own trail mix to save $ and calories by combining dark chocolate chips, low sugar cereal or pretzels, mixed nuts and unsweetened dried fruit.

10. Coconut and Avocado Oil: For cooking, baking and roasting, organic unrefined coconut and avocado oil are great choices. Both add a rich buttery flavor to dishes and can be used at medium-high temperatures without oxidizing (which means it remains good for you, even if you turn up the heat). Because coconut oil is saturated, it’s solid at cooler temperatures and is a good stand-in for butter in baked treats.

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