Most of us have the same route around the supermarket week after week, filling the shopping basket with the same sort of stuff we know our families will eat. Changing just one or two things in our weekly shop has the potential to change the food we eat for the good of our health, and eth chances are your kids won’t even notice! Just adding a little more variety to what we put into our shopping baskets and trolleys each week could have a massive impact on our nutritional intake, not to mention the money saving potential it could have too.

Here are a few store cupboard essentials that will give your basket a healthy boost:

  1. Brassica vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and watercress are powerhouses of nutrition. If you tend to buy broccoli every week, why not mix it up a bit. Add some grated cauliflower into your rice, mix shredded cabbage to your stir-fries or pop some watercress into your soups or salads.
  2. Good old-fashioned oats are a healthy store cupboard essential with soluble fibre for digestive support and an ingredient called beta-glucan that has the potential to help support a healthy cholesterol balance and may have protective effects on blood sugar balance. Used to make overnight oats, or added into baking or crumble toppings, there’s more to oats than just porridge.
  3. Herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic and cinnamon not only add more flavour to our plates, but they have a myriad of health effects too. Turmeric is the hot spice of the moment with evidence to suggest it has far-reaching health benefits, from anti-inflammatory effects to digestive support and immune balance, but don’t forget the everyday spices like ground cinnamon, garlic and parsley too, as they add another dimension to building a healthier plate.
  4. Beans and lentils are one of my go-to store cupboard essentials. Adding chickpeas to curry, red kidney beans to chilli and lentils to soups is a very economical way to add more nutrition to your plate. If you think you don’t like pulses, try adding some to your usual soup recipe and blitzing in your blender. I bet you won’t even notice red lentils in your butternut squash soup!
  5. Yoghurt – I am talking real, live yoghurt and not the low fat stuff most of us choose. Think about it – natural yoghurt has one ingredient: milk. Now take a look at this list of ingredients: Yogurt (Milk), Strawberries (10%), Water, Fructose, Modified Maize Starch, Gelatine, Flavourings, Beetroot Juice Concentrate, Acidity Regulators: Sodium Citrates, Citric Acid, Sweetener: Aspartame. The second list of ingredients is what you’ll find in a strawberry flavoured Muller Light. If your yoghurt pot reads something like a science experiment, it is unlikely to be the best choice for your health. If you don’t like the idea of natural yoghurt, then start by mixing it into your usual flavoured yoghurt until you get used to the taste.
  6. Nuts and seeds are packed with protein, healthy fats and some vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, selenium and zinc. A handful of brazil nuts, almonds or hazelnuts with an apple makes a great snack that can keep you going for ages.
  7. Dark green and orange coloured vegetables like kale, spinach, sweet potato and butternut squash are packed with nutrition and are an especially rich source of a group of powerful antioxidants called carotenoids.
  8. Frozen fruit and vegetables. If the only frozen food you buy are peas, you are missing out. Check out the bags of frozen berries, stir-fry packs, vegetables for roasting and steam vegetables. Frozen fruit and veg are a great addition to any diet to help us eat a wider variety of foods, without any food waste.

This article first appeared in The Irish News on 10 March 2018.