Contributed by: Monti Carlo, Chef & TV Personality, ZENB Chef-in-Residence
Let’s acknowledge the green elephant in the room, shall we? We all know eating plant-full meals is healthy, but staring down a bag full of produce can be intimidating as all get out! The good news is that with a few pantry essentials, cooking with more fruits and veggies is easier than you think! Plus, it’s hearty and DELICIOUS!
Here’s my list of pantry must-haves to make eating a plant-full diet a snap:
Seasonal Fruits & Veggies
It seems like a given, but if the goal is to eat more plants, stock up on your favorite fruits and veggies. If you’re drawn to it, you're less likely to watch it die in a produce drawer. Shop in season for nutrient-loaded produce that’s also easier on the planet and your wallet. Think berries in summer and root vegetables in fall and winter. And don’t skip picking up a few things in the frozen produce aisle. Contrary to popular opinion, frozen produce is picked at the height of ripeness and nutrition, making it a great choice if you don’t cook every day.
Legumes & Ancient Grains
What can’t you do with these super-clutch superfoods? Legumes and ancient grains like lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, and yellow peas have long shelf lives and are packed with an even longer list of nutrients. They’re also versatile and perfect for meal prep. Use grains and legumes as a base for veggie bowls, or mix them into soups and salads. Added bonus – you can get these guys in bulk which makes them ridiculously budget-friendly.
Has there ever been a more perfect vessel for rich, robust sauces and veggies? Pasta is the absolute easiest meal starter, and you can make it ahead and reheat it for the ultimate convenience. Try a veggie-forward option (like ZENB Pasta made with 100% whole yellow peas) to get the added benefit of more fiber, protein, and nutrients. ZENB pasta (and I say this in my chef-iest voice) also has a deeper, richer flavor than your momma’s old-school egg-based pasta.
Nuts & Nut Butters
Protein-packed powerhouses like raw nuts, roasted nuts, and nut butters are a great way to add texture, deep flavor, and a dose of healthy fat to your food. Buy nuts like pecans and walnuts in bulk and store them in the freezer. When choosing nut butters like almond butter or peanut butter, look for a brand made with just one ingredient, so you know you’re getting the least amount of processing and chemical preservatives.
Snack time is a great time to pack plants into your diet. Of course, your favorite fruits and veggies are great, but don’t skip roasted seaweed, protein bars made with clean ingredients, popcorn, healthy granola, or trail mix. I’m all-in on grain-free crackers made from plants like ZENB Cracker Crisps, which are made with just yellow peas, olive oil, and seasonings! #sogood. (Maybe too good. Last week, I powered through a whole box in one sitting.)