Healthy alternatives when stocks are low

Healthy store cupboard alternatives

Today’s blog is from Kathleen Dubo of Interwoven Wellness ( as she offers healthy alternatives should supplies of your regular staples dry up. Living in the mountains of Virginia in the US, Kathleen has a large vegetable garden and enjoys an abundance of winter greens.

Something in the past few weeks has drastically changed and we find ourselves collectively in a time that is anything but ordinary. We are facing in a very real way a pandemic with this one word having the power to increase our stress levels and make us feel that we are losing control over how we live our lives. A better option is to spend time focusing on the things that we do have control of:

  • We do have control over our mind-set
  • We do have control over whether or not we embrace movement and exercise
  • We do have control over the foods we choose to nourish our bodies with

In today’s post we’re going to focus on the foods we choose to nourish ourselves with. We know that the health of our immune system relies on our gut health and our gut health relies on us eating whole, unprocessed foods. In ordinary times, choosing minimally processed foods is our way of keeping our gut health optimal which in turn helps keep our immune systems doing their jobs.

Being creatures of habit we usually stock our kitchens with many of the same items over and over again. This is understandable as it can be hard when you’re working, the children have school and activities and preparing meals is hectic enough to even remotely contemplate exploring other nutritious food options. However as we said earlier, everything changed a few short weeks ago. We may now be finding that the typical foods we buy are hard to get hold of. That can be upsetting and unnerving, however by flipping our mind-set, we can see this as an opportunity to explore those other foods that we may have shielded away from in the past.

You might be thinking you don’t need the added stress of trying to figure out how to cook with new ingredients. This is especially so as many of us are now working from home and trying to home-school at the same time. You may be juggling way more than usual and despite social distancing, may be unable to take a break from each other even when you are all living under the one roof.

You’ll be pleased to know that the ingredients suggested below can be used easily and do not require a learning curve. Highly nutritious and simple — that’s the goal right now. Here are some of my favourite “other” food options to think about exploring (even if your regular favourites are still in stock):

  • Try almond butter or tahini (sesame seeds) for a quick sandwich for yourself or the kids? Tahini is also a great option if someone in the house is allergic to nuts. Be sure check they don’t contain added sugars.
  • Alternatively try hummus layered with dark leafy greens (arugula, spinach or kale) and avocado slices on a sprouted bread? If hummus is out of stock, you can easily make your own with tahini, chickpeas (known as garbanzo beans in US), garlic, olive oil and salt (see the recipe section below). If you keep these not so common items in your cupboards, you will be able to make nutritious food easily. Tahini is also great for making salad dressings. And chickpeas are wonderful simply tossed into a salad.
  • If your favourite rice and pasta are no longer available, try ancient grains such as quinoa or buckwheat to give you added protein along with fibre and vitamins. Whilst typically used as a side or in salad bowls, quinoa makes a great breakfast bowl. Flour alternatives include spelt, brown rice and buckwheat.
  • Looking for sources of protein that store easily? You can’t go wrong with flaxseed, hempseeds, sesame seeds and chia seeds. These tiny seeds are powerhouses of nutrition. Ground, they can be used in smoothies or homemade energy bars. Hempseeds are wonderful for sprinkling on your salad and for making quick and easy energy bites. Chia seeds can be used as an egg alternative in baking recipes and are great for making a pudding dessert.
  • If you’re trying to go more plant based or can’t get you favourite cuts of meat, tempeh made from fermented soybeans makes a great meat alternative in chili. Or try using its unfermented cousin tofu in an oven-baked version that is delicious served with veggies and quinoa.
  • If you can’t find your usual salad leaf mix, explore those “other” greens: collards, kale, turnip greens, beet greens or those wonderful chards. As we move into spring, the bitter greens, nature’s gift to us at this time of year, will be in abundance. All of these greens are wonderful in soups and stews, can easily be sautéed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and can also be used in a green juice recipe. And most can be eaten raw as a salad.

Don’t forget that your new staples should always include a variety of beans (canned or dried), nuts and seeds along with your ancient grains and be stocked in your kitchen cupboards (- not hoarded, just stocked as usual.) I hope that using this new mind-set of seeing this period of uncertainty as an opportunity to explore new healthy food choices will help reduce your stress and nourishes your gut health.

To help you get started using some of these new ingredients, below are some links to recipes. Once you’re comfortable with the recipes, you can tweak them as desired!

Remember, right now the best action step you can take to be in control of a situation that feels out of control is to keep your immune system strong.

Keep calm if your usual staples aren’t available. There are many healthy options waiting to be explored. Look for the hidden gifts to be found in this period of collective uncertainty and get healthier in the process. Three simple suggestions to keep in mind are:

  • Choose whole foods
  • Choose minimally processed foods
  • Choose foods with no or few ingredient labels

If you or someone you know would like to improve your eating or health, get in touch today by emailing me to fix a short telephone chat to see how I can help. 

Photo courtesy of Lisa Fotios