If you are transitioning to a diet that is focussed on fresh whole foods and light on packaged food, then you may find that preparing meals takes a little longer than you’re used to. This isn’t a bad thing – you know, ‘good things come to those who wait’…
I encourage my clients to consume 6-7 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables daily (at least five of those should be vegetables). Don’t panic! It is possible and you don’t have to spend your day cleaning a juicer to achieve the target. Eating clean, doesn’t have to be hard work. However, it does help to be prepared, organised and have a few kitchen tools that make preparation work a little easier.
For the remainder of this post, I’m going to list out the items that I find indispensable in my kitchen. If you are thinking of taking your cooking to a healthier level, some of these may help.
I am not promoting products on behalf of any brands. These are items that I have tried and tested and can wholeheartedly recommend. I’ve provided links to each item for visual purposes – these link to amazon.co.uk*, but you should be able to purchase most of these at any good cook shop or department store.
So, in no particular order of preference, here we go.
Microplane Fine Grater
This little guy is great for zesting citrus fruit, finely mincing garlic or finely grating chocolate or fresh coconut. I bought mine about 7 years ago with my first London pay check as a treat to myself. If you want to get delicate flavour and texture into your sauces, dips, baking and stews, this is a wonderful tool.
Food processor with liquidising jug
If there is one thing you invest in this year, let it be a food processor. It doesn’t have to break the bank and it will save you loads of time and effort (which makes eating healthier easier). I use mine almost daily to make pesto, energy balls, banana ice-cream, nut butters etc.
There are plenty of food processors to choose from. However, I would encourage you to look into one that is at least mid-range in price. Because I use mine so much, I know that a cheaper model would succumb to ‘wear and tear’. It’s a false economy to buy any electronics on the cheap, and, let’s be honest, it’s your health we’re talking about, so invest a little. This is the version similar to the one I use, but have a look, see what’s available and what you can afford. Sites like Amazon have customer reviews which may be helpful.
Food processors come with a variety of attachments. I would recommend that you get one with at least a liquidiser/blender jug and grater attachments. The liquidiser is essential for smoothies, nut milks and sauces, and with the grater, you can literally whip up a healthy salad in 10 minutes – no fuss. An added bonus is a spice grinder, but you can also purchase this separately (see below).
Of course, the daddy of all processors is the Vitamix. If you can afford one, it’s a great investment, but a decent food processor will do all the key things you need.
If you want to get the best out of your veg, steaming is the way to go. I use this stove-stop steamer. I prefer it to a plastic plug-in version and it’s extremely versatile. Use it for vegetables, steaming fish or warming up meals (as I don’t use a microwave).
If you don’t have a grinder attachment with your blender, I highly advise purchasing a separate spice grinder.
I use mine mostly for grinding flax seeds. They pop up in many healthy dishes and need to be ground in order to make the omega 3 oils available for absorption. You can always buy ready-ground seeds, but making your own is more economical.
Non-toxic, non-stick pans
If you’re going to go to all the effort of preparing healthy meals, ensure that your cookware isn’t leaching toxic chemicals into your food.
Cheaper non-stick coated pans, like Teflon, are likely coated with PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). PTFE is made from a chemical that can leach into cooking and release toxins into the air. Studies have been done to show that PTFE is not great for our health – do some research and decide for yourself. I also prefer not to use aluminum pots and pans.
There are other, non-toxic pans available on the market. I use ceramic, stainless steel or cast iron. These items are more expensive, but last much longer. I really believe that your pots and pans are a lifetime investment – if you buy good quality items they will be with you forever and have fewer ‘side effects’. I also advise buying pans that are oven-proof (very handy and less washing up!).
Ceramic, stainless steel and cast iron items can be pricey. So, start off with the items you use most at highest temperatures (frying, roasting etc) and replace those first. Take advantage of birthdays, wedding gifts or seasonal sales to get the most value for money.
If you have a liquidiser, a stick blender is technically not necessary. However, I have both and find the stick blender very useful for some tasks such as liquidising soups (in the pot), making pancakes or smaller quantities of sauces, dips and pestos.
Again, there is a spectrum of blenders available to suit your needs and budget. I have a fairly cheap version which keeps me going, but you may wish to invest in a more powerful blender.
Life is too short to chop garlic.
Besides that, crushing garlic is the best way to release the activate the compound, allicin. Allicin has been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties, so the more you can get the better!
Invest in a decent quality crusher to make your life easier and get the most benefit from this brilliant food.
Good quality knives
Poor quality, dull knives make preparing food a trial. On the other hand, a set of quality, sharpened knives can make food preparation a pleasure. It may sound extreme, but it is true.
Please, please invest in some good knives and look after them (i.e. don’t put them in the dishwasher). For my smaller, serrated knives, I love Victorinox – my grandmother’s are still in operation, so I can testify to the quality. These are my essential kitchen knives, but ask around for recommendations:
Victorinox – Tomato Knife 11cm
Victorinox Chefs Knife
Thin, flat egg lifter
It may sound strange to have an egg lifter on the list of essentials, but I truly couldn’t do without mine. It must be thin, so make flipping pancakes a breeze. It should ideally be of a good quality plastic to protect your lovely pans and heat resistant to avoid the inadvertent melt when left on the side of the cooker.
This is one of my favourites:
Sprouts are nutrient dense and easy to grow on a window sill. They are a great addition to your weekly diet – scattered on a salad, blended into a dip, pesto or smoothie, or eaten as a snack.
If you’re starting off, a BioSnacky is a good option. Try to source organic seeds – I use this distributor.
Good set of measuring cups / jug
Getting portion sizes right is key. Having a good set of measuring cups or a well-marked jug will make things much simpler for you when preparing delicious meals.
Good quality pepper grinder
Believe me, buying cheap pepper grinders is a waste of time, money and adds to our landfill problem. I recommend investing in a good quality pepper grinder, such as Peugeot. It has a lifetime guarantee on the mechanism. They are more expensive than other mills, but you will have it forever.
These also make great gifts by the way.
Have I missed something off that you can’t live without? Leave your suggestions in the comment box below.
*I belong to an affiliate programme with Amazon which rewards me when you buy a product. This helps me run and maintain the blog, but don’t feel obliged to buy through Amazon. I would be even happier if you supported your local, independent kitchen shop.