Dr. Francesca Sy-Alvarado's 10 Pantry Picks for a Healthy Meal Prep

Dr. Francesca Sy-Alvarado's 10 Pantry Picks for a Healthy Meal Prep

Nutrition is an important aspect of our health and well-being. We are often intimidated by the term "healthy eating," when, in fact, it only means eating a variety of food that provides enough macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals necessary to keep our minds and bodies in a healthy state. 

Part of that experience is feeling satisfied with the food you eat and knowing the benefits a certain food item could do to your body. Here are some personal recommendations on pantry items for a healthy meal prep!

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Dr. Francesca
  • The Superfood Grocer
    Chia Seeds

    Dr. Francesca

    Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3, fiber, and protein without added cholesterol. They also make you feel fuller for a longer time, curbing your cravings for other snacks.

    I recommend soaking the seeds in water for at least 30 minutes for them to absorb the water and gel up. This gives a fun texture reminiscent of boba pearls, but healthier! I then add the seeds to desserts as a pudding.

    Aside from that, I like adding them to smoothies and banana ice cream or "nice cream". I also add dry chia seeds as toppings to salads and spreads

  • Bob's Red Mill
    High Fiber Red Bulgur

    Dr. Francesca

    Bulgur is a cereal grain made from dried cracked whole grain. It is slightly lower in calories compared to other grains such as quinoa. 

    It is a good source of minerals such as manganese, magnesium, iron, and fiber. It also has a relatively high amount of protein for a grain. I love how versatile this is, as you could make it into a patty or falafel or a rice substitute!

  • The Superfood Grocer
    Coconut Sugar

    Dr. Francesca

    Coconut sugar is a lower glycemic index substitute to the regular table sugar, meaning you are less likely to have blood sugar spikes when using this as a sweetener

    I love how this imparts a slightly earthy kind of sweetness to food or drinks. I also love that by supporting these products, we are also able to support the livelihood of Filipino farmers.

  • Trader Joe's
    Everything but the Bagel Seasoning

    Dr. Francesca

    One of my favorite food to prepare is avocado toast and this blend of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried garlic and onion, and sea salt makes the perfect seasoning! 

    It adds such an interesting roasted, garlicky flavor to most dishes and snacks. This also adds a tasty kick to pasta dishes such as macaroni and cheese and cacio e pepe.

  • The Superfood Grocer
    Nutritional Yeast

    Dr. Francesca

    Nutritional yeast made from the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which imparts a cheesy, nutty flavor to dishes they are added to. It is an excellent plant-based source of vitamin B12, which you are to get otherwise from meat, some fish, and dairy. 

    I personally like adding it to a bowl of oats with a bit of dried garlic, salt, and pepper for a healthier alternative when I'm craving macaroni and cheese.

  • Almond Breeze
    Almond Milk - Unsweetened Vanilla

    Dr. Francesca

    Almond milk is a dairy-free milk alternative that is rich in calcium and vitamin E and is low in calories and sugar. It is also a good alternative to soy milk for those who are looking for plant-based kinds of milk but are allergic to soy. 

    I love this almond milk's light texture and vanilla flavor, complimenting rich-flavored cereals or muesli with fruit and nuts. I tend to look for something without carrageenan, an emulsifier, which could cause some bloating or other digestive problems.

  • Hineleban Farms
    Adlai Grain

    Dr. Francesca

    I personally love grains that I could substitute for rice. In terms of texture and appearance, Adlai, also known as Job's tears or Chinese pearl barley, resembles rice the most

    Aside from being a low glycemic index carbohydrate, it is also high in fiber and protein, is gluten-free, and is rich in minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin. Because it is less likely to cause blood sugar spikes, it doesn't leave you with that sluggish feeling moments after you've had a heavy rice meal. 

    On its own, it has a slightly earthy and nutty flavor. It is very versatile and can be used as an add-on to grain bowls, soup, salads, and even dessert!

  • Take Root
    Kale Chips

    Dr. Francesca

    This is a great snack for when you're looking for something tasty and indulgent without the guilt. The lightness of dried kale is complemented by the interesting tangy, savory seasoning. 

    The taste is not overpowering, allowing you to have more than one serving in one sitting. It could also be added as a topping to salads or pastas to give another dimension of texture and flavor.

  • Organic Cacao Nibs Coated with Coco Syrup

    Dr. Francesca

    Cacao is an excellent source of magnesium, which has many functions in the body such as helping convert food into energy, regulation of neurotransmittersーincluding serotonin and endorphinーand DNA repair. Cacao is also densely packed with antioxidants, which have been shown to influence insulin resistance and may indirectly reduce diabetes risk. 

    These cacao nibs from Greenola are sweetened with low glycemic index coconut sugar, making this a rather guilt-free indulgence. These are great toppings for oatmeal and smoothie bowls or blended into smoothies.

  • 7Grains
    Skinny Seasoning

    Dr. Francesca

    This seasoning is made of concentrated amino acids from soybeans, giving a full-bodied umami flavor, without any wheat or gluten. This makes it a great alternative for certain individuals with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

    While this product is being promoted as a healthier alternative to soy sauce, it still contains a significant amount of sodium, and people who are restricting their sodium intake or watching their blood pressure must be mindful of this.

    I personally prefer this to regular soy sauce because it has much fewer ingredients, is in a less processed form, and is basically just water and soybeans.