Building an Ethnic (and Healthier) Pantry

As you may have heard, today is National Junk Food Day. Junk food can be comforting at times, but too much of it can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. As I mentioned before, healthy eating and getting more people to eat better quality and fresher food is a campaign that I am strongly behind. Last month, I joined First Lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, and others in unveiling the new healthy eating platform, aimed to help fight childhood obesity, prevent disease, and improve Americans' eating habits. Michelle's announcement yesterday is one more great step towards helping Americans change what's in their pantries from junk food to healthy food. To keep in line with this great accomplishment towards a healthier society, today on my site (instead of featuring junk food) I'll feature great ways to build a healthier and higher quality pantry. We will also look at great tips on what to look for when shopping. Grocery shopping is the first step in becoming a conscious consumer. Variety is the key to building a better pantry, and as an Ethiopian-Swedish chef who lives in Harlem, I clearly keep a varied pantry. Here are some tips to help you also build an ethnic pantry:

  • Ramen noodles and Couscous are essential ingredients to have in your ethnic pantry. Both items are inexpensive and by adding higher quality ingredients can provide for a fancy meal on a low dollar. Preparing the Ramen without the packaged seasoning and adding fresh vegetables and a lean protein can be a healthier option that can still feel satisfying.
  • I always have Coconut Milk and Fish Sauce in my pantry. These can add incredible flavor to dishes and can add an ethnic touch to any ordinary dish.
  • One item I can't live without is the Swedish vinegar Attika. This is stronger than ordinary vinegar and can be used in anything from pickling to sushi.
  • Lastly, try and purchase any type of pickle or hot sauce from your travels. When you visit a location, try and find a popular hot sauce or pickled item that you can bring back with you from that destination. This will give you a varied pantry and multi-ethnic seasonings to add to your dishes.

With these items, you will surely have an arsenal of ethnic ingredients to spice up any meal. Keep checking back today for other tips on building a pantry, as well as great cooking tools to look for.

What are some ethnic items in your pantry?