We're definitely advocates of cooking from scratch as much as you can, but we're also realists. Sometimes (or a lot of the time) you need to take a few shortcuts to get dinner on the table. While we (obviously!) use KNOW Better products for those semi-homemade shortcuts, our mixes, buns, and slices aren't the only pantry staples we keep in stock for quick meals.
Here are eight of our favorite shortcut ingredients that are actually healthy.
Making almond butter at home may be easy, but the trick is, you gotta remember to do it! On those weeks when we just can't, we're happy Georgia Grinders is here for us. This premium nut butter company makes almond, pecan, peanut, cashew, hazelnut butters that are full of delicious, roasted nut goodness and none of the other junk. Use these butters as the base of homemade cookies, as an everyday breakfast spread, or to jumpstart a curry or mole sauce.
There are few dinners quicker and easier than grain-free pasta with tomato sauce. To make sure you're serving the healthiest version you can, pick up Rao's marinara sauce (for the most hands-off option) or a few jars or boxes of tomatoes from Pomi. Rao's sauces are made with a very minimal ingredient list — tomatoes, spices, olive oil — and never any sugar. Pomi's chopped and strained tomatoes are just that — tomatoes — and are certified non-GMO and gluten-free.
While many brands of curry pastes and powders can come loaded with sugar and mystery oils, Thai Kitchen's is made from just chiles, aromatics, and salt. Even better — it's certified non-GMO, grain-free, and vegan, so you can serve dishes made with this spicy goodness to anyone. Use this curry paste in, duh, Thai curries, as well as in piquant marinades for chicken skewers or to liven up an ordinary leftover vegetable soup.
I know what you're thinking — frozen vegetables? But here's the thing: Frozen vegetables are often actually more nutrient-dense than fresh, since they are blanched and frozen immediately after harvesting. Frozen peas and spinach are quick and easy to add to just about anything for a good-for-you side dish. Slightly more work (hey, you probably have to cook 'em) are pre-chopped and/or spiralized vegetables. These are always going to cost more than whole veggies, but the time saved on prep is probably worth it. You'll find most of these items near the salad mixes at the average grocery store.
When you're following a low-carb diet, chances are you're also eating tons of riced, diced, mashed, and pizza-ed cauliflower. And while it is fine to bliz away a few heads of the stuff on a weekend meal prep day, it isn't exactly fun to grind up cauliflower (and wash the food processor) on a Wednesday night. For those evenings when you just can't, turn to the pre-riced variety for quick cooking cauliflower anything. We prefer the fresh, raw version, but you can also find frozen cauliflower rice and par-cooked packets of the stuff in the inner aisles at most grocery stores.
Look, as with most of the items on this list, we'll always prefer totally homemade bone broth, but let's be real. When is the last time you actually took the time to do it yourself? I thought so. Luckily, store-bought bone broth has come a long way in the last decade, and there are several brands doing a great job making clean, flavorful broths that you can store in the freezer or even in your pantry. We like the offerings from Bare Bones, Bonafide Provisions, and Kettle and Fire the most, but as long as you're purchasing a broth that only contains the things you'd actually put in your stockpot, you're good to go. Stay away from broths and stocks that contain added sugars, dyes, and anything called "flavoring."
We love using Primal Kitchen's mayonnaise on our sandwiches and in our salads, but their dressings and marinades are what we always turn to when we're needing to take a few shortcuts. From Green Goddess dressing (try it on grilled chicken salad) to unsweetened barbecue sauce, we know these pantry items are always clean, sugar-free, and delicious.
Does a spice count as a shortcut ingredient? It does when it can totally transform pretty much anything from blah to scrumptious. Smoked paprika is not only, well, smoky, it also has an underlying umami and gloriously red color. We add it to vegetable sautes, homemade barbecue rubs, and even pre-made mayonnaise for a tasty dip. If you really like the heat, pick up hot smoked paprika in addition to mild.
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