Whether it is reducing body fat percentage, increasing muscle mass or reaching optimal sporting performance for an event, what you do in the kitchen will have a huge impact on your end results. This may initially seem quite straight forward but in fact many people often fail in the kitchen because they don’t have a solid foundation to work off. This means having the right ingredients and equipment in place to prepare good solid meals, consistently.
The idea of this article is to take you through some of the essential components to your kitchen. This includes how to make the most out of your store cupboards, fridge and freezer, how to prepare and store foods safely and finally a list of staple food. This should then be a platform to allow you to construct nutritious, but basic meals, every day, which will help you achieve your training goals and lead you on to a healthier lifestyle.
1. The Store Cupboard
This may sound very much like something a 1950s housewife might say, but keeping a well-stocked store cupboard really is the starting point for easy (and affordable) cooking. It is an important part of the kitchen and here we should have a range of ingredients to help bring our foods to life, as well as a range of non-perishable foods to grab at any time.
A good solid selection of carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and oats should be stored here, as well as spices, herbs, a variety of nuts and seeds. A selection of tinned products such as chopped tomatoes, beans, and tuna will also be perfect for adding to a range of dishes. Most of these ingredients have a long shelf life which means you can rely on them to create quick delicious meals or use them as a basis to add with leftovers.
It is vital to keep the store cupboard organised as this will make it easy to find an ingredient, as well as making you remember what exactly you have in there! Try to organise your cupboards every other month to help with this.
If some perishable foods are left at room temperature they can form harmful bacteria which can multiply rapidly. The modern day method of preserving our foods and reducing many bacteria from forming are the fridge and freezer.
The most important thing to consider about your fridge is where you store your foods. For food hygiene and safety you should always store raw meats on the bottom shelf and then any vegetables, ready-to-eat foods, and dairy products above this.
It can also be quite expensive to buy various ingredients for every meal, so it’s a good idea to cook up a batch of food, cool it (ideally within one to two hours), and then freeze in serving-sized portions. Frozen fruit and vegetables are also brilliant for bringing a burst of vitamins and minerals into many snacks or meals and can be kept for longer periods of time. Some key points to remember when it comes to the fridge and freezer are below:
- Keep your fridge at 5°C or below and your freezer at -18°C.
- Throw out food that has passed its ‘use-by’ date.
- Clean the inside and the outside of the fridge/freezer regularly.
- Cover or wrap foods before storing them in the fridge.
- Store leftovers in covered containers in the fridge and consume within 2-3 days – labels are useful for knowing how long the food has been in for.
- Always cool hot food before placing in the fridge/freezer.
- Do not overload your fridge as this will prevent circulation of cool air. Leave space in the fridge for perishable foods.
3. Equipment & Accessories
Food hygiene should be the forefront of any meal preparation and this is all determined on how you handle the food. Be sure to have a good selection of chopping boards ready for various foods – ideally you will need a minimum of two chopping boards, one for raw foods (fish, meat) and then a further board for other foods. Wooden chopping boards are slightly more expensive but are by far the most practical and last for much longer – these are ideal for slicing and dicing fruit and vegetables.
Good solid equipment will be key to making cooking that much easier. Make sure you have a range of good quality pots and pans with thick bases to help distribute the heat well – this will make cooking much easier. Try to invest in good quality knives too as it will be much easier to prepare your foods. If you have a blunt knife, try sharpening these and you will notice the difference.
So now we have the basis of our kitchen essentials and you understand some key points about food storage and hygiene, here are some useful meal choices to help along the way. This should give an overview of some different options using some of the staple ingredients in your fridge, freezer and cupboards.
- 2 poached eggs on wholemeal toast, with avocado and grilled tomatoes.
- Porridge with milk, 1 scoop of whey protein and mixed nuts / seeds.
- Greek yoghurt with frozen mixed berries (defrosted) and 1 tsp of cashew butter.
- Chicken breast in a wholemeal wrap with mixed salad (lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado).
- Beef stew with sweet potato and vegetables (carrots, green beans, mushrooms).
- Homemade lean steak burgers with roasted sweet potato and mixed salad (rocket, pine nuts, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice).
- Sirloin steak with homemade sweet potato chips and mixed vegetables (peas, beans, carrots).
- Chicken thighs in a tomato based curry with spices, vegetables and basmati rice.
- Roasted Salmon fillet with sautéed potatoes and green beans.
Steve has a Masters degree in Sports Physiology and works within the BULK POWDERS™ product team. His role includes all aspects of new product development, from recipe concept and formulation, to website content and legislations.