Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stocking a Healthy Pantry

Whether watching your weight or just trying to provide the family with healthier fare, the first step should be to stock the pantry with healthy items. With a well-stocked pantry, dinners can be made in a flash, which helps resist the urge to eat high-calorie, fat-filled, and sodium-laden restaurant meals or fast food. A partial pantry list is below.*

BROTH. Either canned or dry, fat free & low sodium broth is a must. I buy this stuff by the case and use it almost daily. Use it instead of water to add flavor to rice, without adding fat or calories. Broth is also a good substitute for alcohol or oil to save calories in a recipe.

BEANS. Dried beans and canned beans are a great source of both protein and fiber. Beans are also terrific for bulking up a recipe and adding texture and "meatiness" to meatless dishes.

COOKING SPRAY. Using cooking spray instead of oil or butter makes dishes healthier and far lighter. A couple of quick sprays is all it takes.

HERBS & SPICES. One of the best ways to reduce the use of salt is by using herbs and spices. Bold flavors, without salt, are key in a low sodium diet.

WHOLE GRAINS. Try brown rice instead of the white. It is healthier and has a more pleasing texture. Experiment with grains such as quinoa, bulgur, and kamut. Whole grains are filling and a great source of fiber.

HEALTHY OILS. Such as olive, canola, and grapeseed. A small amount of healthy oil is a necessary part of a healthy diet. The body needs it for healthy skin and hair.

CANNED TOMATOES. Diced, chopped, pureed, and whole. Tomatoes are low in sugar and high in fiber and potassium. Eating tomato based sauces instead of those made with cream is great for the waistline.

BALSAMIC VINEGAR. Aged until syrupy and intensely flavored, a little bit goes a long way as a salad dressing, needing very little oil.

PASTA. Preferably whole wheat and in lots of different shapes (including couscous). Add a few simple ingredients to pasta and lunch or dinner is a snap. Pasta is delicious at any temperature, which makes it great to pack for lunches as well.

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