I keep a lot of junk food in my pantry. I have three kids involved in multiple sports, and it seems like we are always running somewhere. We grab a snack bar or a prepackaged, sugar-loaded treat. If I fix a meal, it comes out of a box or a frozen package because it’s quicker than cooking from scratch.
One of the easiest ways to improve your diet is to stock your pantry with healthy foods. Keeping nutritious yet convenient staples in your cabinets will encourage you to make healthier choices.
First, let’s clean out the bad foods to make room for the healthy foods. Here are some of the worst offenders you should ban from the house:
- Sodas and sugary drinks – give you added calories without any nutrients.
- Potato chips – contain bad fats and salt.
- Cookies, snack cakes and cupcakes – these sweet treats include refined flour, sugar and saturated fats, all ingredients we need to cut out of our diets.
- Cereal, muffins and cereal bars – these breakfast foods are full of added sugar.
- Buttery microwave popcorn – contains large amounts of trans fat and salt.
- White breads, white pasta and white rice – the refining process removes most of the nutrients and leaves empty carbs and salt.
- Vegetable and corn oil – small amounts of oil are okay, but extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil are better choices.
Now, we can stock the pantry with 10 healthy and nutritious food choices:
Canned tuna, chicken or salmon
Tuna and salmon are filled with omega-3s and protein. Chicken is also a good source of protein. Canned or in a pouch, you can make a quick sandwich, add it to salad or create a healthy casserole.
Oatmeal and whole grain cereals
Oatmeal is high in protein, low in salt and packed with fiber. You can use low sugar instant oatmeal for a quick breakfast. You probably have boxes of cereal in your cabinets. However, the best cereal choices have whole grain as the first ingredient and are a good source of fiber. Stay away from any cereals with more than 8 grams of sugar per serving.
Whole grain pasta
Make a quick meal with whole grain pasta and a zesty marinara or spaghetti sauce. You can also add vegetables to your pasta for even more healthy benefits.
Marinara sauce is a great source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. You can use sauce with pasta, homemade pizza, or with whole grain tortillas to make a healthy wrap. You can even add it to chicken dishes or use it to top burgers. Marinara has vegetables in every serving!
Beans – including white, black, kidney and garbanzo – are a good source of protein, fiber and phytochemicals. Make sure you choose “no salt” or “low salt” options. Just rinse and drain the beans before you add to soups, salads or casseroles.
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Olive oil contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and phytochemicals. Use olive oil as a dip for bread or an ingredient for salad dressing. You can use flavored olive oils for dipping vegetables or crackers, or when cooking fish, chicken or vegetables. Balsamic vinegar has a light flavor and can be mixed with olive oil to jazz up salads and vegetables.
Green tea bags
Green tea provides many health benefits, including being a source of two powerful flavonoids – anthocyanin and proanthocyanidin. These flavonoids have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea is also a healthy drink choice, instead of grabbing a soda or sugary drink.
Canned fruit and veggies
Select no salt added canned vegetables for good nutrition and convenience. You can eat veggies as a side or add them to soups or salads. Canned fruit – in its own juice – is also a good staple for your pantry.
Low salt snacks
Add some unsalted nuts to your pantry so you can grab them for a quick snack. Nuts have three times the fiber and protein of potato chips and much less salt. You can also make your own trail mix by combining different types of nuts and dried fruit.
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants. Dark chocolate and cocoa may also help you relax, reduce the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. However, chocolate still has fat, sugar and calories so a little bit goes a long way!
By keeping healthy staples in your pantry, you can make nutritious food choices even when you’re in a hurry. What are some of your favorite healthy must-haves to stock in your pantry?