Healthy cooking starts with the staples. Here are the basics to always have on-hand.
Wholesome pantry must-haves focus on flavor and nutrition. Keep these top ingredients in your pantry at all times. They store well and are quick in preparation, so there’s no excuse not to eat well and eat healthfully.
Extra virgin olive oil or EVOO: This oil is pressed from bunches of rich, fruity olives. Not only is extra virgin olive oil perfect for dressing salads, marinating meats and veggies, or using it in a quick sauté, EVOO is also full of good fat. Monounsaturated fat has been shown to provide health benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic. EVOO also boasts omega-3 fatty acids. Focusing on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help lower your risk of heart disease and benefit blood sugar control.
Canned tomatoes: Tomatoes provide cancer-fighting antioxidants and lycopene as well as loads of vitamin C, folate and potassium. The Mayo Clinic also reports that studies suggest a high intake of lycopene and other nutrients from tomatoes may reduce the incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration. Look for fire roasted canned tomatoes as a fun and tasty alternate to your regular brand — they bring in an extra layer of smoky flavor.
Canned or dried beans: Dietary fiber is essential for a healthy diet, and beans provide plenty of protein packed, soluble fiber. This type of fiber has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Fiber also helps maintain digestive health, and the Mayo Clinic states that fiber has been shown to aid in weight loss. Beans can be quickly rinsed and added to salads, sautéed in pasta dishes or eaten with rice for high quality, complete and nutritious meals.
Low sodium stocks: Chicken broth and vegetable broth are excellent pantry must-haves. Full of flavor without the fat and salt, low sodium stocks can be used to sauté veggies and meat for an oil-free stir fry or used to create healthy soups and stews in a hurry. Be sure to read the label carefully when selecting stock, as many have unnecessary ingredients.
Flavorful, healthful condiments are pantry must-haves. Always keep white wine or Dijon mustard on hand for a fat-free, tasty sandwich spread or for breading and marinating meats. Vinegars such as apple cider and balsamic are super low in calories, fat and sugar. Most vinegars are also sodium free as well. Sprinkle on salads, or use in marinades and in sandwiches. Note: Read the label on specialty vinegars — sugar can be hiding within.
Healthy pantry must-haves can save the day in a pinch, offer you healthful nutrition and store well over time. Keep these top choices on hand, and you’ll never be at a loss for what to eat that is quick, healthy and available. Stick with low-fat, low salt and low sugar staples, and your pantry will be in ship shape — and so will you.