Now that spring is almost here, it's probably time to start thinking about spring cleaning - and this includes the pantry in your kitchen. If you already have the essentials on hand, you can whip up a meal in no time! Stock your pantry with these 11 essential items to make your life a little easier and cooking dinner after work a breeze!
1. Beans and Lentils - Rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, these are wonderful choices. Canned or dried beans are great but just be sure to rinse the canned beans or choose a lower sodium option. Unlike dried beans, lentils do not need soaking prior to cooking so they are a really handy option for soups or casseroles.
2. Brown rice - Traditional brown rice does take longer to cook than white rice, however, there are instant varieties on the market that retain the same nutrients but take only 10 minutes to cook.
3. Canned fish - Excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids are canned salmon, albacore tuna, and sardines - just make sure it's packed in water, not oil.
4. Canola Oil - According to the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, recent studies have shown that canola oil contains an ideal mix of unsaturated fats which are good for your heart.
5. Cooking spray - This essential is a no-brainer as most cooking sprays contain 0 calories.
6. Dried fruit - A great substitute for fresh fruit if you don't have any on hand, however, beware of the sugar contact as some is quite high - don't forget to look at your food labels when grocery shopping.
7. Low-sodium chicken broth - An ingredient in numerous recipes, this is a true essential. However, use in moderation as even low sodium varieties contain significant amounts of sodium.
8. Nuts and nut butters - Great sources of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3's, these are healthy options for snacking or adding to recipes. Pay attention to portion size as nuts may have a lot of calories. Keep in mind that nuts are high in fat which means they can also go rancid so use soon or store in the refrigerator.
9. Popcorn - A whole grain and healthy snack option, popcorn is an excellent choice to keep on hand but remember to take if easy on the salt and butter.
10. Whole wheat pasta - An easy way to add a little extra fiber to your diet that can be ready within ten minutes.
11. Whole wheat flour - There are lots of new varieties of whole wheat flour on the market now - check with your local supermarket. Whole wheat flour can usually be substituted for up to one third of the bleached flour in recipes.
Maintaining a well stocked pantry is the key to a healthy, nutritious and budget - friendly way of eating. Get started on your pantry makeover today.
Susan Taylor, RD, LD, CLT is a licensed and registered dietitian specializing in helping people suffering from adverse food reactions and weight management. If you are ready to start feeling better, I invite you to visit http://www.rdoncall.com and start working with a registered dietitian in making your healthy lifestyle changes.
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