Many health and wellness shows like “The Biggest Loser” include a segment where the pantry gets raided. You may be guilty of having similar cabinets filled with mac and cheese, sugary cereals, “just add meat” boxed meals, and overly processed condiments. We live crazy, fast-paced lives and sometimes we eat whatever is the quickest—so it’s that much more important to keep the right kind of food in our pantries.
It is generally not my recommendation to eat processed, packaged foods, but I do think that there are healthy, shelf-stable foods that are appropriate. Here are few examples:
- Beans and lentils are on the top of my list for pantry must-haves. Beans (examples: black, kidney, garbanzo) and lentils are good sources of protein, iron and fiber. These can be added into many dishes including soups, salads, and mixed with side dishes like rice or pasta. These guys are very filling and add a lot of flavor.
- 100% whole grain pasta. When selecting pasta, it is important to make sure that 100% whole grain is listed as the first ingredient before water. 100% whole grain pasta has more fiber and minerals than what many consider “regular” or enriched pasta. This tends to be harder to accept for some because 100% whole grain pasta is more dense and chewier. I don’t believe that all grains have to be 100%, but I do think there is added benefit to including them in our diets.
- Canned vegetables that are low in sodium are wonderful additions to soups, roasts and salads. I even recommend rinsing vegetables, even if they are low-sodium, to remove any additional sodium. The more basic and bare the vegetable, the better. This means that the vegetable was likely picked and packed without any added preservatives.
- Canned fruit that is packed in its own juice or in 100% juice can be a healthy option when fresh or frozen is not available. I recommend using as little juice as possible and eating just the fruit.
- Spices! Our wonderful creations in the kitchen would not be possible without herbs and spices. It can be hard to have fresh around during the winter, but I always keep powdered garlic, cracked pepper, basil, oregano, cinnamon and nutmeg in my pantry. As with other pantry items, most herbs and spices include an expiration date.