Pantry Must-Haves

Recalling that “Change Starts at the Grocery Store,” below are a few pantry must-haves as you continue on your journey (and adventure) to great health!

Nuts (of course if you have a peanut or nut allergy, the nut you’re allergic to is a pantry must-not have!): These calorie- and nutrient-packed snacks are filled with heart-healthy fats.  Peanuts and almonds contain monounsaturated fats and other nuts are filled with polyunsaturated fats (both of which are good for you!  Stay tuned for details…)  Be conscious of how much you are eating, however, because even too much of good things can turn bad; moderation is key.  

A common complaint that I hear is that nuts cost too much (well at least that’s what I thought when I first started eating them a lot!).  If you have a membership to Sam’s Club, BJ’s, or Costco (or know someone who does), these are great stores to stock up on unsalted nuts (of course unsalted is the ideal).  Although you will be paying more money upfront, the 3-lb bags last a long time and certainly end up being cheaper than other options.  

Dried and/or canned beans: Fiber-filled beans are just what the doctor ordered for a host of ailments.  High cholesterol? Diabetes? Heart disease? Constipation?  Risk of colon cancer?  Beans any and everyone!?  Beans are not only great sources of fiber, but also protein, B vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium, and folate.
Depending on your culture and personal preferences, you may already be eating a lot of beans.  The important thing is to not only eat those that you enjoy, but to branch out as well.  For example, although both kidney and black beans contain the mentioned nutrients above, they also contain unique flavonoids or antioxidants (read more). If you haven’t tried a lot of beans, experiment and see which ones you prefer; you might get a pleasant surprise and really like one over the other.  Or even better, you may even like them all!  Lentils, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, navy beans, you name it!  Rinse off a can and use it as a topping for a large salad. Or you can whip up a quick soup (see recipes) or season the beans to eat with rice.  Of course cooking from raw beans is best, but the can will certainly do!  

Sardines, tuna, or smoked herring: Natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids, these fatty fish are quick go-to protein sources for sandwiches or putting on top of salads.  You do have to consider the amount of salt that they have in them, however.  

Popcorn:  Although this whole grain gets a bad wrap from fat-laden movie theater options, popcorn is a quick, easy, fiber-rich snack (my favorite mid-afternoon snack I might add; Orville All Natural mini bags to be exact..yum).  Make sure to choose microwave varieties with lower amounts of fat, because these fats are typically the kind we should be cutting back on (artery-clogging saturated and trans fats).  Look out for the sodium content as well.  

But even better, go down memory lane and cook the raw kernels on the stove, going light on the oil that you use.  With homemade popcorn, feel free to get creative with how you season it, without using a lot of salt.  My favorite is lemon pepper, with freshly-squeezed lemon, ground pepper, and a dash of salt.  Who says popcorn has to be simple?

Brown rice: Some may need to ease into the courser texture of brown rice, but regardless this whole grain is great to transition to if you currently eat a lot of white rice.  With very limited processing, brown rice is a rich source of fiber and B vitamins.  

Olive oil: This Mediterranean staple is rich in monounsaturated fats which have been found to lower risk factors for heart disease.  Drizzle on vegetables or salads for a splash of the unique flavor of olive oil.  Meanwhile, make sure not to heat olive oil at extremely high temperature, as its beneficial structure is affected by the added heat.

Since we eat and use what’s around, stocking your pantry with these foods will lead you on your way to eating healthier MOST of the time.  

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