What you keep in your pantry is essential to helping you eat right, lose weight, and improve your health. That’s because a well-stocked pantry means making meals is a cinch, and the more home-cooked meals you eat, the greater control you have over how much-saturated fat, added sugar, and sodium you take in. Here are a few staple pantry must-haves:
Natural sweeteners. When you need a touch of sweetness in a recipe, look for one that has beneficial antioxidants like honey or molasses or date or prune puree. For cooking and baking, I opt for a natural stevia and sugar blend instead of pure cane sugar. Keep in mind even natural sweeteners still count as added sugar!
Healthy Oils. The main oils I use are extra-virgin olive oil for salad dressings and dipping; canola oil for cooking and baking because of its light, neutral flavor; and sesame oil for Asian-inspired stir-fry, dressing, or sauce. These oils are all considered heart-healthy because they are lower in saturated fat than butter, lard, or coconut oil.
Whole grains. Whole grains can help you make healthy meals in minutes, and, thanks to their fiber, they’ll help keep you satisfied. Plus, eating more whole grains can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. I keep a wide variety of whole grains in my pantry to help ensure we eat right when the time is tight, including brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, oats, quinoa, barley, and bulgur.
Canned tomatoes. Armed with cans of whole, diced, and crushed tomatoes and even pureed tomato sauce, you can create an endless variety of sauces and soups. Compared to fresh, canned tomato products are particularly healthful.
Dried herbs and spices. Herbs and spices are also bursting with protective antioxidants. In fact, one study examining more than 3,000 foods concluded that several herbs and spices, including oregano, cinnamon, thyme, and rosemary, had some of the highest antioxidant counts of all.