Healthy Kitchen: What Should Be in Your Pantry

Healthy Kitchen: What Should Be in Your Pantry

The first step to a healthier you is a healthy kitchen. Since what you eat has more of an impact on your weight than exercise or genetics do, it's imperative that you stock your pantry and fridge with nutritious, smart and clean options. If you're ready to make over your kitchen and get on track to eating a healthier and more well-balanced diet, here are some items that should be in your pantry.

Begin with the Flavor Staples

Cooking meals at home rather than dining out is one of the best ways to keep your weight and health in check. If you stock your pantry with basic ingredients, it'll be much easier to say no to take-out and whip up a healthy meal on a whim instead. Stock your spice rack with basic herbs like basil, oregano, dill, mint, rosemary and thyme. Also, be sure to include spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, chili powder, cloves and red pepper flakes.

Other good ingredients and items to have in your pantry are garlic powder, pepper, sea salt, low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth and balsamic vinegar. Of course, a nonstick cooking spray is essential, as is extra virgin olive oil. Having these staple ingredients in stock means you can prepare a simple but flavorful meal without any excuses.

Have the Basics on Hand

Canned beans, brown rice and whole wheat pasta are essentials that should be stocked in your pantry. They can easily add bulk to a meal (last minute casserole, anyone?)

Quick and Easy Meal Options

No kitchen is complete without last minute meal options and, no, boxed macaroni and cheese won't cut it. In the healthy kitchen, you should stock up on low-fat soups, low-sodium canned vegetables and water-packed tuna and salmon. These items can easily be paired with items in your fridge (canned tuna over a salad adds protein and canned veggies make a nice side dish).

Make Room for Produce

Great vegetables to store in your pantry are onions, potatoes, squash, yams and sweet potatoes. Prepare them as side dishes or use to add bulk or pizazz to a heartier dish you're creating.

Stock Breakfast Essentials

Oatmeal is a staple you should always have in your pantry. It makes for a quick, healthy and filling breakfast. Be sure to stock up on dried fruits like raisins, apples, figs and dates to enjoy mixed in your oatmeal or as a snack. Cereals are also important to have on hand, but you should nix the sugary stuff. Kashi brand makes a variety of whole grain cereals appropriate for the healthy kitchen. Shredded Wheat and All-Bran are other good options. With a little skim milk and fruit from the refrigerator (or some dried fruit from the pantry), you have a healthy breakfast.

Keep Snacks on Hand

Unsweetened applesauce and unsalted nuts (like almonds and cashews), in addition to dried fruits, will keep your hunger at bay. Say no to the cookies.

Stocking a healthy kitchen pantry begins with loading up on basics that make preparing meals an uncomplicated process. Avoid ingredients with sugar as one of the top ingredients. Stick to simple foods of the whole-grain variety and foods minimal ingredients.