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If your goal in 2018 is for your family to eat healthy, meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking meals must be your New Year’s resolution. Of course, having fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator is a good first step but having a well-stocked pantry with a handful of healthy foods will ensure you’ll always be able to quickly whip up a healthy meal. Here, 10 healthy foods you should keep in your pantry at all times.
Whether it’s almonds, walnuts or pistachios, nuts are a healthy food to keep in your pantry. An excellent source of fiber and protein to keep you satiated and omega-3 fatty acids which are known to lower inflammation, prevent heart disease and stroke, nuts may also ward of cancer. You can serve nuts for an after-school snack, pack them for a road trip, or add them to salads. Watch portion sizes however, because the calories can add up fast.
Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan or are trying to eat a more plant-based diet, beans are one of the healthy foods you should keep in your pantry. An excellent source of both protein and fiber to stave off hunger, beans keep blood sugar levels steady and lower cholesterol. Beans are so versatile—add them soups, salads and stews, make bean burgers or a bean dip, or substitute them in baking recipes that call for oil and eggs. Dried beans are more economical but if you don’t have time to soak and cook them, stock up on canned beans but rinse them beforehand since they are high in sodium.
3. Old-fashioned rolled oats
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating grains, at least 50 percent of which are whole grains and old-fashioned rolled oats are one of the best ways to get them in your family’s diet. A 1/2 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats contains 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein to keep you feeling full. They’re also an excellent source of iron and a good source of phosphorus and selenium. Although old-fashioned rolled oats read labels carefully and purchase those that state “gluten-free” on the package since there is a risk for cross contamination with other gluten-containing grains. Not only can you use rolled oats for breakfast, but they work well if you make homemade granola, added to smoothies and as a substitute for all purpose or whole wheat flour in baking recipes.
Classified as a grain but technically a seed, quinoa is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your family and should keep in your pantry. The great thing about quinoa is that unlike other grains, it’s a good source of both fiber and protein: a 1/2 cup has 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. Quinoa is also an excellent source of phosphorus and magnesium, which is known as the calming mineral. Quinoa is also as versatile as rice and couscous but it has a heartier, nuttier taste. Serve quinoa as a side, mixed in with sautéed vegetables or in place of oatmeal for breakfast.
Flaxseeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are all healthy foods to stock up on. Like nuts, seeds are a great source protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and minerals including zinc, copper and magnesium. Add chia seeds or flaxseeds to smoothies and sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds to oatmeal, salads or vegetarian dishes. If your child is allergic to nuts or your school has a nut-free policy, seeds are also a healthy alternative.
6. Dried fruit
Although fresh fruit should always be your first choice, dried fruit has its own health benefits. Raisins for example, are a good source of iron and potassium. Other types of dried fruit like apricots and dates can be a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Dried fruit can be a quick and easy snack but the best way to use dried fruit is as a replacement in certain baked goods or desserts. Since dried fruit is high in calories and sugar, eat them in moderation.
7. Canned salmon
When you don’t have time to cook but you don’t want to order take-out, having canned salmon in your pantry can make dinner quick, easy and healthy. Salmon is an excellent source of protein and it’s high in B vitamins, potassium, selenium and the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Serve salmon in place of meat, or add it to a salad or sandwich.
Making large batches of healthy soups and stews is a great way to ensure you always have healthy meals on hand and keeping your pantry stocked with low sodium vegetable, chicken or beef broth will help you save time and energy.
Love them or hate them, anchovies are a healthy staple to keep on hand. Anchovies are an excellent source of protein—one can has 13 grams—and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. They’re also good source of calcium, iron, phosphorus, niacin and selenium. Add anchovies to whole-wheat pasta with veggies, your favorite tomato sauce, bruschetta or paired with a vegetable like artichoke hearts.
10. Brown rice
Brown rice is an excellent source of both fiber and protein: one cup has 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. It’s also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus and selenium. Brown rice is also a versatile food you can eat as a side or add to soups and stews. To save time, cook a batch of rice ahead of time or use the Instant Pot. Brown rice isn’t a refined carbohydrate like white rice so it has more nutrients, but it has been found to have high levels of arsenic. Be sure to rinse raw rice before you cook it, use 6 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice and drain the water after it’s ready.