19 foods for a healthy pantry

The worst thing that can happen when you are trying to put together a last minute meal is realizing you don’t have all the ingredients. Keep your pantry well stocked with these must-have healthy foods

19 foods for a healthy pantry

Source: Best Health Magazine, May 2011

1. Sodium-reduced broth

It tastes just as great as the regular broth, but has 25 percent less sodium. I use it in homemade soups and for cooking risotto and couscous.

2. Canned salmon

It’s cheaper than fresh salmon and still provides omega-3 fats. Choose sodium-reduced versions and toss it into a large green salad, or make salmon salad sandwiches on those nights when you don’t feel like cooking.

3. Low-sodium tortilla chips

Not many snack foods are low sodium so these are a good choice. Made with whole-grain corn, tortilla chips are the perfect partner for guacamole or salsa. At 13 grams of fat per serving of 40 chips, though, go easy on them!

4. Plain pasta sauce

This is a great all-purpose staple for making spaghetti sauce, lasagna and pizza. I choose brands that have the lowest amount of sodium, and add my own onions, garlic and vegetables.

5. Canola oil

Canola is my everyday cooking oil. It has the lowest saturated fat content of any vegetable oil, and is high in heart healthy monounsaturated fats.

6. Green tea

It’s calorie free and filled with antioxidants. I use loose-leaf tea, as I find it’s more flavourful than bags. Once open, it should be stored in a dark, dry, airtight container.

7. Spaghetti

Whole-grain pasta is great, but I also cook with white pasta. Why? Because it’s enriched’ so it actually has more iron, folacin and B vitamins than whole-wheat. I make sure my family gets fibre and whole grains from other food sources.

8. Whole-wheat couscous

This is hands-down the fastest-cooking whole-grain food, so it’s perfect on a busy night. I cook it in low-sodium broth and dress it up with onions, diced veggies and fresh lemon zest.

9. Barley

Like all whole grains, barley is packed with selenium and magnesium. It contains soluble fibre, which helps to lower cholesterol levels, and vitamin E. I love the nutty flavour it adds to soups and risotto.

10. Stewed tomatoes

This is my favourite ingredi­ent for turning boring dishes into heartier, zestier, healthier ones. For example, I add stewed tomatoes to a skillet of browned chicken thighs, throw in some green peas and serve it all over brown rice. Yum!

11. Canned chickpeas, black beans or kidney beans

They’re a speedy way to add fibre and protein to salads, soups, wraps or stews. (You can make your own hummus, too: Purée chickpeas with a little lemon juice and some crushed garlic.) Rinse beans first to wash away some of the sodium.

12. Low-sodium soy sauce

I love a stir-fry, but not the sodium that often goes with it. To punch up the flavour, I use low-sodium sauces and a variety of herbs and spices.

13. Extra virgin olive oil

It’s the most flavourful oil, and I love it in homemade salad dressings and on grilled veggies. With a high proportion of mono­unsaturated fat compared to other foods, olive oil is a staple in the healthy Mediterranean-style diet.

14. Dried red and green lentils

These fibre-rich legumes are full of protein and don’t need to be soaked before cooking. Red lentils turn soft when cooked and are great for thickening soups. Green lentils hold their shape and are perfect for rice pilafs, salads and soups.

15. Brown rice

A whole grain that has about four times more fibre and magnesium than white rice, this can easily substitute for white rice in any recipe.

16. Low-fat granola cereal

Sprinkle it over yogurt and add diced apple for a nutritious breakfast. I also use it as topping for apple crisp. When buying, look for brands with less than three grams of fat per serving.

17. Quinoa

This whole grain is gluten free and a complete protein. I make quinoa salads with veggies and nuts, and even eat it hot with added honey and fruit for breakfast.

18. High-fibre bran cereal

It’s difficult to get enough fibre every day, and bran is one of the best sources. I mix crushed bran cereal into my burger patties and make bran muffins with it, too.

19. Peanut butter

I prefer the unsweetened, unsalted type. For a great breakfast or snack, try this: Spread peanut butter on a whole-wheat tortilla, add some banana slices and roll it up.