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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pantry Quiz: Does your pantry make the grade?

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I am often asked what a healthy pantry should look like.  For a full, personalized answer you can always have a "pantry makeover" (see Pricing & Services page).  But for my short answer, here are some questions you can use to assess the healthfulness of your pantry.

  1. Do I find a lot of expired, or past-date foods?  (The obvious answer is for food safety reasons, but also, if you are rotating through your pantry foods and staples regularly, it is a sign that you cook and eat at home often which is a major sign of good nutrition.)
  2. Do I have 3 or more types of cooking oils?  (Canola for baking, olive oil for dressings and pestos, and a seed or nut oil for ethnic dishes or special sauces)
  3. Do I have at least 2 types of legumes" (Dry or canned, dried beans and lentils are nutritional powerhouses and are a great source of protein, fiber, folate and iron.  Just be sure to rinse your canned beans to reduce the sodium.)
  4. Do I have a couple types of whole grain pasta? (Choose pasta with decent amounts of fiber - 5 grams per serving - and have a couple different shapes on hand to increase the variety of your cuisine.)
  5. Do I have low-sodium canned vegetables?  (Fresh may be ideal, but not always workable.  Rinse your canned vegetables to reduce the sodium, and take advantage of the convenience of shelf-stable veggies.  Tomatoes in particular are a wonderful source of lycopene and other beneficial nutrients.)
  6. Do I have reduced fat mayonnaise and salad dressings?  (Full-fat versions contain so many calories, fat-free are far from acceptable substitutes for for taste or nutrition, but reduced-fat versions are a great, middle-of-the-road choice.)
  7. Do I have at least 2 types of vinegars? (The greater variety, the greater the chance that you are cooking a variety of delicious and healthful foods.)
  8. Do I have at least 2 whole grains? (Quinoa and barley for example, or oat and brown rice - whole grains provide so much more nutrition than refined versions.)
  9. Do I stock healthy breakfast cereal choices?  (This is a blogpost unto itself, but shoot for higher fiber and lower sugar.)
  10. Do I have a variety of lower-sodium condiments and spices? (Mustards, reduced sodium soy sauce, worchestershire sauce, chili paste, garlic, pesto and a variety of spices lend themselves to delicious, home-cooked food that will happily keep you out of the drive through or the convenience-food aisle of the store.)
Notice the emphasis on variety - the more varied your pantry, the more likely it is you are chef in your own kitchen.  Nothing can substitute for the healthful benefits of that!
For more detailed pantry information, or if you have specific questions on the state of your pantry and fridge, feel free to schedule a pantry makeover (see Pricing & Services).

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