We hear the phrase, fresh is best a lot, but the things in your pantry, not your fridge, may hold the key to improving your health. Here are my pantry picks for 5 categories that should be in everyone's pantry:
1. Pantry Produce: My pick is canned foods. Truly – this is much more exciting than you may think. Anytime you can add in some canned fruits and veggies, you are adding convenient nutrition to your meals. New research shows that kids who eat canned fruits and veggies tend to eat more overall servings of vegetables and fruits and have healthier diets overall. That is great news! When you incorporate all sources – fresh, frozen and canned, you end up eating more servings overall.
Family Fiesta Tacos made with canned tomatoes, corn, and kidney beans make this meal a nutritional rockstar when it comes to fiber, protein and vitamins and minerals. Mealtime.org is a great source for kid-friendly recipes that feature canned foods.
2. Seasonings: My pick for favorite herb this time of year is rosemary. It’s fragrant and pairs so well with root vegetables and cool-weather comfort foods like soups and stews. Also, did you know that in medieval times, rosemary was thought to only grow in the gardens of the righteous? (Note to self - plant rosemary next year 😉)
My pick for favorite spice: Smoked paprika. I love smoky flavor, but in cold weather, I’m not as likely to get out and use the smoker or the grill. So smoked paprika is a tasty way to get that smoky flavor without setting off the smoke alarm. Plus, it is high in vitamin A and C. In fact, paprika contains more vitamin c by weight than lemon juice.
3. Condiments: Balsamic vinegar is my pick. I love the rich flavor and it substitutes so well for higher calorie dressings that it not only brings some antioxidants to the table but is helpful in weight management.
So dress that salad with a little balsamic and try topping that ice cream or fruit with some balsamic reduction (syrup). Yum!
4. Whole Grains: bulk multigrain hot cereal mixes. A hearty, warm way to start your day or a great after school snack, these hot cereals add much needed fiber to your diet without any added sugars. All that fiber and protein from those whole grains will get you a lot further through the morning before hunger strikes for lunch.
5. Snacks: Lightly salted nuts and dark chocolate. When you are craving something salty and crunchy, lightly salted nuts make a protein and fiber-rich alternative to chips or crackers. And for that sweet-tooth, a small bit of dark chocolate – 60% cacao hits the spot and at 60-80 calories, it doesn’t derail anyone’s nutritional goals.
Plus, the chemicals in chocolate not only reduce blood pressure and stress but PEA is the same chemical our brain produces when we fall in love. As Cindy Heroux RD puts it, chocolate is a "stress manager that melts in your mouth".
So don't just raid that pantry, take a step back and see how your pantry can aid you with your health goals.