8 Healthy Food Staples To Keep In Your Kitchen

Posted on February 5, 2020 by Bethany Thayer

You know the nightly drill – schedules get hectic, work gets out later than expected, your kids’ activities change, and suddenly the meal plan you had in place for dinner goes right out the window. It’s chaotic, but often unavoidable.

The best way to manage these changing conditions – other than having a bottomless budget and endless free time to grocery shop – is to stock your kitchen the right way.

Having the right items on hand all the time is actually easier than you think, if you know these tricks to stocking your cupboards. Here are eight food staples I recommend you have in your kitchen so that meal preparation is a snap, even on short notice:

  • Whole grains. Whether it’s pasta, brown rice or oatmeal, whole grains are great because they’re high in fiber – meaning they make you feel more full than other more processed foods. Plus, they contain nutrition-friendly elements like magnesium and zinc.
  • Canned beans. Beans are a highly versatile food, and are both high in protein and low in fat – in fact, they’re as close to a “perfect” food as you can get. Buying them canned also means you eliminate the need to soak them for prep. They contain vitamins and minerals like folic acid, are inexpensive and come in a large variety so they can be used in everything from soups to casseroles to salads.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables. Despite seeming like they lose nutritional value by not being fresh off the vine, most foods are flash frozen right when they’re picked. This means the nutrients they contain are immediately preserved, and can even contain more nutrients than their fresh counterparts. Their longer shelf life – er, freezer life – isn’t too shabby, either.
  • Non-fat dry milk. This is a great way to always have milk on hand, whether it’s for recipes or otherwise. It’s also an inexpensive protein, has a longer shelf life than regular milk, and can even be mixed with real milk to make a double protein beverage that’s popular with athletes.
  • Low-sodium broth. In addition to its long shelf life, this staple adds flavor and is low in calories. It’s perfect for soups, stir-fry recipes or sauces.
  • Canned fruits and vegetables. Also packaged immediately after picking, much like their frozen counterparts, this are also high in nutrients and have more longevity than fresh fruits and veggies. Just make sure there’s no salt added, and rinse before eating. Low-sodium canned tomatoes are one great example. Whether stewed, diced or in paste form, tomatoes are a powerhouse source of lycopene, an antioxidant. And since so many recipes call for them, you’ll always be prepared if you keep them on hand.
  • Canned tuna, salmon or chicken. If you're not vegan or vegetarian, these lean protein choices are an easy addition to many meals, from pasta or salads and more. Tuna and salmon also provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for brain and heart health
  • Spices. From garlic to onion to basil and oregano, all spices are a win because they pack a flavor punch without adding salt. And they allow you to experiment with your cooking. That’s half the fun!

For inspiration, check out some of these healthy recipes featuring many of these pantry staples:

To discover creative ways to meet your nutrient needs or find a registered dietitian at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN, is the director of the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Learn more about Bethany.

Categories : EatWell

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