Faced with a choice between cooking a healthy meal and ordering out, many weary (or wary) cooks will opt for takeout. But with takeout they can be taking key nutrients out of their diets. If you have your local eateries on speed dial, you could be undernourished and overspending. A smart pantry makeover will put nourishing meals and wholesome snacks within your reach.
Open your cupboard. Is it bare as Old Mother Hubbard's? Do you see a castle of untouched cans? A spice rack gathering dust and losing flavour? Individual tastes may vary, but for a robust, useful cupboard, fill up on the following staple items. Mix and match: They can become the fixings of many a quick snack or hearty meal.
These are the go-to items that pull everything together.
- oils and vinegars that are low in saturated fats
- olive oil
- canola oil
- balsamic vinegar
- herbs and spices
- salt and pepper
- blackstrap molasses
- grains, nuts, seeds
- sesame seeds
- pine nuts
The meal makers are those items that bulk up or provide the base for lunches and dinners.
- broths and soup stock
- dried beans
Canned foods are affordable pantry standbys. Long shelf-lives make them convenient and handy in a pinch. Closely eyeball the labels to monitor salt, fat, and sugar content, and try to choose the ones with the simplest list of ingredients.
- canned tomato sauce or paste
- canned beans: garbanzo, black, navy, kidney
- canned seafood: salmon, tuna, crab
Nutritious snacks are a necessity. For a boost of energy or just to fill in the gaps between meals, stash away some of the following wholesome, bite-sized treats.
- sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
- almonds, walnuts, peanuts
- peanut butter
- dried cranberries, apricots, sun-dried tomatoes
- whole-grain crackers
Ways to wash it all down
The cupboard can be home to a few beneficial beverages.
- green tea (has antioxidants and may reduce cancer risk)
- mint tea (may help in digestion and soothe the stomach)
- hot chocolate (chocolate may protect against heart disease)
Some foods thrive in the shadows. For vegetables, this precaution prevents sprouting. For other food items, it's just a matter of preserving freshness and flavour.
- yams and sweet potatoes
- dried herbs
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