Posted: Mar 21, 2013
A well-equipped pantry makes cooking a nutritious, delicious meal easy, any day.
Five Fantastic Foods for Your Pantry
When buying packaged foods, choose nutrient-rich ones that offer more vitamins, minerals and fibre, and contain less sodium, fat and sugar. Look for canned foods, such as beans, tomatoes or fish, without added salt.
- Legumes, including canned or dried peas, beans and lentils. These protein-rich plant foods make satisfying soups, stews and chilies that are deliciously nutritious.
- Tomatoes: whole, diced or crushed, in cans. These make a beautiful base for a simple pasta sauce, soup or casserole.
- Fruit: dried, jarred or canned. Try adding a scoop of mashed canned pears to pancakes, muffins or smoothies.
- Fish, such as canned salmon and light tuna packed in water. These make tasty, protein-packed sandwiches, and they’re healthy additions to casseroles and pasta dishes.
- Whole grains, such as quinoa, parboiled brown rice or oats. Keep a variety of whole grains on hand for a nutrient-rich side dish or main meal.
Flavour boosters such as fresh garlic, spices, flavoured vinegars and reduced-sodium broths liven up cooking without lots of extra salt or fat.
Check the percentages!
When you know how to read nutrition labels, shopping for healthier food gets a little easier. The Nutrition Facts table has information on the calories and nutrients in a specific serving size of food. You can check the serving size and compare it to how much food you actually eat.
The % Daily Value (% DV) on the Nutrition Facts table shows you if a food has “a little” or “a lot” of a nutrient. For example, 5% DV or less is a little of any nutrient, and 15% DV or more is a lot for any nutrient. You can use the % DV to compare food items and make better choices.
When you’re shopping, read food labels to compare brands. Look at the ingredients list. Check the Nutrition Facts tables to compare serving sizes, nutrient amounts and % DV. Choose foods that have more vitamins, minerals and fibre, and less fat, sodium and sugar.
One healthy ingredient doesn’t necessarily make a food a healthy choice. For example, cheesy popcorn starts off with a healthy ingredient: whole grain popcorn. But the final product has almost as much fat and more sodium than potato chips. When shopping, read food labels and consider a food’s overall nutrient content.
Look for the nutrients it does have, not just nutrients it doesn’t have. For example, just because a food is free of fat, sugar or salt, that doesn’t automatically make it healthy. In fact, some foods that are low in fat and salt, such as candy and pop, can be high in sugar and calories and low in nutrients. Choose foods that have more of the nutrients you want, such as fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Don’t judge a food by one ingredient alone!
Keep Your Pantry Free of Packaged Meals
Prepared and packaged meals can be more expensive and less healthy than meals you make at home. Lower your costs by going homemade. Start with these simple make-at-home meal ideas:
- Homestyle pizza. Lightly brush a whole grain pizza crust with olive oil. Top with lots of spinach, fresh chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of black olives and a little feta cheese. Bake and enjoy your healthier at-home pizza!
- Roasted chicken. Instead of grocery store rotisserie chicken, roast your own whole chicken on Sunday, refrigerate and reheat for Monday’s dinner. Use any leftovers to make sandwiches, quesadillas or burritos the next day.
- Tomato soup. Toss together a pint of cherry tomatoes, a few peeled cloves of garlic and a chopped onion. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast in a baking dish in the oven until vegetables are soft. Blend with low-sodium chicken broth and warm. Bursting-with-flavour homemade soup!