Written by Melissa Herrmann Dierks RDN, LDN, CDE
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Your intentions were pure and you meant every word when you resolved to commit to healthier eating habits in 2014.
For the family in a hurry, a stocked pantry and refrigerator is the key to healthy eating. Eating at home can save money and calories, and healthy meals can be prepared in a jiffy when you have the right foods on hand. If you follow a special diet, you may need to modify the list or make substitutions.
Top Pantry Staples
Chicken or vegetable broth: A low fat and sodium chicken or vegetable broth is a must for a healthy pantry, and can be used instead of oil for when cooking. Look for those that are low fat and contain less than 140mg sodium. Brand examples: Swanson, College Inn.
Whole grain cereal: Whole grain cereals include oatmeal, whole-grain wheat flakes, and those made with brown rice. A serving should contain at least 8 grams of whole grains and 3 grams of fiber. Brand examples: Cheerios, Kellogg’s Mini Wheat’s.
Oil-Olive or Canola: Healthy fats play an important role in your diet. Choose oils high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive or canola oil or soft margarines with no trans fat. Using an oil spray or spritzer can limit the amount of oil you use. Brand examples: Smart Balance Margarine, Pam cooking spray.
Brown rice: Here is a whole grain that is quick, easy and versatile. To save time, look for brown rice in the freezer section or the par boiled brown rice mixes. Make sure that your selection offers no more than 140mg of sodium. Brand examples: Success Rice Ready to Serve brown rice, Steamfresh brown rice (in the freezer section).
Whole grain bread/Crackers: Stock your pantry with breads and crackers that claim “100% whole grain”. Make sure they are low in total fat (less than 3 grams) and sodium (less than 140mg) per serving. Brand examples: Triscuit, Natures Own.
Popcorn and snacks: Popcorn is a perfect whole grain with lots of fiber. Look for microwave popcorn brands that limit fat and sodium. With other crunchy snacks, look for less than 3 grams of fat per serving and zero Trans fat. Brand examples: Harris Teeter Organics Butter Flavor Microwave popcorn 100 calorie packs, Pirates Booty Aged White Cheddar snacks.
Whole Grain Pasta: Pasta is a great staple to keep in your pantry and the whole grain varieties are full of extra nutrients. Add sautéed vegetables, lean protein and seasonings for a quick and easy meal. Brand examples: Barilla Whole Grain, Mueller’s 100% Whole Grain.
Dried Beans and Peas: Dried beans and peas provide a great source of low fat protein, fiber and other nutrients. You can prepare them in large quantities and freeze for future meals. Canned beans and frozen peas make a great addition to salads. Draining the liquid off canned beans can lower the sodium by 40%. Brand examples: Don’t be afraid of private label or store brand products to save on your grocery bill.
Top Refrigerator Must-Haves:
Dairy products: Keep fat free and low fat dairy products on hand-milk, yogurt and cheese. Look for 1% milk for family members over the age of 2, and reduced fat cheese. Dairy products are a great substitute for meat protein. Brand examples: Cabot Reduced Fat Cheddar, Yoplait Greek 100Lean Meat: Check out already cooked, canned and frozen meats and chicken that can make meal preparation a breeze. Stock fresh meat in your freezer and divide it into meal size portions before freezing.
Fresh fruit/Juice: Fresh is best, but frozen, canned and dried fruit should be kept on hand for days when fresh fruit is not available. Brand examples: Dole frozen fruits, Minute Maid original 100% juice.
Vegetables: Every plate you prepare should be half covered with vegetables or fruits. Vegetables are low in calories and a good source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Keep a variety of fresh, frozen and canned (reduced sodium) vegetables on hand for quick and easy meals. Brand examples: Birdseye Freshlike, Birdseye Steamfresh.
Beverages: A cold pitcher of fresh water is always a go-to when you’re thirsty but sometimes you want a little fizz or flavor. Sparkling waters, no calorie diet soda and nutrient enhanced flavored waters are all great-tasting, zero calorie options. Brand examples: fruitwater, Diet Coke, vitaminwater zero.
Keep in mind that a healthy diet is about balance, variety and moderation – not elimination. Give yourself the gift of knowledge now and make one less resolution for 2014.
A complete Brand Name Shopping List is available at www.supermarketsavvy.com.
Melissa Herrmann Dierks RDN, LDN, CDE is a nutrition consultant and owner of the Huntersville-based Eat Smart Nutrition Co. Melissa is a consultant to the food and beverage industry including Coca Cola.