If you're having trouble maintaining a healthy diet, it could be that you lack the right ingredients. Whipping up a delicious and flavorful meal is not the work of mere minutes but with a properly accessorized pantry, you can reach a mouth-watering, healthy dinner with ease and speed. Just add the following items to your grocery list and you'll be equipped for success in the kitchen.
Extra virgin olive oil: Its heart-healthy benefits include raising the good cholesterol and lowering the bad cholesterol in your bloodstream. It also has less calories and can be used in place of less desirable options like butter and mayo. Olive oil is versatile and can be used to cook and also to garnish a dish. Click here to read about other oils and their benefits.
Canned olives: According to Time Magazine, olives are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They can be used in a variety of dishes for added flavor and a salty kick. About 10 olives carries 50 calories, so have a few as a quick snack instead of grabbing a bag of potato chips. They have a long shelf life so you don't have to worry about tossing them out when you don't use them after a week.
>> Use your olives for a sweet potato makeover: Baked Sweet Potatoes Stuffed with Feta, Olives, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Honey: This sweet staple is an absolute must. Not only does it sweeten a dish, but it can also be used to reduce allergies, hydrate hair, soothe a sore throat and heal cuts. It lasts a long time and you can use it in place of sugar to keep things moist. Honey's benefits outweigh the added sugars. It's a natural ingredient that you don't want to go without.
>> Read more: Household Hacks: Honey
Beans: They're cheap, full of protein, rich in fiber and can fill an otherwise lacking dish. Use all kinds of beans to top your salad or stuff a wrap. Get creative and try each kind. The cans will last a long time on your shelf, so don't be afraid to stock up! Try this recipe for Skinny Loaded Nachos with Turkey, Beans and Cheese.
Quinoa: Quinoa is a great base layer for your healthy meals. It's stocked with protein and fiber, but low in calories. It can boost energy and curb hunger when you need a quick fix. Mix in dried fruit and honey for breakfast or eat with chicken and veggies for dinner. Read more in our Glossary of Foods.
Tomato paste: This one might seem a little strange, but its flavor and richness make a perfect addition to curries and stir fries. Low in calories and fat, tomatoes have the highest concentration of cancer-fighting lycopene of any fruit or vegetable. You can't ignore the benefits of having this gem in your pantry.
Bananas: Bananas are a quick snack that you can eat in so many different ways. They're sweet and full of magnesium. Eat with peanut butter toast or add to yogurt to get a more complex snack. If for some reason you don't eat them before they turn brown, toss them into the freezer and blend them to make banana "ice cream" for a treat. Check out The Kitchn to learn how.
Fresh herbs: Stock up on a variety of herbs to add to a dish for flavor or give a fresh taste to leftovers. They're also packed with antioxidants, so don't hold back. Click here for a helpful guide to herbs and spices.
Garlic: If you want high impact flavor, garlic is the fastest way to get there. Without unhealthy fats or processed ingredients, garlic is a waist-friendly ingredient that goes well with almost anything. Try our Skinny Rosemary Garlic Mashed Potatoes.
Vinegar: This particular ingredient is also heart-healthy and low in calories. Using something acidic, like vinegar, packs a punch of flavor. Try different kinds for different tastes to top your salad, or add it to your hamburger before you grill.
>> Read more: 20 Recipes Under 5 Ingredients and 250 Calories
Broth: Broth is essential to a quick crockpot soup. Add veggies, meat, and beans and you've created an easy meal. You can keep a can of broth in your pantry for a long time until you're ready to use it, and plus, it's rich in protein and has few calories. Check out these recipes for 50 Healthy Soups.
Peanut butter: Here is a go-to for the kids' lunches, but it can also help you stick to your diet. If used in moderation, peanut butter fights hunger and keeps you full longer. It's full of protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats, which is good for your heart. Try other nut butters for even healthier options.
Oatmeal: Oatmeal can lower cholesterol and help control your appetite. Add fruit and a little bit of honey for a quick, healthy breakfast. Click here to read about different kinds of oatmeal and which ones you should be stocking in your pantry.
Canned tuna: Canned fish is another quick fix for packed lunches. It offers omega-3 fats and protein and can be used in so many ways. Use it as a spread or make a tuna sandwich.
Pasta: When all else fails and you need a last-minute dinner, grab that box of pasta. It's fast and simple! Try Skinny Mom's Light and Easy Pasta Primavera.
While there isn't a bullet-proof plan for stocking your pantry, these are some ingredients that you can add so that your quick meals don't turn into a last-minute pizza or fast food takeout meal. Each of these items are versatile and worth having, so experiment with them and find out your favorite ways to use them.
>> Check out these recipes for more quick fixes that are healthy and ready in 10 minutes or less.