As every home cook knows, there’s nothing worse than starting to prepare a meal and discovering mid-chop that you’re missing a key ingredient. In most kitchens, you can find the basics, like garlic and olive oil, but a truly well-rounded pantry requires a few more items to help cooks prepare healthy meals efficiently.
Here are the seven pantry items you don’t want to be caught without:
1. Brown rice: This fiber-rich grain helps produce energy and lower cholesterol, among other health benefits. Keep it on hand to serve with veggies, meat or fish for an easy weeknight meal. Serve it with this Honey Lemon Glazed Chicken recipe!
2. Reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth: The versatility of chicken and vegetable broth is unmatched in the kitchen — we use it to make everything from pastas to sauces to potatoes. Buy reduced-sodium whenever possible, since excessive sodium intake can lead to dehydration and hypertension. We use it in a ton of our slow cooker recipes, but here it is in one of our favorites: Slow Cooker Chicken, Beans & Rice.
3. Canned tomatoes: Canned tomatoes are a godsend, especially when wintertime hits and fresh tomatoes lose all discernable flavor in cold-weather regions. We recommend keeping both diced and crushed tomatoes in the pantry to make your own pasta sauce. They’re also a must-have for a number of slow cooker recipes. Try them in our Skinny Vegetarian Mexican Chili!
4. Beans: Beans deliver healthy amounts of fiber, protein and iron; and with so many varieties available, you can decide whether you need to stock white beans for hummus, black beans for tacos, kidney beans for chili or all of the above! Check out the magical fruits in our Lean Turkey Chili here.
5. Tuna: Packed with nutrients — including calcium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids — tuna makes a healthy sandwich, salad or pasta. Or, spread it on crackers for a quick snack. You guessed it — we have a few tuna-tastic recipes: Classic Tuna Salad, Asian Tuna Salad, Open-Faced Tuna Melt!
6. Nuts: Heart-healthy nuts help lower cholesterol and improve artery health. We like to keep at least one or two bags of different varieties on hand at all times — almonds, walnuts and pistachios are all great for both cooking and snacking.
7. Whole-wheat pasta: Whole-wheat pasta has traditionally gotten a bad rap on texture and flavor, but the tide seems to be changing. Healthier than its white alternatives, fiber-filled whole-wheat pasta pairs well with chunky, flavorful sauces — like the ones you’re making with those canned tomatoes. Whole-Wheat Penne Pasta with Turkey Meatballs, anyone?
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