Having a properly stocked pantry can save time and worry during those busy days and weeknights when you don't have a chance to pick up groceries for planned meals. Keep these items on hand for unplanned but nutritious meals.
- Have a variety of whole grains stocked to form the base of your meal: whole-grain pastas in various shapes, brown rice and other grains like quinoa, couscous and bulgur wheat. Old-fashioned rolled oats are great for a quick oatmeal breakfast.
- For baking, whole-wheat flour or spelt flour can often be substituted in for white flour. Cornmeal is also a great option for anything from muffins to pancakes.
- Have whole-grain, high-fiber breads and cereals on hand for breakfast and snacking. A good kind will list whole grains as one of the first ingredients on the list.
- Nuts and seeds are also great to have on hand for snacking as they are good sources of protein and polysaturated and monosaturated fats. Buy in small quantities to prevent them from becoming rancid. Also eat in small quantities: a single serving of nuts provides a lot of protein but is also high in calories.
- “Dinner builder” items such as low-salt, low-oil canned beans, diced tomatoes and tuna or salmon can make dinner-prep that much faster.
- Balsamic vinegar and low-sodium soy sauce are great to have available for fat-free salad dressings and sauces. Low-sodium bouillon cubes make a quick, flavorful stock for soups.
- Dried herbs and spices can add instant flavor to your meals—think rosemary, oregano, thyme and curry powder. Consider though that fresh rosemary is a great addition to roasting meats and vegetables.
- Keep a limited supply of oils for when you must use them for cooking, baking or in dressing and marinades as they can go rancid over time. Pick oils that are lowest in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol which include canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil.
- If you must buy crackers, snack chips and cookies, look for fat-free or low-fat and low-sodium varieties.
Article copyright © 2014 American Heart Association. This recipe is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit heart.org/simplecooking.