It’s not always easy to live a clean and healthy life. Temptation is lurking on everywhere: candy in the office, ice cream trucks on your block, and well-meaning friends luring you out for beer and nachos when you know you should go home and sauté kale. But, it can seem daunting to come home after a long day and prepare a tasty and nutritious meal – especially if you haven’t made it to the grocery or farmer’s market in a while.
Having a well-stocked pantry is half the battle. If you can open a cabinet and find at your fingertips an arsenal of tasty ingredients that can be made simply and quickly into a healthy dinner or satisfying snack, than temptation and fatigue are no excuses.
These nine items can go a long way in satisfying your taste buds, hunger and nutritional needs:
#1 Grains: Try to stock a variety of whole grains such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, oats, faro, millet, etc. Not only are they great as a side dish, you can toss them in soups and salads for a heartier meal, add them to a stir fry or create a unique risotto. And leftovers can be reheated with milk as a yummy breakfast porridge.
#2 Beans: A great source of fiber and protein, beans are easily stored and quick to prepare. From tacos and enchiladas to minestrone to salad they instantly add depth, warmth and flavor. Cannellinis and chickpeas can be made into great dips and served with chicken kabobs or crudité. Spice up some black or kidney beans with hot sauce, garlic or herbs for an exciting side and easy dish.
#3 Nuts: Stored in the freezer or in canning jars, nuts can last for several months and a wonderful source of healthy fat, protein and vitamin E. Make a pesto with pistachios, garlic and greens; toss walnuts in with whole grain pasta with or broccoli for a quick but balanced meal; add pecans into a salad for crunch and flavor; or toast almonds in the oven to stir into grains.
#4 Oils: A variety of healthy oils are not only good for your heart but having them on hand means you always have the right tool for the job, whether it’s creating a delicious salad dressing, sautéing garlic or greens, roasting veggies or mixing up a pesto or sauce. Stock up on extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and sesame oil. Truffle oil, avocado oil, walnut oils and others really add zing to your recipes.
#5 Dried Fruit: Fresh is always best, but dried fruit can give you the fiber and sweetness needed to punch up a salad or yogurt. Added some prunes or dried cranberries to quinoa with some nuts and veggies, makes a delicious meal hot or cold. Dried mango or papaya is a great snack to pack in your purse, car or desk mixed with almonds. And dates make a fabulous truffle when mixed with cocoa powder and coconut flakes in a blender or food processor.
#6 Nut Butters: When you’re absolutely too tired to cook or when you need to pack a healthy lunch on the go, there’s nothing better than an almond butter and banana sandwich. Snacks that provide healthy fat and protein like peanut butter or cashew butter on carrot sticks keep you energized longer than chips, candy or a muffin. Nut butters can also be used in creating amazingly tasty sauces and in Asian recipes like cold sesame noodles, or mixed in with a smoothie for a more filling meal.
#7 Sea Vegetables: With 10-20 times the minerals of those found in land plants, kelp, dulse, arame and other sea veggies are an excellent source of iron, calcium and iodine and help detoxify the body. Soaked leaves can be added to salads, grains and soups. Seaweed snacks are a tasty but healthy way to get your salty munch fix. Stored in a cool dark place, these will keep indefinitely.
#8 Tea: Chugging plain water can get boring, so stock up on tea. Green, black, white, and herbal varieties all boast myriad health benefits. Studies have found that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; encourage weight loss; lower cholesterol; and bring about mental alertness. Tea is soothing on a cold winter’s night and nothing is more refreshing than iced tea on a hot summer day. Teas can also be infused into desserts like chia pudding or be an antioxidant boost to smoothies.
#9 Canned Fish: Shelf stable salmon, tuna, sardines, herring and even anchovies provide an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, plus vitamin D. And, of course they’re easy to prepare and serve. Chopped up in salads, spread on whole grain toast, or even tossed in with pasta and marinara sauce, these stepchildren of the fish world, really deserve a second look.