Here are a few other healthy choices I tend to have in my pantry, some for snacking and others for preparing meals:
- Canned, fat-free refried beans.
- Canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato sauce (lower-sodium versions are best).
- Bottled marinara sauce (choose one made with canola or olive oil, and which contains no more than about 1 gram of fat and 400 milligrams of sodium per 1/2-cup serving).
- Brown rice (it comes in regular or a quick version by Uncle Ben's).
- Quick or old-fashioned oats. You can buy packets of microwave oatmeal -- Quaker Nutrition for Women -- that have added soy protein, calcium, and folic acid.
- Whole-grain breakfast cereals. These should have a whole grain listed as the first ingredient, at least 4 grams of fiber per cup, and not too much fat or sugar. Raisin Bran is one of my favorites, with 7 grams of fiber, 1.5 grams fat, and 19 grams of sugar per cup (whole wheat is the first ingredient on the label; wheat bran is the third. Raisins are the second ingredient listed, sugar is fourth).
- 94% fat-free microwave popcorn.
- Canned soups with more fiber (5 grams or more per serving) and less fat and sodium than most, such as Campbell's Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom and Chicken Soup, and Wolfgang Puck's Minestrone.
- Whole-wheat pastry flour. Substitute this for half the white flour in recipes to increase fiber and nutrients without a big difference in flavor or texture.
- Splenda. This artificial sweetener can replace half of the sugar in most bakery recipes, to cut calories without a noticeable difference in flavor or texture.
- Salt-free seasoning blends (and individual herbs and spices). These are a convenient way to add flavor fast when you're trying to cook without a lot of added sodium. Check out all the Mrs. Dash flavors! And keep all your spices and dried herbs in a cool, dry place to maintain freshness.
- An extra can of canola-oil cooking spray.
Step 3: Eliminate or greatly reduce saturated and trans fats in your pantry.
Nothing good, healthwise, can come from eating trans fats. Some experts advise that trans and saturated fats together should make up no more than 10% of our total calories. Others say our trans fat intake should be as close to zero as possible.