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Keep your pantry stocked with nutritious foods: canned fish, nuts, legumes, and whole grains are healthy options.

A well-stocked pantry can make meal preparation easier and quicker, but many packaged products are highly processed and lack valuable nutrients, and some are high in sodium, added sugar, and other unhealthy ingredients.

Tanya Freirich, MS, RD, CDN, a clinical dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, provides these recommendations for some of the most nutritious items to stock in your pantry.

Pantry staples

Low-sodium tuna and salmon. Fatty fish is an excellent source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Be sure to purchase your canned or packaged tuna and salmon in water rather than oil. If you can't find a low-sodium option, rinse the fish in water to reduce the sodium content.

Dried and canned legumes. Lentils, beans, soybeans, and chickpeas are protein-rich, high in fiber, and easy to cook. They can be the center of meatless main dishes or incorporated into soups, casseroles, salads, and dips. Select no- or low-sodium choices free of added sauces or flavorings.

Canned tomatoes. A can of no-sodium-added stewed, diced, or fire-roasted tomatoes can serve as the base for stews, sauces, and chili. Tomatoes provide lycopene, fiber, and vitamin C, among other valuable nutrients.

Quinoa. Quinoa is a whole grain that is rich in protein and fiber. It's quick and easy to make and is a good substitute for pasta or rice.

Unsalted nuts and nut butters. Nuts provide a simple snack option full of protein and healthy fat. They also help keep you full for a long time.

Barley, wheat berries, farro, or bulgur wheat. These whole grains require little work to prepare and are excellent sources of fiber, which helps lower cholesterol. "Just add fresh or dried herbs and olive oil to any of these grains for a healthy side dish, or add them to vegetable and broth-based soups," Freirich says.

Downsides to canned and boxed foods

"A lot of common pantry foods tend to be high in sodium," Freirich says. "Too much sodium in your diet can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke and kidney disease." Sodium is used because it is a preservative as well as a flavoring agent; it helps extend the shelf life of cookies, snack cakes, crackers, and many other processed foods.

"Another way to extend the shelf life of products is to make them with oil that has undergone a process called partial hydrogenation, which creates trans fat," says Freirich. Research has shown that consuming trans fat increases the risk of heart disease. Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the source of trans fat in processed foods, so all food manufacturers must remove PHOs from their products by 2018. In the meantime, check the ingredient lists on processed foods; if you see partially hydrogenated oil, the product contains trans fat, and it doesn't belong in your pantry.


Processed foods that you're better off bypassing include:

* Canned soup: tends to be very high in sodium; look for sodium-free and low-sodium options

* Crackers: often made with refined, white flour and a variety of additives and preservatives

* Microwave popcorn: may be high in sodium and saturated fat and may contain trans fat

* Packaged pastries, cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and other sweets: usually high in added sugar and may contain trans fat

* Sugary cereals: often made with refined, white flour that lacks fiber


1   cup quinoa, washed and drained
2   cups water
1   (15-oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans),
    rinsed and drained
1   cup grape tomatoes, halved
2   Tbsp green onions, thinly sliced
1   tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
2   Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2   Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2   Tbsp apple cider or red wine vinegar
1   tsp lemon or lime juice

1. Place quinoa and water in a medium
saucepan; bring to a boil and cook for 15
to 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed.
Allow to cool, and then fluff with a fork.

2. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, green
onions, basil, oregano, and parsley to
quinoa and stir gently to combine.

3. Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, and
lemon or lime juice; pour over quinoa
mixture and stir gently. May be served
chilled or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 161 calories,
6 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 5 g protein,
23 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 216 mg sodium
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Title Annotation:NUTRITION & DIET
Publication:Women's Health Advisor
Date:Oct 1, 2015
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