Planning is one of the keys to healthy eating. It saves you from grabbing fast food when you run out of time to plan, shop and cook. But even if your meal plans go awry, you can whip up delicious food that’s good for you with a few basic ingredients that you always keep in your kitchen. Here are the essentials of your healthy pantry.
Know: Be sure to get plain vegetables – no sauces or seasoning mixes. Organic is best.
Fast meal: Stir-fry broccoli, green beans, carrots and peppers (or your favorite vegetables) with a handful or two of nuts, and a splash of low-sodium soy sauce.
The high-protein grain cooks quicker than other whole grains and can be served for breakfast, too.
Know: Beans are a rich source of low-fat protein and they’re very filling. (They’re also one of the best bargains in the supermarket!) Wash and drain them well before eating them.
Fast meal: Fill a whole-wheat tortilla with beans, roasted or steamed vegetables, salsa and a sprinkling of cheese to make a healthy burrito or quesadilla.
Know: Vegetable (or chicken, if you prefer) broth is available in cartons you can store in your pantry. It’s the start of a savory last-minute stew or soup.
Fast meal: Simmer onions or shallots in broth, then add kale (fresh or frozen), garlic, white beans and frozen vegetables. It’s ready in about 20 minutes.
Know: You have more choices than just peanut. Almond, cashew and sunflower seed butters are healthful, too, and they give you more flavors to enjoy.
Fast meal: Whisk water into nut butter to create a nut cream. Serve over pasta with snow peas, sweet peppers and Chinese cabbage (or any vegetables you have).
Know: The high-protein grain (say it “KEEN-wah”) cooks quicker than other whole grains and can be served for breakfast, too. If you cook double the amount you want, you can enjoy the leftovers the next day.
Fast meal: Substitute quinoa seasoned with herbs and spices for the ground meat in your recipe for stuffed peppers. Or, make a pilaf by cooking the quinoa in vegetable broth and adding chopped nuts, dried cranberries and scallions.
HERBS AND SPICES
Know: Seasonings put a spark in your meals and can dramatically change the flavor of basic ingredients that you’ve been eating day after day. Many spices, such as cayenne pepper and cinnamon, have well-documented health benefits of their own.
Fast meal: Lightly coat sweet potato wedges with olive oil, then sprinkle with cayenne pepper, cumin and garlic powder. Bake until tender.
Know: Smoothies made with real fruit are a great meal on-the-go. And frozen fruit can be the start of a sweet dessert that’s not loaded with added sugars.
Fast meal: Use mango or peaches as the base for a refreshing smoothie. Add nut butter for an extra protein boost. Berries punch up whole-wheat pancakes – spread nut butter on them instead of soaking them in syrup and you have a quick and satisfying meal any time of day.