Faced with a choice between cooking a healthful meal and ordering out, many weary (or wary) cooks will opt for take-out. But with take-out they can be taking key nutrients out of their diets. If you have your local eateries on speed-dial, you could be under-nourished and overspending. A smart pantry makeover will put nourishing meals and wholesome snacks within your reach.
Open your cupboard. Is it bare as Old Mother Hubbard's? Do you see a castle of untouched cans? A spice rack gathering dust and losing flavour? Individual tastes may vary, but for a robust, useful cupboard, fill up on the following staple items. Mix and match: They can become the fixings of many a quick snack or hearty meal.
These are the go-to items that pull everything together.
- oils and vinegars that are low in saturated fats
- olive oil
- canola oil
- balsamic vinegar
- herbs and spices
- salt and pepper
- blackstrap molasses
- grains, nuts, seeds
- sesame seeds
- pine nuts
The meal makers are those items that bulk up or provide the base for lunches and dinners.
- broths and soup stock
- dried beans
Canned foods are affordable pantry standbys. Long shelf-lives make them convenient and handy in a pinch. Closely eyeball the labels to monitor salt, fat, and sugar content, and try to choose the ones with the simplest list of ingredients.
- canned tomato sauce or paste
- canned beans: garbanzo, black, navy, kidney
- canned seafood: salmon, tuna, crab
Nutritious snacks are a necessity. For a boost of energy or just to fill in the gaps between meals, stash away some of the following wholesome, bite-sized treats.
- sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
- almonds, walnuts, peanuts
- peanut butter
- dried cranberries, apricots, sun-dried tomatoes
- whole-grain crackers
Ways to wash it all down
The cupboard can be home to a few beneficial beverages.
- green tea (has antioxidants and may reduce cancer risk)
- mint tea (may help in digestion and soothe the stomach)
- hot chocolate (chocolate may protect against heart disease)
Some foods thrive in the shadows. For vegetables, this precaution prevents sprouting. For other food items, it's just a matter of preserving freshness and flavour.
- yams and sweet potatoes
- dried herbs