Fighting persistent sugar cravings is easier when you keep your pantry stocked with these healthy staples. We asked registered dietitians and personal chefs for their must-have foods to always keep in their kitchens.
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world. Try drizzling over finished dishes like grilled fish, pasta and vegetables sides.
2. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a superstar food because it’s a high-quality, slow-burning carbs with heart-healthy fat, fiber and protein. What’s more, it has a ton of micronutrients, such as — folate for healthy tissue growth, copper to help prevent low iron levels, phosphorus for healthy bones and teeth, magnesium to keep your metabolism firing, and manganese to help blood sugar regulation. For non-peanut eaters, choose almond butter, which has a nearly identical profile of carbs, fat, and protein.
3. Non-fat Greek Yoghurt
Greek yogurt is packed with 18 grams of protein per 6-ounce serving. Though it’s creamy and seems indulgent, it contains just 100 calories per serving. Greek yogurt makes a great low-cal and low-fat substitute in recipes for mayo and sour cream.
4. Almond Meal
Almond meal is just another name for almond flour — finely ground, blanched almonds that you can sub in for refined all-purpose flour in recipes. You can easily substitute almond meal and oat flour in place of regular all-purpose flour to make homemade cookies and other baked goods. Switching to almond meal for in baked goods gives a boost of protein, fiber, and healthy fat. Almond meal works especially well in scones, muffins and biscotti.
5. Canned Olives
Canned olives have a long shelf life, they can be thrown into a variety of dishes, salads and pastas. What’s more is that they have heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Grab them out when you’re craving something salty; they will be much more satisfying than a fluffy cracker in your belly.
Canned sardines are a great sources of omega-3 fatty acids and calcium. Plus, when they have bones, they have more calcium than milk! You can eat them worry-free — fish, like sardines, that are smaller and low on the food chain have less mercury than larger species like tuna. Give sardines a rough chop and toss over a green salad.
Honey will last in your cupboard for years. And in addition to being a versatile sweetener, honey can serve as a hangover helper, cough soother and more. You can add honey in homemade marinades and salad dressings, or incorporate it into whole-grain baking. Whole wheat flour can be denser, but adding honey in place of regular sugar keeps things tender and moist. In recipes that call for sugar, substitute in an equal amount of honey and reduce baking temperature by 25 degrees.
8. Chia Seeds
This superfood is just one of those food that you really should try to incorporate in your diet. It has about 5 grams of fiber per tablespoon, and it’s got omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron. They’re also hydrophilic, meaning each seed swells up in the presence of water, absorbing several times its own weight in liquid. In your stomach, that translates to a long-lasting feeling of fullness. Stir a few tablespoons of the raw seeds into yogurt or soup, or sprinkle over salads. Chia also adds nice texture to smoothies, too.
Not only are beans inexpensive, they’re also a great source of protein and fiber. Keep beans of all kinds in your kitchen, such as — chickpeas, black beans, and white northern. Keep canned around for salsas and salads; dried to make larger servings that will last the week.
Oatmeal has staying power in the stomach — it’s high in soluble fiber, which has been proven to help lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, and is low in fat. Another surprising benefit is that oats have about 5 grams of protein per ½ cup — not too far from the 7 grams of protein found in one egg. Not into oatmeal for breakfast? Try the high-fiber whole grain for lunch, or even dinner.
Quinoa is a hearty whole grain that is provides a good source of energizing iron and B vitamins. For one cup of cooked quinoa, you get 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber for just 222 calories. Plus, it’s one of the speediest grains to cook; it’s ready in 15 minutes. Combine cooked quinoa with shredded chicken, chopped veggies, and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Or, eat quinoa hot as a substitute for oatmeal. Stir in almond milk, dried fruit, nuts, and drizzle with honey.
12. Bone Broth
Bone broth has minerals and amino acids — the building blocks of protein — that add value to any edible creation. Plus, its high concentration of gelatin may help to heal a leaky gut. Swap for chicken or beef broth in your favorite soup recipe, or use as a replacement for water when cooking grains like rice and quinoa. Some people also love to heat up some bone broth plain, and sip as a satisfying alternative to tea.
One egg contains six grams of belly-filling protein for only 70 calories. One study found that overweight women who ate egg breakfasts lost twice as much weight as women who started their days with bagels. To save time during a hectic work week, hard boil a bunch at the beginning of the week for an on-the-go breakfast or snack with a piece of cheese and fruit. Or, throw a fried egg on top of a rice-and-veggie bowl or a salad for an extra dose of protein. You could also try one of these high-protein breakfast recipes that feature eggs.
Most salsas are just 5 to 10 calories per tablespoon and can help you lighten up sauces, dips, and dressings without sacrificing anything in flavor. Try using salsa on top of salad in place of dressing. Salsa’s also a great way to reap the nutritional benefits of tomatoes, high in vitamin C and lycopene, when they’re not in season.
15. Sea Salt
Although the CDC recommends limiting your salt intake, excess sodium is often a problem in prepared and processed foods, not the foods you cook yourself. Sea salt contains a higher mineral content than regular table salt. Adding a sprinkle of salt to the foods you cook in your kitchen helps flavors pop. Use just like you would regular salt.
16. Tomato Paste
Tomato paste adds a great umami flavor, or a richness to food that you’re trying to keep low in calories and fat. Even better, tomatoes, particularly tomato paste, are bursting with cancer-fighting lycopene! Buy it in a can or in a squeeze tube and use it to add an extra layer of flavor to curries, sauces and stir-fries.
Bananas are economical, available all year, and supply a nice sweetness to foods like smoothies and plain yogurt without adding sugar. For a quick snack, smear a banana nut butter or top on whole grain toast. If your bananas are turning brown, freeze them and toss them in your food processor until smooth for banana “ice cream.”
18. Fresh Herbs
Packed with a surprising number of antioxidants in their little leaves, they add a wonderful flavor to any dish. Herbs also give new life when used on leftovers or make already-prepared foods taste homemade. Keep a variety of herbs around, including — cilantro, basil, mint and rosemary. To make sure they stay fresh, store in in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator or stuff the sprigs in a glass of water like a vase.
19. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate provides powerful disease-fighting polyphenols and has even been associated with weight loss. Dark chocolate is great to have an savor when you are hit with a chocolate craving. You can also use it as a surprise ingredient in sauces. For example, throw one square into a braising sauce for meat to elevate the flavor.
Garlic allows you to add flavor to your dishes quickly and easily without unhealthy fats or processed ingredients. To save time, you can buy the already peeled variety for fast chopping to add to soups, stews, sautés, stir-frys, and marinades.
21. Frozen Shrimps
Four large shrimp are only 30 calories and contain virtually no fat. Shrimp also offer up a hefty dose of protein. They are available peeled and deveined so you can easily defrost and incorporate them into last-minute weeknight meals. You can substitute meat for shrimp in dishes such as pasta, tacos, salads.
Mustard is packed with the immune-boosting mineral selenium and turmeric, a spice with cancer-fighting properties. Keep a couple different varieties in your refrigerator, such as, Dijon for salad dressings, sauces, marinades, and in a coating for breading chicken and pork; and Grain mustard for sandwiches.
23. Flavored Vinegar
This specialty ingredient is actually really versatile and heart healthy because they help open up your blood vessels to improve blood flow. Flavors like blackberry or strawberry balsamic can be drizzled to brighten the flavor of salads for few calories.
While lemon does not have any magical weight loss powers, using it as a flavor enhancer can certainly help your efforts. Lemon is an easy way to boost the flavor of drinks and dishes without adding any calories. Adding it to water may also encourage you to consume more water throughout the day in place of sugary, more artificial drinks, which has been found to assist with weight loss.
Tahini, which is made from sesame seeds, is great to have on hand to create nutrient-dense salad dressings, stir fry sauces, hummus, and marinades. Tahini is also very easy for your body to digest because of its high alkaline mineral content and, as a result, will help with weight loss. It’s also a great source of minerals like potassium and iron which can aid healthy muscle functioning and growth.
26. Ground Flax Seed
A tablespoon of ground flax seed is enough to start suppressing appetite and curb hunger in participants thanks to its fiber content. What’s great about ground flaxseed is that you can virtually add it to anything with little to effect on flavor. Pour a spoonful over oats, cereal, yogurt, salads and even into pasta or stir fry dishes.
27. Frozen Berries
Fresh fruit is great and all, but buying frozen allows you more freedom to eat at your convenience. Frozen fruit is easy to toss into smoothies, baked goods, breakfast cereal, oatmeal and can also be thawed out for a tangy salad topping.
28. Pumpkin Seeds
Raw pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of protein and fiber, which are key components to helping with weight loss. Spoon these crunchy little seeds over salads, into stir-fries and breakfast bowls, or eat them straight out of the bag for a surprisingly filling, diet-friendly snack.
Though this brightly hued spice is traditionally used in curries and mustards, its culinary use and nutritional benefits span far beyond its regular gig. Turmeric can be blended into smoothies, soups, rice and pasta dishes, marinades, eggs, hummus, and bean or lentil side dishes. It not only boosts flavor for zero calories, but this spice has also been found to have anti-inflammatory properties to help ease joint pain and stiffness in the body.
30. Miso Paste
Though you may get your annual dose of miso when you go out for Japanese, it could be worth stocking this paste in your home. Miso is an excellent source of iron, calcium, potassium and protein. However, miso, which is made from fermented soybeans, is most well-known for promoting a healthy gut. Beyond just soup, miso paste can be used as a condiment in place of butter on corn or toast.
Now you have an arsenal of healthy pantry items to fight your cravings, keep your weight in check by learning how to increase your metabolism.
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