What’s in Your Pantry?

by Anne Bennett on January 19, 2010

Are the staples in your kitchen helping or hurting your weight loss efforts?

If you’re serious about losing weight and keeping it off this year, one of your first steps should be to take stock of what you’ve got in your kitchen right now. If there are lots of processed foods tucked away, (and let’s face it, you know there are!) you need to toss most of them out. I say most, because if you go cold-turkey on all convenience foods, you’ll end up feeling like you’re on a “diet”, and you’ll be grabbing for the Valentine candy as soon as it hits the store shelves.

To be successful at becoming a more healthful eater, your best bet is to make small changes over time so that you, and your family, won’t feel deprived.

And here’s an excellent place to start: go through your kitchen and get rid of almost all the foods that have high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in them. You’ll be surprised at how many you’ll find too: everything from bread to ketchup.

Make a pact with yourself that from now on you’ll look at the ingredient list of all the foods you buy and NOT buy anything with HFCS if you can help it. Why? Because it’s a cheap, nutritionally worthless food additive that’s helping to make us fat.

Besides, now there are plenty of products without it. You’ll even notice labels that proudly tout, “No High Fructose Corn Syrup” on them. It’s become a badge of honor for a product to claim that it’s HFCS-free. Think about it, do you want to eat something that’s so cheap, food manufacturers are proud to say they don’t use it? I’ll answer that for you–no.

They're so proud that they're HFCS-free, they've even highlighted the word "Never"!

They're so proud that their bread is HFCS-free, they've even highlighted the word "Never"!

I’ll be honest, I’m no food purist. I still succumb to foods that have a multi-year shelf life (one of the few benefits of HFCS). But I’ve cut down on their presence in my kitchen so that my exposure to them is minimal. If junk food isn’t there, I’m certainly less likely to crave it. It’s also much easier for me to select a healthy food when there’s little else to choose from.

So consider re-stocking your kitchen. Below is a partial list of what I’ve got on hand right now.  In a very few minutes I can put together a healthy meal with what I’ve got in the pantry, fridge and freezer. In these busy times, that’s what we want, and need.

Refrigerator staples:

Milk (fat-free & low-fat)
Orange juice
Eggs (I buy the Omega-3 eggs. They’re worth the extra cost)
Real Parmesan cheese (Buy the real thing in a block, not pre-grated, & wrap it in foil)
Plain yogurt (the best is homemade; see recipe under “Breakfast/Brunch”)
White wine

Freezer staples:
Vegetables (C & W Brand peas, corn, mixed vegetables, spinach)
Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless; try to buy natural)
Shrimp (I buy large when they’re on sale)
Ground turkey (Honeysuckle White 97% lean)
Fish (Tilapia filets individually sealed & frozen)
Whole wheat bread/Oroweat Sandwich Thins (stays fresh longer in the freezer)
Whole wheat dinner rolls (for salad and/or soup dinners; freeze & defrost & crisp in a warm oven)

Fresh produce:
Green vegetables (I try to keep several in the vegetable crisper at all times, such as broccoli, spinach, bell peppers, celery, all of which keep well for several days)
Onions and garlic (Always on hand)
Fruit (Always bananas & apples; pears, oranges, grapes, berries when they’re in season)

Canned Foods:
Diced tomatoes (Muir Glen Organic, in two sizes, 14 1/2 oz. and 28 oz.)
Rotel tomatoes and chilies
Low-sodium chicken broth (canned and the larger 24 oz. cartons)
Beans (Cannellini, dark red kidney and black beans)
Tuna

Grains:
Pasta (Both whole grain and regular; penne is my favorite)
Brown rice (I cook it in a rice cooker; couldn’t be easier)
Oats (Old fashioned and Steel cut)

Dried fruit and nuts:
Almonds, pecans, walnuts (keep well in the refrigerator or freezer)
Dry roasted peanuts
Peanut Butter
Raisins
Dried Cranberries

Oils, Vinegars, Condiments:
Extra virgin olive oil (Kirkland brand it at Costco)
Balsamic vinegar (Kirkland brand is great and it’s made in Modena, Italy)
Dijon mustard (Grey Poupon is widely available and excellent)
Reduced-sodium soy sauce (Kikkoman)
Light mayonnaise (Hellmann’s or Best Foods, but don’t buy fat-free)
Salsa (Pace Chunky)
Hot sauce (Frank’s Hot Sauce)
Olives (pitted Kalamatas, get them at the olive bar if you can)
Capers

Seasonings:
Dried herbs and spices (Penzey’s)
Kosher Salt (Diamond Crystal brand, Penzey’s)
Whole peppercorns (for the grinder)

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