Stocking a Healthy Pantry By Megan Roosevelt, RDN and Founder of HealthyGroceryGirl.com A well stocked pantry is key for whipping up healthy meals fast. In today’s post I am sharing how to organize and stock a pantry that will make mealtime easier and more enjoyable! My pantry motto: keep it simple, organized & filled with foods you truly love! Below are some of my favorite pantry items and a few I recommend avoiding! Items to Stock: Beans 2016 was the International Year of Pulses! What are pulses you ask? Pulse is the term used around the world for beans, peas & legumes. Pulses are packed with protein, are low in fat, extremely versatile and low in cost. Beans or “pulses” are a must-have healthy pantry staple. I like to keep my pantry well stocked with uncooked beans (because they are truly inexpensive!) and a variety of BPA-free canned beans. Organic, unsalted BPA-free canned beans are a great way to make a soup or salad within minutes! Grains A inexpensive and healthy whole food staple are grains. My favorites are brown rice, quinoa and oats. Grains are easy to cook, low in fat & packed with soluble fiber that helps you feel full longer, keeps you ‘regular’ as well as helps pull cholesterol from your body. Spice If you find your healthy homemade food to be a little bland compared to restaurant or processed foods, a great way to step up the flavor without adding more salt or sugar, is with spices. If you are new to using spices, start small, buy just a few and in reasonable quantities as most spices lose their flavor and or nutritional value in 1-2 years. Some of my favorite spices that are incredibly versatile include cinnamon, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin, curry powder and an Italian seasoning blend. With these spices and a pinch of sea salt you can open up a whole new world of flavor in your dishes! Convenience Items: Fresh is always best, but it is not always realistic! A few of the packaged items I keep stocked in my pantry include glass jars of crushed or fire roasted tomatoes, canned beans, lentil pasta, Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder, snack or Protein Bars such as Orgain’s and a variety of nut butters. Always read the label for how to best store packaged foods. Some natural nut butters, for example, are best stored in the refrigerator. Items to Avoid: Reading ingredients lists is the number one tip I recommend people do to ensure they are consuming quality options. Below are a list of ingredients I recommend avoiding! Artificial Sweeteners Artificial sweeteners are common in sugar-free drinks or drink mixes. Artificial Sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin can lower good gut bacteria, hindering our immune health and digestive health. Artificial sweeteners also trick our taste buds being that most are 600 times sweeter than natural sugar. This makes it more difficult to enjoy the natural sweetness of real whole-foods such as the natural sweetness of a strawberry. Genetically Modified Soy Protein Did you know that 93 percent of soy in America is genetically modified? Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. While health consequences of GMOs are controversial, there is a growing body of evidence and concern for their effect on our health and food system. Soy protein is a common ingredient in so many foods these days, so always read your ingredient lists. Hydrogenated Oils or “Trans Fats” This type of man made fat is commonly found in nut butters and is a popular additive in so many foods! Even if your food package says “Trans Fat Free”, read the ingredient list. The FDA allows nutrition facts to be labeled "0 grams of trans fats" if there are less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving. Do you see the words "hydrogenated oils" in your ingredient list? If so, than your nut butter contains this man made fat. Trans fats can raise your "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, and also lower your "good" HDL cholesterol levels, contributing to heart disease. Monosodium Glutamate or MSG This ingredient is commonly found in soups, salad dressings and condiments. MSG is a flavor enhancer and has been known to stimulate appetite and disengage the “I’m full” factor. Remember: A healthy diet is actually not about dieting or deprivation! Simply do your best to stock your pantry with wholesome, nourishing foods that you enjoy eating!