We’re all busy, so making healthy choices with the many activities that stake claims to our time can be a challenge.
We’re told to exercise, get enough sleep, eat healthy and minimize stress. With all the responsibilities we have, attempting to do all that can be daunting, but it can be done. The trick to conquering these key areas of health is to focus on one area at a time. Right now, we’re going to focus on healthy eating — specifically, building a healthy “starter” pantry specifically for people who are busy because of family, career or both.
A proper diet plays a vital role in preventing a host of issues, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Healthy eating can also give you more energy and help to keep your body strong, so that you don’t get sick as often or for as long. But, in order to eat healthy, you need to have the right food available when you prepare meals — which is why stocking a healthy pantry is so important.
While there are many foods that are essential to a healthy diet, there are a few healthy pantry staples that you should keep on hand as the cornerstones of your meals. Here are the top five items I keep stocked in my “healthy eating pantry” (and refrigerator!)
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest oils you can use. It is very high in monounsaturated fat and has been linked to lowering cholesterol levels. According to some researchers, it might have even more heart healthy benefits than regular olive oil. So, try to substitute extra virgin olive oil for butter or margarine.
Beans provide a multitude of nutrients and antioxidants that can help lower cholesterol, fight infections and diseases and may even lower the risk of certain types of cancer. Beans are also a great, low fat food that contain no cholesterol, little fat (except soybeans which are high in unsaturated fat) and have a low glycemic index. That makes beans a great choice if you are diabetic or trying to lose weight. So, try incorporating beans into your meals. Not only are they tasty, but they are also very filling. And because dried beans have a long shelf-life, there’s no excuse for not keeping some around in your healthy pantry!
Whole grains are a better source of fiber than refined grains, because their bran and germ haven’t been removed. Millet, buckwheat, oatmeal, and quinoa are some wonderful grains that are low in fat, high in protein and fiber and full of vitamins and minerals. So, eat brown rice instead of white rice and go for whole wheat bread instead of white bread.
Teas come in many varieties, but the true teas all come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The most popular of these include white, green, oolong and black teas. These teas are full of potent antioxidants that may help prevent certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and impaired immune function. As an ultra low calorie drink, usually between 0-3 calories a cup, they are also a great substitute for sodas, coffee and energy drinks. As long as you don’t load them up with milk and sugar, they are a much healthier alternative.
Okay, you’re not literally going to keep most fruits and vegetables in your healthy pantry (except maybe the dried ones), but fruits and vegetables are an important part of every meal. They are a great source of antioxidants and phytochemicals. They are also high in fiber, low in calories, full of vitamins and minerals and very filling. So, definitely keep some around and incorporate them into all your meals.
Diet plays such an important role in overall health. Unfortunately, our lives are ultra busy with work, family duties or both. Often we just eat whatever we have in the house. That’s why it is so important to keep these healthy items stocked in your healthy pantry. If you don’t have them, you will eat other less healthy items. So, make sure your kitchen is packed with the necessary items to help you to eat healthy. Your body will thank you for it!