Wednesday, February 20, 2013

5 Foods to Always Have on Hand

As hard as we try, sometimes we just run out of time to meal plan. To make sure you can throw together something quick and healthy even when the pantry is bare, here are 5 shelf-stable foods to always have on hand. Buy them in bulk; stock up. With these, you'll be good to go regardless of what meal it is.

1. Quinoa
Besides being quick and easy to make, this grain doubles as a great protein source at 8 grams per cup (as much as 1 cup of milk). Toss in some dried fruit or cooked veggies with nuts and you have a nice meal for lunch or dinner.

2. Frozen veggies
While fresh veggies are great, the nutrient content isn't necessarily highest when compared to frozen or canned. Frozen veggies are frozen right after they are picked, sealing in the nutrients. Fresh veggies, on the other hand, may have been shipped across the country over a period of days, resulting in much of the nutrients being lost. Choose frozen veggies that are not in sauces and the darker the better. Try frozen spinach, carrots, peppers, or broccoli. Toss into pastas or...quinoa perhaps? And don't be fooled by the steam-in-a-bag kinds. Any frozen vegetable can be heated up in the microwave just as fast - though clearly in a bowl instead of the bag.

3. Canned or frozen fruit
Along the same lines as the veggies, frozen or canned fruit might actually be higher in nutrient content. The trick with canned fruit is to buy fruit in its own juice and drain the can before consuming. When you run out of fresh, frozen or canned is a nice emergency back-up that is still high in nutrients. One downside with canned fruits is less fiber, as most are peeled before they are canned. So, be sure to choose frozen or fresh some of the time.

4. Olive or canola oil
There is so much you can do with oils - in baking and cooking. They are a great source of energy when you don't have much on hand and help make the meal more satisfying. Making that quinoa and veggies I talked about? Toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil for a great flavor.

5. Nuts and nut butters
Well, I know technically this is two items, but I suppose I'll cheat on this one. Nuts and nut butters are a great, quick source of energy including protein and healthy fats. Buy nuts in bulk and store the extra in the freezer to lengthen the life of the nut. Look for nut butters whose ingredients are only the nut itself (no salt, sugar, preservatives, etc.) to get the best nutrition. When in a pinch, PBJs are still a great go-to and nuts can be combined with anything listed thus far for added crunch, flavor and satisfaction.

Be Extraordinary,


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