Category Archives: Be A Picky Eater (Tips!)

Tips for Eating Healthy on Thanksgiving: Enjoy the holiday without ruining your diet!

The holidays are always my favorite time of the year – you get to take time off work, spend more time with family and friends, and of course – there’s the amazing food that goes along with it! J But for many people, especially those watching their weight, Thanksgiving can be a real challenge. Most people think they have to deprive themselves if they’re going to stay on their diet come Thanksgiving. That’s a myth! You can totally enjoy the wonderful Thanksgiving treats without depriving yourself – if you follow my 10 Tips for healthy eating on Thanksgiving. Hope they are helpful!

1) Don’t go to the Thanksgiving dinner hungry – eat normally all day! A lot of people starve themselves all day to “make room” for Thanksgiving dinner. DON’T do that! You’ll end up overeating like crazy during dinner and you’ll do more damage. During the day, eat small, light meals that keep you feeling satisfied (like fruit and low fat cottage cheese, and egg white omelet, a bowl of oatmeal with nuts, etc.).

2) Plan out your portion sizes – don’t plan to go back for seconds and don’t eat like this is your last meal on earth! First of all, there are always leftovers – so if you couldn’t get enough of those mashed potatoes, you can always take a bit home and eat it the next day. Remember – for all the “goodies” – it’s all about portion control! One taste of pie will not ruin your diet, but three slices will.  So, to avoid the pitfalls, plan to eat all the goodies that you enjoy – just eat them in moderation. For example: fill your plate ¾ with veggies, lean meat, and salad. The remaining ¼ of the plate you can fill with the fun stuff (mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc.). For dessert, I like to take tiny bite-sized portions of each of the options – that way I get to taste a little of everything but I don’t end up eating a 500 calorie slice of pecan pie!

3) Drink plenty of water, and stick to wine/beer over high-calorie cocktails. This one’s a no-brainer. What would you rather have – a 500 calorie cosmo, or a 500 calorie slice of pie? You do the math – to me, the dessert is more worth it J

4) Work out before the big meal! My husband and I usually like to go for a run on Thanksgiving morning. That way, even if we do overdo it a little bit, we have a couple hundred calories to play with on Thanksgiving day .

5) Turkey can be good for you! Just make sure you go skinless (takes away some of the fat/cholesterol), and make sure you go for the white meat – which is the best lean protein. And stick to a 4 oz portion (about the size of a deck of cards)

6) Veggies are definitely good for you Squashes, salad, green beans, potatoes – these are all are great side dishes that have tons of fiber and can fill up your plate without adding too many calories. BUT – sometimes these dishes can end up being calorie laden (e.g. mashed potatoes are usually made with butter & milk, green bean casserole is made with cream of mushroom soup, cheese, milk, and fried onions, and candied yams are loaded with cream, sugar, etc.) – so if you didn’t make the dish and you don’t know exactly how it was cooked, just eat a much smaller portion than you normally would.

7) If you are the Thanksgiving dinner chef, make healthy substitutions without losing any of the flavor! For example: For sweet potatoes, instead of cooking them with tons of sugar/cream, try sprinkling them with a tsp of honey and a bit of brown sugar, and bake them in the oven.  Make your own fresh cranberry sauce rather than using the high-sugar canned version. For stuffing, switch out white bread for whole wheat, or even substitute veggies for bread. For all recipes, substitute skim or 1% milk for whole milk or heavy cream, use light butter vs. regular butter, low fat cheese for regular cheese, 2 egg whites for one egg, low fat sour cream vs. regular… you get the picture J

8 ) Try going vegetarian! There are some really healthy, flavorful, Thanksgiving vegetarian dishes out there. Some of my favorite sources include: Cooking Light, Health.com, and the NY Times Food Section

9) If you do go “rogue” on Thanksgiving, restart your diet IMMEDIATELY the next day. Don’t use the fact that you went overboard one day as an excuse to completely ruin your diet. Create a plan for yourself to get back on track. Even if you ate 2000 calories during the Thanksgiving dinner, if you go back to eating healthy the next day, you won’t end up gaining 5 extra pounds from one meal.

10) Enjoy yourself! At the end of the day, Thanksgiving really is about being with friends and family and spending that time together. Don’t be so stressed out about the food that you aren’t able to enjoy the holiday! Stressing yourself out will only make you feel discouraged and will likely make you end up eating more. Just relax, and if you can’t remember all of these tips –just remember two things: Don’t go back for seconds and thirds, and eat everything in moderation! Happy Thanksgiving!!

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New Product Find: Food Should Taste Good Chips!

Recently, I was contacted by the wonderful team at Food Should Taste Good – asking if I’d try their chips and write up a review. After checking out their website and reading about their company – I was intrigued, and agreed to try a sampling of 5 flavors (they have 11 total): Cheddar, Blue Corn, Sweet Potato, Chocolate, and Multi Grain. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect (especially from the Chocolate flavored chip!), but I have to say – after me and my husband tried the chips, we were both very impressed. The chips really live up to the company’s motto: they all taste really GOOD 🙂 And the best part about them – they are super healthy! I’m always on the lookout for healthy product finds, and these chips are probably the healthiest chips I’ve ever come across!

Here are the stats:

Serving size: 9-12 HUGE chips. Seriously – each chip is like a large cracker – even if you broke them all in half, youd end up with good sized chips (so you could even say that you get 18-24 half sized chips in one serving!)

Calories: 140 per serving

Fiber: 3-4g!

Protein: 2-3g

The other great thing about these chips is you can pronounce ALL the ingredients. Each ingredient list is pretty short too – and they use great power-foods like quinoa, flax seeds, stone ground corn, high oleic sunflower oil, etc. Their chips are gluten-free, kosher, lactose free, trans fat free, low in sodium, cholesterol free, not genetically modified, contain no MSG, and have no preservatives! You’d think – with a list like that, that the chips would end up tasting like cardboard. Trust me – that is NOT the case. They are super crispy, have a wonderful nutty flavor, and for the varieties like Chocolate or Sweet Potato – the chips contain a nice subtle essence of those ingredients – enough to taste, but not too much that it overpowers the flavor. Food Should Taste Good has also come up with a bunch of accompaniments to their flavor varieties on their website, from Artichoke Spinach Dip with Multigrain, to a Fresh Fruit Salsa with Sweet Potato.

Out of the flavors they sent me, I have to say the Cheddar and Multi Grain are my favorites – but I haven’t tried all of them so there could be even more amazing ones out there! I really commend this company for helping to promote healthy foods but in a very tasty, flavorful way. My husband (who is very particular about what chips he likes) – loved these as well – so these aren’t just for the health nuts out there (like me 🙂 ). If these are available at your local grocery store, I’d definitely recommend checking them out! Thanks Food Should Taste Good – great job on making an amazing product!

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Tips for Healthy Eating At Weddings or Dining Out in General

This weekend, we went to Baltimore for our friends’ wedding – and it was an amazing weekend – filled with dancing, good food, and hanging out with good friends. One of the great things about weddings is the awesome food (and cake!) – but that generally also ends up being a diet pitfall for many people who are trying to watch what they eat. A few of our friends suggested I do a post on eating at weddings – to provide some tips on how to enjoy wedding food without breaking your diet. So here goes – tips for eating at weddings – The Picky Eater way! 🙂

So, let me start by saying that weddings are a time to enjoy yourself, have fun and not worry too much about your diet. If you’re the type of person who can have a day of “cheating” with no problems getting back to eating healthy, then my suggestion would just be to have fun at the wedding and resume your diet when you get back home. Even if you ate 3000 calories at the wedding (double the amount normally recommended for a grown adult), you’re not going to gain like 5 lbs just from that one day, especially if you eat much lighter the next day. But – if you’re the type of person who needs to stay on your diet, because if you go “rogue” and pig out at a wedding, you’re never going to return to eating vegetables again, then you might want to try some of my suggestions 🙂

Generally, I think there are three strategies you can use when eating out / eating at weddings:

1) The Small Portions / Picky Eater strategy (recommended for people who don’t want to go off their diet, but still want to indulge and enjoy a bit – I generally eat this way when I go to weddings). You can also use this strategy when you go out to dinner and don’t want to break your diet!

The key here is “a little bit” – those three words will be your favorite words when navigating the wedding buffet or eating the plated dinner. Take a look at this post on Portion Sizes for a bit more guidance on what “a little bit” means. But generally, think of it as little tastes from the buffet, or 1/2 the portion you’re served in a plated dinner.

Other helpful guidelines:

  • Look for healthy items during cocktail hour. Oftentimes people will put out veggies and dip, fruit, nuts, cheese, etc. If you take a ton of the veggies and fruit, complement them with a tablespoon of dip, and 1-2 cubes of cheese, you’ll walk into the reception feeling pretty full and likely won’t feel the need to pig out at the buffet
  • Avoid things that are deep fried, breaded, regular soda (if you want soda – go for the diet version – it has zero calories!), or anything in a cream sauce (salads, pastas, this goes for soup too – creamy soups pack almost double the calories of broth-based soups!). Again – if you want any of these things, try the “little bit” strategy 🙂 1-2 bites of anything isn’t going to break your diet!
  • For salads, take off the croutons – they randomly have tons of calories and fat
  • If there is a bread basket, don’t eat more than 1 roll or 1 slice – each one is about 150 calories at the very least! Think of it this way – if you had a choice between a bread roll now or the cake at the end… which one would you choose? 🙂
  • Beer and wine generally have fewer calories than mixed drinks (which can run up to 500-1000 calories depending on what’s in them!)
  • For dessert, share. That way you won’t end up eating the entire piece of cake yourself. Most buffets will also have fruit options or lighter fare for dessert which you should definitely go for. You can also use the “little bit” strategy with the cake – take a few bites and savor them – if you don’t eat those few bites mindlessly, you might find that your sweet craving has been satisfied without downing the entire slice!

2) The Going Rogue / Detox strategy (recommended for people who can easily discipline themselves the day after the wedding to detox and get back to eating healthy).

This strategy is simple – eat what you want on the day of the wedding, but the day after the wedding – do a complete detox. This doesn’t mean starve yourself by any means. Detox guidelines (note – this is JUST for the day after you get back from the wedding – it’ll revitalize your system and make you feel lighter/healthier!):

  • Eat whole foods. Don’t eat anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce or don’t understand
  • Eat tons of fresh fruits and veggies – you can have as much of these as you like 🙂
  • Eat whole grains (oatmeal, whole wheat bread, quinoa are some of my favorites)
  • Drink lots of water (no sodas, sugary juices, etc)
  • No desserts – 1 small piece of dark chocolate (70% cacao is a good choice) is probably ok though 🙂
  • For protein, try to stay away from meat – focus on dairy (1% milk, fat free yogurt, low fat cheese), tofu, 1/4 cup of almonds or walnuts, etc.
  • Minimize your intake of oils, fats, etc. (so basically, no french fries)

3) The Complete Avoidance strategy (which I wouldn’t recommend because honestly it’s not that much fun, but if you’re the type of person who can’t even have a taste of a cupcake without wanting to eat 5 of them, this strategy will probably work best for you). There aren’t really guidelines here – except that you’d basically stay away from all of the unhealthy foods (all desserts, anything fried, anything made with cream, any entree where the oil is visible or pools out in the sauce, etc.) If you did use this strategy, you’d probably have to bring a few snacks from home in order to supplement your meals throughout the day like fresh fruits, nuts, Lara Bars, etc. otherwise you’d starve!

Phew! I think that’s it 🙂 Hopefully these tips are helpful in navigating the world of wedding food – but remember, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself and have fun!!

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Healthy & Easy Meals: Great for College Students or Busy Professionals!

Earlier this week, I got a comment from Monica – she’s a college student and doesn’t have much time, but wanted some easy, healthy recipes that she could use during the week. I thought it was a great question – and would apply to anyone who is super busy and just doesn’t have more than 15 minutes to spend in the kitchen. So here are 5 simple, healthy recipes: one for each night of the week — and you only need to buy 5 vegetables in order to make them! You can just use the same veggies in different ways throughout the week, the rest of the ingredients should be pantry staples that you have on hand. The other great thing is that each of these meals is super balanced with veggies, whole grains and protein, and none of them should run you over ~400 calories. Enjoy!

The Secret: Cut all the veggies when you buy them or have extra time (like on a Sunday). That way, when it comes to actually making the weeknight meals, all you have to do is throw the ingredients together and you’ll be done in under 15 minutes!

So here are the 5 veggies you need:

  1. Bell peppers – any color will do – just get your favorite (red/yellow/green/orange – they’re all good!)
  2. Tomatoes – I like roma tomatoes the best, but again just get your favorite
  3. Baby spinach, pre washed & bagged
  4. Garlic
  5. Red Onion

Monday – Egg White Scramble and Toast


Ingredients you will need:

  • Bell peppers, red onion, spinach, tomatoes (chopped)
  • 3 egg whites (note: you can add a pinch of the yellow of one of the eggs if you like the flavor)
  • 1-3 tsp 1% milk
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Whole Wheat bread
  • Ketchup or other condiments that you like with your eggs

Directions:

  1. Heat a large non-stick frying pan to a setting just above medium.
  2. In large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and salt. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Add veggies to the mixture.
  3. Spray the pan with cooking spray. Add the eggs mixture to the pan. Do not stir immediately. Wait until the first hint of setting begins. Start the Martha Stewart scrambling technique (“Using a spatula or a flat wooden spoon, push eggs toward center while tilting skillet to distribute runny parts.”)
  4. Continue this motion as the eggs continue to set. Break apart large pieces as they form with your spoon or spatula. You will come to a point where the push-to-center technique is no longer cooking runny parts of the egg. Flip over all the eggs. Allow the eggs to cook 15 to 25 seconds longer. Transfer eggs to serving plates. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with ketchup and two slices whole wheat toast.

Tuesday – Veggie Quesadillas with Refried (or whole) Black Beans


Ingredients:

  • Bell peppers, red onion, spinach, tomatoes (chopped)
  • Low fat shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • Refried black beans or whole black beans
  • Taco seasoning
  • Cooking spray
  • High fiber tortillas (either whole wheat or Mission low carb tortillas will do – each one should have ~120 calories and over 3g fiber)
  • Salsa

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a small pan, heat beans over medium heat. Add taco seasoning to beans, stir until mixed through and heat for about 5 min until beans are cooked through.
  3. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Lay tortillas out on the baking sheet. On each tortilla, spread 1/4 cup refried beans (or whole beans), 2-3 Tbsp cheese, and veggies.
  4. Fold tortillas over, and broil on low for 10 minutes or until tortillas are browned and crispy on top. Serve with salsa & enjoy!

Wednesday – Quick Pita Pizzas


Ingredients:

  • Bell peppers, red onion, spinach, tomatoes, garlic (chopped)
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Whole wheat pita pockets
  • Shredded cheese (fontina, parmesan, mozarella – just get your favorite – any one will do!)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • On each pita pocket, spread pizza sauce, garlic, veggies, and 1/4 cup cheese (max) on top.
  • Broil in the oven for 5-10 min or until pita pockets are toasted through and cheese is melted & bubbling.

Thursday – Healthy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches


Ingredients

  • Whole wheat bread (I like Oroweat Double Fiber bread)
  • Tomatoes, Onions, Spinach, Garlic – chopped
  • Your favorite cheese – I like Fontina or a Mild Cheddar
  • Ketchup
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Heat a pan over medium high heat (or if you have a grill pan/panini press – warm that up)
  2. Layer one slice of bread with a couple thin slices of cheese (shouldn’t be more than 1oz)
  3. Top with healthy serving of all veggies, salt & pepper and the second slice of bread (make the sandwich!)
  4. Spray pan / grill pan / panini press with cooking spray
  5. Grill on both sides until crispy and cheese is melted. Serve with ketchup!

Friday – Asian Stir Fry


Ingredients

  • Bell peppers, red onion, spinach, tomatoes, garlic (chopped)
  • Soy sauce or bottled Thai Red Curry Sauce
  • Tofu
  • Cooking Spray
  • Minute brown rice

Directions

  1. Cook brown rice according to package directions, set aside
  2. Heat a pan over medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray
  3. Saute tofu in the pan with soy sauce until lightly crispy on the outside. Set aside.
  4. Saute veggies and garlic until tender, add soy sauce half way through cooking. Add tofu back to the pan, add 1/4 cup of thai red curry sauce (or other low calorie asian sauce) if you like – towards the end of cooking
  5. Serve with brown rice.

Thanks Monica for a great comment that inspired this post! And a quick note for you: For an easy Indian Meal – check out this recipe – super easy Channa Masala that will taste great!

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Healthy Snacks Part 2: How to avoid reaching for the junk food!

So – it’s 4pm, or midnight, or 10am … or whatever your usual snacking time is, and that usual craving comes upon you. I really want… chocolate… cookies… chips…. candy….soda. Sound familiar? 🙂

When I wrote my last post – My Top 10 Healthy Snacks – I got a great comment from Marisa on being “guilty” of reaching for the “bad stuff” instead. She brought up a good point – it’s much easier to know what’s healthy to eat than to actually eat it! She inspired me to write this post – here are a few of my tips on how to avoid reaching for the “bad stuff” and make it more of a habit to reach for the good stuff!

1) Distract yourself. Go for a short walk, take a bathroom break, pick up the phone and call a friend, or start talking to a coworker. If you really aren’t hungry and were just bored – this will take care of the need to snack!

2) Only keep healthy snacks near you. Laziness can be quite a powerful tool when it comes to avoiding unhealthy food. If the cookies (or other unhealthy snacks) aren’t at your desk, but an apple is – you’re more likely to reach for the apple than to go looking for the cookies. Extend this principle to your home – avoid keeping junk food in your house – and don’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry! You’ll be much less likely to make bad choices if you aren’t hungry when you’re shopping for food.

3) Chew Gum (or a mint). Chewing gum will make you feel like you’re snacking when you really aren’t, and the mint taste will leave your mouth feeling refreshed and you’ll be less likely to want to chow down right after (think about it – right after you brush your teeth, do you feel like eating?)

4) Drink water or tea. A lot of times, people mistake hunger for thirst. A rule of thumb should be – when you feel the need to snack, drink a glass of water instead. If you’re still hungry 5-10 min later, try to reach for a healthy snack!

5) Allow yourself to indulge once in a while. Cutting out junk food altogether is not the answer. Everything in moderation! Also – if you let yourself indulge in small portions occasionally, then you won’t feel totally deprived of junk food and will be less likely to binge on it later.

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My Top 10 Healthy Snacks

I often get asked what kinds of foods I eat in order to maintain my weight. A lot of those questions are about snacking – especially for those of us who have desk jobs and without-fail, get the “munchies” around 3 or 4pm! So I thought I’d put together a list of my top 10 healthy snacks – those that I eat on a regular basis that are filling, tasty but still healthy and low in calories. My general rule for snacking is I try to eat whole foods – so I stay away from most packaged goods if I can help it. But I am including a few of my favorite packaged goodies in the list below for those emergency situations! 🙂 Hope this is helpful to all of you!

Top 10 Healthy Snacks

1) FRUIT! Fruit is an awesome snack – and it’s available year round! Most fruits are high in fiber, sweet, tasty, and filling. In the Fall, I go for Fuji Apples, Grapes and Bosc Pears (but any Pear will do!). In the Winter, I go for Oranges (I love blood oranges), Apples, Tangerines, Bananas (but be careful – one banana can have up to 130 calories). Spring and Summer are awesome, because there are so many options! My favorites for Spring/Summer are: Apricots, Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Grapes, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, and Stone Fruits like Peaches, Plums, Nectarines, Pluots (which is a Plum/Apricot hybrid that is usually sweeter than a Plum).

2) Raw Veggies with Hummus (or other healthy ) Dip: Carrot sticks, celery sticks, Raw broccoli, etc are all good options. I like to eat them with 2-3 Tbsp Hummus. But you can also eat them with Laughing cow cheese, or fat free dressing (~25-35 calories per serving).

3) Non-Fat Yogurt with 1/4 cup Fiber One or All Bran Cereal: This is a great snack and very filling. The yogurt gives you lots of protein and the fiber one has (of course) fiber, and is only about 30 calories for 1/4 cup! I like Fage 0% Greek Yogurt – which is only 90 calories but packs over 10g protein! You can sweeten the yogurt with a bit of splenda or sugar free preserves, or honey (but don’t go overboard with the honey – 1 Tbsp has about 60 calories!). By the way – one trap a lot of people fall into is topping their yogurt with Granola. Granola (though it sounds healthy) is actually FULL of sugar and calories. 1/4 cup can have up to 100-150 calories!

4) Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds: Yeah, yeah, I know these are kind of a dessert. But dark chocolate (make sure you get the kind that’s like 70% cacao) is full of antioxidants, and almonds are full of fiber and protein! These also satisfy a sweet tooth really well 🙂 Just make sure you read the label and don’t take more than 100-150 calories (which is probably about 4-7 almonds depending on their size)

5) Nuts and Dried Fruit: The key here, is to make sure the nuts you buy are just that – nuts. The package should have one ingredient (maybe two if they roast the nuts with salt). My favorites are Almonds, Walnuts and Cashews. The same rule applies for dried fruit – there shouldn’t be any added sugars or oils on the packaging. I like raisins, dried blueberries and dried cranberries. The one trap people fall into with nuts and dried fruit is they take too much – and end up eating like 500 calories. 1/4 cup of almonds is about 150-170 calories (applicable for most nuts). So I’d aim for about 2 Tbsp nuts and 2 Tbsp dried fruits. That should be filling enough to hold you over until your next meal! 🙂

6) 100 Calorie Packs: So this is one of my packaged snacks on the list – 100 calorie packs! These are great because they are already portioned out – and it feels like you’re eating a lot when you get to finish the bag. The other great thing is – they come in like 1,000 different varieties now. They even have 100 calorie pack hostess cupcakes! So pick your favorite, and enjoy!

7) 1 Slice of Oroweat Double Fiber Bread (toasted) with 1 Garlic Laughing Cow Cheese Wedge: The great thing about this bread, is it has like 7g fiber and only 70 calories per slice! The Laughing cow cheese wedges are only 30 calories per wedge, and one is more than enough to spread over a slice of bread. I like to toast the bread so it’s crispy, and spread on the cheese while the bread is hot so the cheese gets nice and melty 🙂 100 calories and a great snack!

8 ) Pretzels, PopChips, All Bran Fiber Crackers (only take about 100 calories worth – for the Fiber Crackers, that’s about 10 of them): This is a good snack if you want something crispy, salty, but you don’t want to eat a bag of potato chips. By the way – PopChips taste a lot like potato chips but are much healthier! These are also all good packaged snack options when you’re on the run.

9) Tea and a 2/3 cup of Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal: When I’m sort of hungry, but not really hungry – I’ll usually make myself a nice cup of hot tea (black tea with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, splenda, and 1/4 cup of nonfat milk is my favorite). If I want something to munch on, I’ll take a handful of Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal – and depending on how big a handful I take – that’ll end up being ~50 calories.

10) Protein Bars: My favorites are Clif Bars, Lara Bars, and Luna Bars. They all have > 4g fiber; about ~200 calories; and at least 5-6g protein. My favorite flavors for Clif are: Chocolate Peanut, Chocolate Brownie, White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Oatmeal Raisin. My favorite Lara Bar flavors are Cashew Cookie and Peanut Butter Cookie. My favorite Luna Bar Flavors are Nutz over Chocolate, S’mores, Caramel Nut Brownie.

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Items for a Healthy Pantry!

Hi Everyone! So this weekend, while I was looking for some healthy 4th of July meals to prepare, I came across this article on the Food Network’s Website. The article was entitled “The Healthy Pantry” – and I thought it was super helpful in outlining those staples that are “must haves” when creating a healthy meal. The full list is here – and my favorites / additions / modifications (and little explanations of why they’re good items to have) are below. Enjoy!

1) Oils, Vinegars & Condiments


  • Extra-virgin olive oil (Adds great flavor for cooking, perfect for salad dressing, and has tons of healthy fats and antioxidants)
  • Butter made with healthy Omega 3s (e.g. Smart Balance)
  • Balsamic Vinegar (the link has a full list of other vinegars that are good for cooking)
  • Dijon mustard
  • Ketchup (A great low cal way to spice up burgers and sandwiches)
  • Barbecue sauce (Make sure you get one that is super low in sugar – around 45 calories for 2 Tbsp)
  • Reduced-fat / fat-free mayonnaise (Trader Joe’s has a great “vegan mayo” that’s made from healthy oils instead of eggs. It tastes great – really close to regular mayo – and is way better for you!)
  • Reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • Prepared pesto (This is an item on the Food Network list that I would actually suggest not having. Prepared pesto is often very high in fat and preservatives. I’d suggest making your own or buying it fresh from a store like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods)
  • Salsa (Pace Picante or fresh pico de gallo is my favorite)
  • Hot sauce
  • If you’re into salad dressings – make sure to get fat free / low calorie versions of the original – e.g. Kraft Light or Hidden Valley Fat Free)
  • Real maple syrup (Be sure to avoid the sugary syrups like Mrs. Butterworth’s “syrup” that you can find at your local grocery store – those don’t provide any of the antioxidant health benefits that real maple syrup has, and they are often super high in sugar)
  • Fresh fruit preserves (Better than Smucker’s Jelly because they contain real fruit!)
  • Pizza Sauce (Make sure you get one that is low in sugar – Trader Joe’s has a great organic pizza sauce that’s super flavorful and low in calories/sugar)

2) Seasonings


  • Salt (Sea salt is better than regular salt because it’s less refined and has more minerals – but it is also less salty so you have to account for that in recipes)
  • Black pepper (Freshly ground is my favorite)
  • Dried herbs and spices: ground cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder, crushed red pepper, rosemary, thyme leaves, oregano, Italian seasoning blend, tarragon leaves, ground cinnamon, ground ginger
  • Vanilla extract

3) Canned Goods & Bottle Items


  • Canned tomatoes (crushed with italian seasonings are great for sauces), tomato paste
  • Reduced-sodium broths
  • Canned beans: cannellini, kidney, chickpeas (garbanzo beans) — I’d also add black beans and pinto beans to the list!
  • Canned lentils
  • Low calorie canned soups: Amy’s has a great variety of soups; also Trader Joe’s has a few that I love: Organic Tomato Bisque; Split Pea; Black Bean — tons of fiber, great tasting and high in protein
  • Fat free refried beans (Look for the vegetarian versions – I like refried black beans from Rosarita the best)
  • Chunk light tuna and salmon

4) Grains & Legumes


  • Assorted whole-wheat pasta
  • Regular and instant brown rice
  • Whole-wheat couscous
  • Quinoa – this isn’t on the Food Network list but I’d strongly recommend it – the only grain that’s a complete protein
  • Regular and quick-cooking barley
  • Bulgur
  • Rolled oats – steel cut oats are also great.
  • Dried lentils
  • For breads, I like Orowheat’s Double Fiber bread for sandwiches; Orowheat 100% Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns for burgers; Thomas’ Whole wheat bagel thins; Thomas’ Light english muffins, High fiber whole wheat pita bread; Mission carb balance tortillas  – all of these can be frozen if you don’t use them up right away – they freeze really well and taste exactly the same after being heated in a toaster oven!

5) Baking Products


  • Whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour. (Store in the refrigerator or freezer.)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Unprocessed wheat bran
  • Quick-rising yeast
  • Cornstarch
  • Brown sugar
  • Granulated sugar – I like the organic cane sugar from Trader Joe’s
  • Honey
  • Splenda or Stevia (if you’re into artificial sweeteners, these are the best)

6) Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit


  • Walnuts, pecans, sesame seeds, almonds – I’d also add cashews and sunflower seeds if you like them – they are a great source of vitamins and you can also use cashews as a substitute for cream in many dishes!
  • Dried apricots, dates, cranberries, raisins
  • Peanut butter (natural) – the only ingredient should be ground peanuts

7) Refrigerator Basics


  • 1% or skim milk
  • Reduced-fat sour cream (I’d go with fat free here – you can’t taste the difference!)
  • Fruit juice – make sure you don’t get juice that’s mostly sugar
  • Large eggs – Organic, free range eggs are the best – and if you can find omega 3 yolks that’s even better! Try using only egg whites in your omelettes/fritattas/etc – you’ll get all of the protein with none of the fat
  • Cheese: sharp Cheddar, feta, Parmesan, mozzarella (fat free feta crumbles are super low calorie and taste great… but for the other cheeses I’d go with the full fat versions)
  • For cream cheese – I’d suggest using Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges – much lower in calories and still has the great creamy taste
  • Nonfat or light vanilla yogurt – Greek yogurt is your best option here – nonfat version is still super creamy and packs up to 15g of protein!

8 ) Freezer Basics


  • Frozen fruit — frozen berries are the best – super high in fiber, and freeze really well
  • Frozen vegetables: edamame (soybeans), broccoli, corn, bell pepper-and-onion mix, peas, spinach
  • Low-fat ice cream, frozen yogurt and/or sorbet (should be around 100-120 calories per half cup)
  • Frozen cheese ravioli or tortellini — this is ok – but if you have time to get the fresh versions and freeze them I’d suggest doing that instead

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