Want to know if you are making the best food choices for you and your family? Take an honest look at the staple items you keep in your house. Start with the pantry. Are sugary cereals, potato chips, crackers (made with enriched white flour), soda and cookies staples in your home? Look in your freezer – is it packed with high-sodium packaged frozen meals and pizzas, French fries, and ice cream? If so, it may be time to do a staple make-over and substitute some of these foods for more nutrient-dense (full of nutrition) ones.
Fresh Food Staples: Veggies: pre-washed romaine, spring mix, salad, broccoli slaw, shredded cabbage, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, raw cauliflower and raw broccoli, grape tomatoes, sweet potatoes (great for baked fries or pop them in the microwave for an easy side or snack). Fresh fruit: bananas (when they get too ripe, peel and and put them in a freezer bag for smoothies), apples, oranges, berries, pears, pears and kiwi. Greek yogurt, part-skim mozzarella string cheese, Babybel cheese, low-fat cottage cheese.
Freezer Staples: Frozen fruit such as mango, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries. Frozen veggies such as broccoli, petite peas, edamame in its pod (these can be steamed for a quick snack), pre-chopped onion (for easier, quicker meal prep). Homemade frozen soups, homemade leftovers, boneless skinless chicken breasts, wild-caught salmon or shrimp, whole wheat bread, or whole wheat pizza crusts.
Pantry Staples: Canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, peaches, and pears in their own juice or extra light syrup – (great to snack on, for example, paired with cottage cheese, or to top a salad), dried fruit, natural unsweetened apple sauce (look for one without high fructose corn syrup), baked blue corn chips, salsa, canned beans (also great to throw on top of a salad), low-sugar ready-to-eat cereals (aim for 8 grams of sugar or less per serving and 100% whole grains on the ingredient list), oatmeal, whole grain crackers, low-fat popcorn, nuts (any kind will work – almonds, walnuts, cashews – all great for a snack or to toss on a salad or add some crunch to yogurt), nut butters (I buy Skippy Natural) and whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and quinoa.
Whatever your goals are, whether it is to shed some weight or just to eat a little better, keep these staple items in mind the next time you hit the grocery store. The first step to eating better is having nutritious choices on hand when you need them.