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20 Healthy Foods to Keep in Your Kitchen

Moms and dads are always looking for new recipes that are quick, easy and nutritious for their family.  If you’ve got the right ingredients on hand, you can whip up...

Moms and dads are always looking for new recipes that are quick, easy and nutritious for their family.  If you’ve got the right ingredients on hand, you can whip up a fast, flavorful meal in no time. What are these magical foods?  Get your list writing tools together and start taking notes now.

Health.com asked registered dieticians, personal chefs and bloggers what their “must have” foods are for a well-stocked kitchen. Here’s their “should haves”.

  1. Extra-virgin olive oil.  It’s one of the primary ingredients for the healthy Mediterranean diet. Los Angeles-based personal chef Hallie Norvet recommends buying cold- pressed olive oil for the best flavor. Cook with it, but also drizzle over finished dishes, like grilled fish, pasta, and vegetables sides. The fat in olive oil is considered “good fat”, but don’t overdo it. At 120 calories in a tablespoon, a little goes a long way.
  2. Nonfat Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is packed with 18 grams of protein per 6-ounce serving. Though it's creamy and seems indulgent, it contains just 100 calories per serving. You can substitute yogurt for mayo and sour cream in many recipes, creating great low-cal and low-fat dishes.  
  3. Canned olives. Olives are one of those foods that people either love or don’t care for. Personally, I like them. They have a long shelf life, they can be thrown into a variety of dishes, and they have heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Go for all natural without added sodium. Throw them on top of salads, stir them into pastas, or try snacking on them. You can eat 10 for about 50 calories. "They're perfect when you're craving something salty, but it's more satisfying than a fluffy cracker in your belly," says dietitian Jenna Braddock, RD.
  4. Honey. Honey is a natural sweetener. Sweeten homemade marinades and salad dressings. Braddock also likes to incorporate it into whole-grain baking. "Whole wheat flour can be denser, but adding honey in place of regular sugar keeps things tender and moist." In recipes that call for sugar, swap in an equal amount of honey and reduce baking temperature by 25 degrees.
  5. Beans. Beans are often underappreciated for their nutritional value. Not only are they relatively inexpensive, they're also a great source of protein and fiber. (One cup of chickpeas, for example, contains a whopping 15 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber.) Gina Homolka of Skinnytaste favors chickpeas, black beans, and white northern, but what you stock in your pantry is up to you.
  6. Quinoa. A lot of people may not be familiar with quinoa, but it’s really worth getting to know. Quinoa is usually considered a whole grain, but is actually a seed. In one cup of cooked quinoa, you get 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber for just 222 calories. Plus, the hearty whole grain is a good source of energizing iron and B vitamins. Chef and registered dietitian Allison Stevens also likes it because it's one of the speediest grains to cook; it's ready in 15 minutes. Combine cooked quinoa with shredded chicken, chopped veggies, and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Or, eat quinoa hot as a substitute for oatmeal. Stir in almond milk, dried fruit, nuts, and drizzle with honey.
  7. Tomato paste. "Tomato paste adds a great umami flavor, or a richness to food that you're trying to keep low in calories and fat," says Braddock. Even better: tomatoes, particularly tomato paste, are bursting with cancer-fighting lycopene.
  8. Bananas.  Great in cereals, smoothies, mixed with plain yogurt and a little honey. Bananas are high in potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C. For a quick snack, smear a banana nut butter or top on whole grain toast.
  9. Eggs. One egg contains six grams of belly-filling protein for only 70 calories. One study found that overweight women who ate egg breakfasts lost twice as much weight as women who started their days with bagels. Hard-boil a bunch at the beginning of the week for an on-the-go breakfast or snack with a piece of cheese and fruit, says Wieczorek.

10.  Chocolate. My personal favorite. Dark chocolate provides powerful disease-fighting polyphenols and has even been associated with weight loss. You can also use it as a surprise ingredient in sauces. For example, throw one square into a braising sauce for meat to elevate the flavor.

11.  Garlic. "Garlic allows you to add flavor to your dishes quickly and easily without unhealthy fats or processed ingredients," Norvet says.

12.  Frozen shrimp. Four large shrimp are only 30 calories and contain virtually no fat. Shrimp also offer up a hefty dose of protein.

13.  Fresh herbs. Packed with a surprising number of antioxidants in their little leaves, they add a wonderful flavor to any dish. Herbs also give new life when used on leftovers or make already-prepared foods taste homemade.

14.  Sea salt. Although everyone should limit their salt intake, excess sodium is often a problem in prepared and processed foods, not the foods you cook yourself. Adding a sprinkle of salt to the foods you cook in your kitchen helps flavors pop.

15.  Mustard. The condiment is packed with the immune-boosting mineral selenium and turmeric, a spice (that gives it its yellow pigment) with cancer-fighting properties.

16.  Flavored vinegar.  This specialty ingredient is actually really versatile, says Braddock, and it's heart healthy: "Vinegar helps open up your blood vessels to improve blood flow," she says.

17.  Oatmeal. Known for helping to lower cholesterol numbers, research suggests oats may also help you control your appetite.

18.  Broth.  You can keep a carton in your pantry for a long time until you're ready to use it. It's low in calories (one cup contains 38) with 5 grams of protein. When buying broth, Stevens recommends reading the ingredients list and avoiding those that contain added sugar and caramel coloring. Buy low-sodium whenever possible.

19.  Ground chicken and turkey. You can save on saturated fat by replacing ground beef with chicken or turkey. Stash in your freezer and thaw when ready to eat, recommends Wieczorek. It cooks in a zip and can be used in stir-fries, meat sauces, tacos, enchiladas, stuffed peppers or rice bowls.

20.  Herbs de Provence. I use this on just about everything. It’s an easy to find herb blend of thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley, oregano, tarragon, marjoram, and lavender that adds a nice herbaceous seasoning for any dish, which is why this is one ingredient Stevens always keeps on hand.

There you have it! With these ingredients on hand, you’ll be able to always make even the simplest recipe a healthy and tasty delight for your family.

Source: Jessica Migala, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/20-foods-kitchen/story?id=24070133#all

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About Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award winning pediatrician and medical editor for www.kidsdr.com.  She is a native of Washington, D.C. who travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin and never left.Read More

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