Healthy Foods to Keep on Hand

Today’s topic was inspired by a Food Network Healthy Eats email I received last week: Food Network Kitchens’ Top 15 Ingredients for a Healthy Kitchen. I was making out my grocery list when the email popped up, which I considered to be quite the coincidence. Or perhaps, proof that I am being watched. (Note to self: buy curtains for office windows–stat!)

Anyway, this article lists the common 15 ingredients Food Network experts keep on hand to ensure, if need be, their ability to quickly toss to together a healthy and flavorful meal. You know, food you would want to eat.

Here are the 15 food “experts” ingredients:
1. Eggs
2. Parmesan cheese
3. Low-fat plain Greek yogurt
4. Real maple syrup
5. Pickles
6. Oils
7. Vinegars
8. Hot sauces
9. Canned beans
10. Whole nutmeg
11. Roasted sunflower seeds
12. Citrus
13. Salad Greens
14. Pre-cut vegetables
15. Frozen brown rice

Nice list! And I had 2/3 of them in my pantry or fridge, or on my grocery list, right then proving once again, that I, too, could be a Food network expert! :)

Anyway, the list is not really that surprising. Everyone–even the mostly non-cook types like me–can see how combinations of those foods could be shaped into healthy, tasty meals, whether combined with other pantry staples or even on their own. Omelets, salad with vinaigrette, black beans and rice with a little lime juice and zest–and those are just the recipes I know. Real Food Network experts probably know hundreds of ways to prepare these foods in healthy ways!

But not everyone could see that, as it turns out. Commenter Ashlee had an opinion:

Numbers 1,2,3,4 and 9 are NOT healthy!

Wha? Eggs, parmesan cheese, low-fat Greek yogurt, real maple syrup, and canned beans are “NOT healthy!”? I am so screwed. I eat one or more of those every single day.

Fortunately, commenter Martin replied, so I didn’t have to:

Yes they are. Unless you want to be anorexic…

Besides being quite the snarkmeister, Martin is correct, in my opinion, and I’m glad he said so. Not so many years ago, I was an Almost-Ashlee and simply hadn’t learned what constituted “healthy food”. I knew “diet food” like the back of my hand, though.

But I’m older, wiser, and maintaining a significant weight loss now. I know better. For the Ashlees or Almost-Ashlees out there, here’s MY take on why the foods to which she objected fall into the healthy foods range:

#1 Eggs

Eggs are tasty, versatile and quick to prepare. They’re also nutritious. One egg contains 13 essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B12 and E, phosphorous, selenium, zinc, and lutein, plus 6 grams of good protein. And yes, cholesterol, but even folks with high cholesterol levels are generally advised to simply limit their egg consumption to four per week.

#2 Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan cheese is not exactly a nutritional powerhouse, but a tablespoon of it here and there isn’t likely to shave (haha–cheese pun!) years off your life either. It’s a flavor enhancer, and you can take my word for it that a teaspoon (or so) of Parmesan sprinkled over plain green beans is like a tiny little miracle on the plate. (Or the ramekin, in my case, because I can’t have green bean juice touching my bbq chicken.)

#3 Low-fat Greek Yogurt

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how Ashlee determined that low-fat Greek yogurt is “NOT healthy!” Greek yogurt is a great source of protein and calcium and is lower in sugar and fat than regular yogurt. It’s also quite versatile, delicious on its own with some fresh fruit and/or nuts (and/or a sprinkle of mini-chocolate chips), or used as a substitute for sour cream, mayo, eggs, or oil in cooking.

#4 Real maple syrup

I can understand how Ashlee might mistakenly think real maple syrup is “NOT healthy!”, because it IS very high in sugar. That being said, a teaspoon of syrup (the amount I use) is only about 20 calories, if I’m remembering correctly, and it packs a lot of flavor into those 20 calories. A drizzle of real maple syrup over oatmeal or a baked sweet potato transforms a plain dish to something almost magical. A drop or two off the end of my (clean) finger ain’t bad either! :)

#9 Canned beans

There’s not a lot you can say about canned beans to make them sound glamorous. They’re a good source of fiber and a decent non-meat source of protein. Canned beans are also convenient (try making a quick meal using dry beans or lentils) and are delicious added to soups, stews, casseroles, or my Mexican chicken. They’re also shelf stable, which makes it easier to have a couple of cans (or 10, if you find them on the clearance rack at Kroger for $0.39) on hand for those times when you’re throwing together a meal. [Note: It does bear mentioning that lower-sodium varieties are more desirable.)

That’s my $0.05 worth. Your mileage, of course, may vary. But I hope it doesn’t vary as much as Ashlee’s, because that would make me sad. :)

If my thoughts are worth a nickel, yours are worth at least twice as much. Possibly more.

Are these foods you have in your kitchen? Do you have any others to add to the list? (I would add oatmeal and pecans, of course, but then, I’d add those to almost any list. LOL)

18 thoughts on “Healthy Foods to Keep on Hand

  1. huh
    I never ever ever have your or their number four on hand :-)
    I may need to rethink this…the child would love that on hand.

    • You can find really small bottles of maple syrup at Target. It’s not top shelf syrup, I’m sure, but it’s a) small, b) affordable, and c) a good excuse to go to Target. :)

  2. I have most of those items in my house too.

    I have dried beans instead of canned beans because they’re more budget friendly even though they take a little longer to prepare :)

    I love reading lists like this online because it’s a mental checklist to know that I’m moving in the right direction! I have a very different view of “healthy eating” and “clean eating” and I think everyone has mixed definitions. I believe in moderation because I binge otherwise :)

    Have a wonderful week.

    • I prefer the dried beans too, Grace, but I’m far more likely to reach for a can opener. (Laziness and unpreparedness do have their perks! :) )

      Wishing you a wonderful week ahead, too!

  3. Like you, I would add oatmeal to the list. It can be used for so many things. I would also add canned chicken or tuna. Not my favorite, but they sure can help in putting together a quick meal. Oh and you can totally forget the hot sauce. Where in the world did that come from?

    • Ooh, tuna, definitely! I get jittery when I’m down to two cans on the pantry shelf. :)

      I add a splash of hot sauce (Louisiana brand) to lots of dishes, especially my crockpot meals. Lots of flavor from just a few drops.

  4. 1. Eggs – Yes!
    2. Parmesan cheese – Yes!
    3. Low-fat plain Greek yogurt _ Yes!
    4. Real maple syrup – Oh yes. We are in maple country.
    5. Pickles – Yuck, no!
    6. Oils – Coconut and macadamia.
    7. Vinegars – Yep
    8. Hot sauces – You know it!
    9. Canned beans – will eat under duress 😀
    10. Whole nutmeg – Yep! Great on coffee 😀
    11. Roasted sunflower seeds – no.
    12. Citrus – in season.
    13. Salad Greens – No.
    14. Pre-cut vegetables – broccoli!!
    15. Frozen brown rice – not frozen, we just make our own.

    I would say oats are definitely missing and berries. Berries really are a super fruit!

    I think Ashlee has a problem with the greek yogurt because it is dairy. There are those people who think we should not consume dairy because our bodies weren’t designed for it. I’ll just eat their share of it.

    • I love pickles! They really perk up a bland tuna salad. In fact, I need to make a Whole Foods run this week because their 365 brand pickle is the only one I can find locally that doesn’t lead off with HFCS in the ingredients list. I really do need to start making my own pickles.

  5. Well, that is an interesting list.I rarely have 4, 10, or 11. But the rest are staples at my home, too. And I heart #15 from Trader Joe’s – sooooooo good!!!

  6. I have most everything on that list – when I came to the maple syrup I cringed a bit, though. I have always had an issue with maple syrup since starting my weight loss. Even today I refuse to eat it. It’s the calories that sends me running for the hills. Maybe it’s just that I only tend to use it for pancakes anyway, and I actually prefer things like apple butter or sf jam on my cakes, so I don’t really miss it. Everything else though – good to see I’m on the right track!

    • Oh, I hear you on the maple syrup trepidation. I use just a smidge on oatmeal or sweet potatoes, but if I have pancakes, I want a tablespoon or two. So I just don’t eat pancakes very often. :)

  7. I don’t have a;; but some are just not my thing. I do have a lot of other very healthy things though!

    I have the maple syrup & with portion control, it it a great thing! :)

  8. How fun! I have most of those things. In spite of my bean aversion, I do always have a can or two on hand. Pickles seems funny, but you pointed out its flavor-booster factor.

    I wonder why the ROASTED sunflower seeds. If I had to choose one, you all know that walnuts are king!

  9. Great list, and great post Cammy. IMHO, you COULD indeed be a Food Network expert. I have almost all in my pantry. Not the sunflower seeds on a regular basis, and I have to be careful of pickles ’cause they’re high in sodium and if I eat too many, I puff up like a blowfish. (charming..)
    Have a great day Cammy.

  10. I have al these except frozen brown rice and roasted flower seeds. As I am quite health consious and these foods are very good for staying healthy. Especially I like low fat greek yogurt it not only helathy but also very useful in curbing hunger.

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