Top 10 Items to Stock Your Pantry – Part 1: Vegetables & Legumes

Do you ever feel like there are certain foods that you just can’t live without? Or items that you use frequently and just assume you have on hand, only to discover you’re out of something you need in the midst of preparing dinner? Unfortunately this has happened a few too many times to me and never gets any less frustrating when I can’t finish making a recipe before rushing off to the supermarket.

To avoid future mid-recipe-preparation mishaps I have created a top-10 list for must-have pantry items. I’m sure there are many more items that could be on this list, but these are the essentials. When I run out of one of these items it goes directly on to the grocery list for the next week. Not only are these commonly used items, but also items to include in a healthy diet. I’ll share my list with you and hope that you will keep these bare-bones pantry items on hand. I’ll also suggest a few specific brands based on their NuValTM scores so you know exactly which products to choose!

This will be a five-part series, counting down the top 10 items. Today is the first part in the series and the focus is: vegetables and legumes!

10. Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce seems to be one of the most versatile canned vegetables (or fruit, depending on which side of the debate you’re on) out there. It can be made into a sauce for pasta, pizza, vegetables or meats. It can be used to make a soup or even put on a cracker or English muffin for a quick healthy snack. Tomato sauce provides Vitamins A and C as well as lycopene. Canned food items can be higher in sodium content, so when choosing a tomato sauce it’s best to go with a no-salt-added product.

NuVal Recommendation: Muir Glen Organic No Salt Added Tomato Sauce

This tomato sauce receives a high score of 82! Just ¼ of a cup contains 8% of your Daily Value for Vitamin A and 10% for Vitamin C with only 10mg sodium and 25 calories.

9. Beans

Beans are an excellent staple item. Not only are they very budget-friendly, they are very nutrient- dense, too! Beans are a delicious source of protein, fiber and iron. They can be served alone as a side dish, or with rice, in a soup or casserole, or even as a meatless burger. I’ll let you choose canned or dry beans based on your preference. Canned beans are definitely more convenient than dry beans; however, they often are higher in sodium. If you go the canned beans route, look for a lower sodium option. Also, research shows rinsing and draining your canned beans can reduce the sodium by approximately 40-60%. (Read more on rinsing and draining canned products.)

NuVal Recommendation:

Canned Beans - Bush’s Reduced Sodium Black Beans

These beans have much less sodium than most other canned beans out there and, therefore, receive a higher NuVal score of 69. Half a cup of these beans contains 240mg of sodium, but also have 6g of fiber and 15% of your Daily Value of iron!

Dry Beans - Food Club Black Beans

These beans score a 91! A ¼ cup dry (about a ½ cup cooked) contains 15g of fiber, only 20mg of sodium, and 15% of your Daily Value of iron. WOW! Now that’s a nutrient-dense food!

Do you keep either of these items stocked in your pantry?

Maren is a guest blogger for Market Street. She is a Texas Woman’s University dietetic intern and graduate student in exercise and sports nutrition. Maren is a graduate of Iowa State University and is originally from Lincoln, Nebraska. She enjoys cooking, baking and experimenting in the kitchen! Her first memory of culinary experimentation was around the age of 3, creating a peanut butter and mustard sandwich. Maren’s other hobbies include traveling, tasting new cuisines, grocery shopping, ballroom dancing with her fiancé and walking her puppy, Waltz.

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