How to Stock Your Pantry

A Dallas-based dietitian says a well-stocked pantry means a healthy meal is just minutes away.

"You want to be able to come home from your day, from your work day or whatever you're doing, and know and be able to count on certain foods in your pantry that you can create a healthy meal," Carina Saez said.

Her Top 10 list starts with flavor enhancers such as onions, garlic, low-fat mayonnaise and canned tomatoes, either sauce or diced.

"Then you know what to do with that raw meat staring at you in in the refrigerator -- chicken breast or ground meat, now what? Having some sort of canned tomato product will help you through that," she said.

A balanced meal needs protein, and Saez suggests dried or canned beans, peanut butter or nuts, or canned tuna, salmon or chicken.

"You can can create a chicken-salad or sandwich, have field greens, put salmon on there with vinegar, olive oil," she said..

"When I eat a meal that has some protein in it, I'm going to stay full for at least three hours," she said.

Carbs go in the pantry, too.

Grains, specifically, promote good health. Saez buys multigrain pasta, brown rice, whole wheat tortillas or wheat crackers. And it's OK to stick to plain white, she said.

"If we're going with the recommendation that half of grains be whole grain -- maybe if you're doing the whole wheat tortilla, you can have the white rice," she said.

And finally, Saez has chicken broth, preferably low sodium, on the list.

"You can do a soup out of that," she said. "You can saute vegetables out of that. You can cook your rice in there."

She's also OK with a treat, such as chocolate.

"The luxury item is all up to you," Saez said. "It's kind of you giving yourself permission for this one thing."

Along with the 10-plus-one, Saez also keeps staples such as olive or canola oil, vinegar, spices such as red chili flakes for some heat and Italian seasoning for spaghetti sauce or chicken, fish or pork on hand. She also gets honey to add some sweetness to yogurt with fruit or a piece of toast.

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