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Stocking Your Pantry For Good Health

To Your Health Newsletter in Southwest Washingtom 

Dinner doesn’t have to come from a package, a deli counter or a take-out restaurant.

Prepared meals are quick and often tasty, but they are also relatively expensive and usually laced with sodium, saturated fats and calories.

Consider keeping the following foods in your house to help prepare meals with good health in mind.

Onions, potatoes and squash

Potatoes are a great source of potassium, supplying 18% of a person’s recommended daily allowance. They are also high in fiber and vitamin C. When preparing, give the skin a good wash, then keep it on. At least half of the fiber is in the peel.

Sweet potatoes and squash are even more nutritious; they are rich in vitamin A and beta carotene.

Onions may not be the main portion of your meal but play a leading role in providing a good flavor base for a wide variety of dishes.

Canned tomatoes

Whole peeled tomatoes can help bring together many meals. For a quick simple pasta sauce, sauté garlic, onion and other vegetables in a skillet, add spices and a large can of tomatoes. Go easy on the salt, though! Canned tomatoes have more than enough for your entire meal.


Dry beans: black, white, pinto, red, kidney, garbanzo can be purchased in bulk for very little money. All you have to do is soak them overnight and they are ready for cooking. Canned versions will also work, just rinse them first to get rid of the extra sodium. Adding beans to your diet will help you get more protein, iron and fiber.


More than 50% of the world’s population uses rice as their primary energy source. Steer clear of packaged “minute-rice” varieties though, opting for 5- or 10-pound bags. Even better, go for brown rice, high in B vitamins, manganese, phosphorus, fiber and essential fatty acids. White rice loses a lot of these nutrients in the milling process.

Whole grains

Just like with rice, the refining process strips the grain of much of its nutritional value. Oatmeal (steelcut or rolled oats) is a whole grain. Cooking from “scratch” takes less than five minutes and keeps the unnecessary “flavor” and sodium added to prepackaged varieties.