5 Staples for Easy Low-fat Dinners

By: Emilie Sennebogen

With these staples in your pantry, fattening fast food will be a long-forgotten memory. See more easy weeknight meals pictures.
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Eating healthy is a challenge for many people, but not because the desire for good health isn't there. Sometimes a busy lifestyle and work schedule can lead to a poor diet because the nutritious items you need to eat healthy simply aren't in your pantry or fridge.

Creating a healthy menu is all about keeping some staple items in your house to ensure that you can create a tasty meal that's also good for you. A long day plus no food in the house leads to bad choices like pizza delivery or high-sodium, packaged meals. Here are five tips for stocking your kitchen that will keep you one step ahead in the battle of the bulge.

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5: Whole Grain Pasta and Rice

When cooking healthy meals, it helps to have a filling side dish to pair with your meat and veggies. Make sure you keep plenty of whole grain pasta and grains in your pantry, along with some legumes. These dry goods have a long shelf life, ensuring you'll always have a healthy side dish on hand. Brown rice and whole wheat pasta are great to go along with most any meal as a side, and they're a staple component of many healthy casseroles.

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4: Soup Stock

It will take a little bit more time, but making your own stock is well worth the effort.
It will take a little bit more time, but making your own stock is well worth the effort.
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Canned soups you get at the grocery store are often loaded with sodium, fat and calories. Even the "healthy" canned soups can't hold up in the nutrition or taste departments to a homemade soup.

Soup stocks are another pantry item that doesn't need refrigeration, so they're a great staple item to keep on hand. Look for organic, low-fat chicken and beef stocks, along with a selection of vegetable stock. And when you whip up a batch, make a little extra so you can freeze what you don't eat for another meal.

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3: Fresh Vegetables

The food pyramid is something we all learned in elementary school, and it still represents the ultimate balanced diet. Vegetables are second only to the bread, cereal, pasta and rice group in importance in your daily diet. It's always preferable to have them fresh from the market, but frozen vegetables are a great option as well.

Veggies make great side dishes, and they're always welcome as chopped up additions in the main course.

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2: Legumes

Move the beans from your side dish to your salad bowl. You won't be sorry!
Move the beans from your side dish to your salad bowl. You won't be sorry!
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There's no better way to spice up an ordinary meal than to add a delicious and healthy legume as a side dish. Lentils, black beans, edamame, chickpeas and soy nuts are low in fat, have no cholesterol and are loaded with magnesium, iron and potassium. They're also a great source of protein and can be used as a side dish or as a healthy addition to many recipes.

Sure, beans from a can are easier, but if you have the time to soak them overnight, dry beans are always tastier and aren't packed with artificial preservatives and excess sodium.

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1: Lean Meats

Nutritionists recommend that you eat one to three servings of lean meats per week, to pair with the seafood that should also be a regular part of your diet. Lean meats are rich in iron, protein and vitamin B. The fat they do contain is less saturated than other kinds of meats as well. The question is what constitutes a lean cut of meat. That would be any kind of poultry with the skin off, pork loin, lean cuts of lamb, and beef cuts like top round, flank steak, sirloin tip, tenderloin and lean ground beef.

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Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • "Beans and other legumes: Types and cooking tips." Mayoclinic.com. October 29, 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/legumes/NU00260
  • "Brown Rice." whfoods.com. October 29, 2011 http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=128
  • Magee, Elaine. "Health & Cooking." webmd.com. October 29, 2011. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/frozen-vegetables-are-hot
  • "Selected Sources of Lean Meats." umich.edu. October 29, 2011. http://www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/meats.htm
  • "Soup: Naturally Good Food." natures-health-foods.com. October 29, 2011. http://www.natures-health-foods.com/soup.html
  • "The Food Guide Pyramid." Nal.usda.gov. October 29, 2011. http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/Fpyr/pmap.htm