February is American Heart Association month and a good time for a healthy checklist for the kitchen. For low-stress meal prep and healthy eating ease, plan and be prepared. “Well-stocked” means having basic heart-healthy ingredients on hand at all times. “Pantry” means your cabinets, fridge, and freezer. Here are the association’s recommendations.
Cabinets and Pantry
- Low-salt canned beans, tuna, salmon, tomatoes and marinara sauce.
- Whole-grain pasta brown rice and other whole grains like couscous and quinoa.
- Healthy cooking oils and nonstick vegetable spray.
- Old-fashioned rolled oats are great for a quick oatmeal breakfast. Choose bread and cereals that list whole grains as the first item in the ingredient list. If you don’t use a lot of bread daily, store extra in the freezer.
- For baking, whole-wheat flour or spelt flour can often be substituted in for white flour. Cornmeal is also a great option for anything from muffins to pancakes.
- Nuts and seeds for snacking are good sources of protein and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
- Balsamic vinegar and low-sodium soy sauce. Low-sodium bouillon cubes. We use dried herbs and spices.
Fridge and Freezer
- Select low-fat dairy products. Flavored milk, such as vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry, often have added sugars. Compare ingredients panels to select the healthiest options.
Choose low-fat cheeses. Some hard cheeses, such as Parmesan are also intensely flavorful, so you only need a small amount.
- Don’t buy a lot of butter, cream and ice cream. Save those for special occasions and, even then, limit how much you eat. They can add a lot of saturated fat to your diet.
- When buying or eating poultry, try the skinless version or remove the skin yourself. Trim off visible fat before cooking.
- Always have a selection of frozen vegetables and fruits packed without sauces, sugar, or added salt on hand.