You’ve heard the weight-loss wisdom: Set yourself up for success by keeping junk food out of the house. That’s great advice, but it leaves out what you should keep in your pantry. Here are my top five healthy staples to have on hand. Whether your New Year’s resolution is to drop pounds or simply eat better to feel better, you’ll want to stock your shelves with these:
1. Butter and olive oil: Start the year off by shucking your margarine sticks and opting for natural butter instead! Many stick margarines made today still contain trans fat, which raises LDL, or bad cholesterol, and has been linked to instances of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. Speaking of fats, olive oil is chock full of a heart-healthy one: monounsaturated fat. And, it contains an abundance of antioxidants. Use both butter and olive oil in moderation. Just because television chefs pour “EVOO”—to use Rachael Ray slang—freely doesn’t mean you should.
Try: Employ quality olive oil as your primary cooking oil; use a small pat of butter on your whole-grain toast or for flavoring steamed veggies.
2. Honey and/or pure maple syrup: While you’re tossing your margarine, replace any artificial sweeteners with these natural options. As I shared in a previous e-newsletter, the fake stuff in those pink and blue packets can be anywhere from 200 to 800 times sweeter than sugar and bring on serious insulin surges, which make you hungrier and cause you to eat more. Maple syrup and honey won’t cause such a drastic surge (although they may still not be suitable for diabetics). What’s more, both have their own potential health benefits—including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and even antibacterial capabilities. As with butter and olive oil, you’ll want to enjoy both in moderation; the same goes if you do opt for regular sugar, which has been enjoyed for millennia, just not in the unhealthy quantities typically consumed today.
: Honey or maple syrup to sweeten your tea or coffee; purchase plain yogurt and sweeten yourself with a little bit of either.
3. A variety of fruits: Fresh fruits are a quick, easy, and healthy snack. Stock a wide variety, as each contains different, and important, vitamins and minerals. Aim for at least one or two servings of fruit a day.
Try: Enjoy as is or with peanut butter or chocolate (more below).
4. Natural, unsweetened peanut butter: Peanut butter packs a protein punch, which will help satisfy cravings and keep you fuller, longer. Look for natural, unsweetened peanut butter, which should only contain peanuts and maybe a little salt or non-hydrogenated oil. There’s no need for sugar in this satisfying snack, since sugar decreases satiety and increases the desire to eat more.
Try: Pair this protein with a simple carbohydrate, like a fruit or veggie, and you’ve got yourself the perfect snack.
5. Dark chocolate: No need to skip an after-meal treat! When the craving hits, reach for dark chocolate, which is high in healthful antioxidants. If super-dark chocolate that’s 72% cacao tastes too strong for you, try 60%. Consume with restraint, though, and opt for a single serving, or about one ounce.
Try: Melt the chocolate of your choice and use it for dipping with your favorite fruits or nuts.
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