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Healthy cooking becomes a whole lot easier when you have a pantry stocked with the right ingredients. It is also one way of ensuring that the family gets healthy meals even when you are too tired or busy to cook an involved meal. For example, things like wraps, soups and other items can be stocked to help you put together a simple meal with very little time and effort.

Here are a few suggestions from the food experts that you may want to consider:

• Oils: olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil – make sure oils are organic and unrefined.

• Grains, pulses, flours: whole wheat pasta, brown rice, wheat couscous, quinoa, lentils, garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, navy beans, whole wheat pastry flour, whole wheat plain flour.

• Others: vinegars (balsamic, apple cider), mustard, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, coconut milk, jam, soy sauce, chicken broth, marinara sauce – make sure all items are low in sodium content and cholesterol.

• Refrigerator: shredded low fat cheese, skim milk, low fat yogurt, lemons, lettuce, skinless chicken pieces, eggs, lean beef round, ground turkey meat, frozen organic fruits and vegetables.

• Stock up on dried nuts, seeds and fruits such as raisins, apricots, blueberries and all favorite dried fruits; peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashew nuts and pecans; flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and any other favorites of the family.

• Add different types of cereals to the list such as corn flakes and rice krispies. Add some vegetable broth, salt, yeast and unsweetened cocoa powder to the list. Make sure all the spices you generally use in your cooking are available in the pantry.

For anyone just starting out on a healthy cooking changeover from regular foods to healthier alternatives, the above list is a base that you can work off. As you start cooking, it will become easier to identify the ‘must have’ items in your pantry. Always plan meals for the entire week and finish the grocery shopping once a week.

Most people who don’t work Saturdays prefer to shop for food on this day of the week though the markets are generally crowded. Find a good store that offers fresh produce and all your other needs under one roof. This will save you having to go to different stores for bread, meats, seafood and other items.

When you plan meals and do the shopping, remember that healthy cooking is all about providing healthy, nutritious food for your family that is also tasty as well.

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