5 Low-Calorie Pantry Staples to Have on Hand

February 11, 2013 | Kait Fortunato

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The best tip I can offer any athlete on healthy eating is to always plan ahead. Having grocery items washed, chopped and already cooked allows for a week of clean eating no matter what life throws at you. However, when your weekends are busy with tournaments, practices and games, this isn't always possible. So I always keep healthy staples on hand in my pantry. Since these tend last for a while, I can fill in the gaps, and it doesn't matter when I last went to the grocery store. Whenever I use up a staple (or am down to one), I put it on my list to keep as backup for the next time I am in a pinch.  (See also Foods and Recipes For Healthy Eating on a Budget.)

Here are five healthy staples you should always have in your pantry:

Canned Tuna

A universal source of protein, plus a great way to get omega-3 fats quickly and easily. It requires no cooking and little preparation. Mix in some olive oil and avocado and serve it over a salad for lunch, or pair it with some wheat crackers for an afternoon snack. Look for tuna packed in water; it's much healthier than in oil. (Check out The Most Hardcore Snacks in Sports.)

Beans

I keep a variety of beans in my cabinet. Chickpeas can be roasted for a crunchy snack or turned into hummus to go with vegetables. Black beans are great to mix into salads or with salsa and chicken for a fun take on a Mexican taco salad. Kidney beans can easily bulk up a low sodium canned soup, or be processed with vegetables to make bean burgers. (See Vegetarian Sources of Protein.)

Diced Tomatoes

I'm usually not a fan of canned vegetables, but low-sodium diced tomatoes are the exception. By themselves they are a great "sauce" for plain chicken, fish or spaghetti squash. I also put  them into lunchtime quiches or scrambled eggs for extra nutrients, color and flavor.

Protein Bars

These are a staple in my house, since they can work as a back-up breakfast or a snack between meals. Some of my favorite protein bars are Kind Bars, Think Thin, Lara Bars, and Cliff Bars.

Quinoa

If you're looking for a grain staple to keep on hand, this is the one. Quinoa is both a whole grain and a complete protein, so it can easily serve as the main part of any meal. Here are some of my favorite quinoa mix-ins.

Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
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