Healthy Ways to Stock Your Pantry

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Living in a time-pressed world, it can be a little hard to consistently make home-cooked meals for your family. By taking a little time to stock your pantry with healthful ingredients, you can ensure that even after a crazy day you'll still be able to whip together something tasty and nutritious for your family. Here are some great "go-to" ingredients to keep on hand.

Barley. This hearty grain adds interesting flavor and texture to soups and stews, as well as soluble fiber.

Beans. Whether canned or dried, these protein-rich legumes are the perfect way to beef up soups, casseroles, stews.

Broth. Choose vegetable, chicken or beef. Broth is perfect for creating pasta sauces, stews, gravies or sautéing veggies.

Brown rice. This pantry staple is rich in B vitamins, as well as calcium and iron.

Canola oil. This oil contains more monounsaturated fat than any other oil except olive. It is best for stir-frying because the flavor is bland and it can withstand high heat.

Canned or frozen vegetables. While fresh are always best, canned and frozen veggies can be great for quick one-skillet meals, pastas and casseroles.

Canned salmon or tuna. Choose water-packed varieties.

Cereal. Keep a healthy low-sugar brand like Mighty Bites™ on hand— it's perfect for breakfast or snacking.

Couscous. A great alternative to rice.

Crackers. Perfect for snacks, be sure to choose whole-grain varieties. Try Kashi® TLC® crackers in Original 7 Whole Grain, Honey Sesame, Ranch, and Cheese.

Dried Fruits. Apricots, raisins, cranberries and prunes. Dried fruits make great snacks and a yummy addition to homemade breads, cereal, or stuffing.

Nuts. Full of protein and perfect for snacking or to add to recipes. NOTE: Children under 5 should not be given whole nuts as they present a choking hazard.

Olive oil. Low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated fat, olive oil is ideal for salad dressings and marinades and can be used for low- to medium-heat cooking.

Pasta. This is the ultimate staple—perfect as a fast and tasty main dish or to make soups heartier.

Pasta sauce. Keep a jar on hand for quick pasta dishes; for extra nutritional oomph, add extra veggies.

Peanut butter. Of course you can use them for the ubiquitous PB&J, but also try adding it to dishes like curries or spicy cold noodle salads.

Rice. Stock a variety, such as basmati, brown, wild, risotto — as well as microwavable or quick-heat pouches for fast meals.

Spices and herbs. You'd be surprised how well kids respond to spices like tarragon, oregano, mild curry, rosemary, and garlic. Keep in mind most should be used within six months for maximum flavor. Sun-dried tomatoes. These provide a flavorful and healthy way to enhance sauces, salads and grilled vegetables.

Tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce. Did you know your body actually absorbs more lycopene, an antioxidant, from canned tomatoes than from fresh ones? Keep a few cans on hand. Whole wheat flour is a great way to add fiber to recipes that traditionally use white flour. It is also rich in B vitamins and E.