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8 healthy foods to stock in your pantry

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While fresh is best when it comes to food, there is surely a role in these busy times for a well-stocked pantry. But there can be a lot of confusion about the health benefits of many packaged items. Some of these healthier choices might surprise you!

The next time you’re in the grocery store, consult this list and choose the healthiest options for those go-to pantry items.

PICK: Regular peanut butter

SKIP: Reduced fat peanut butter. Reduced fat peanut butter is only about 20 calories less than regular peanut butter — two tablespoons has 170 calories, instead of 190. The reduced-fat version has 4 fewer grams of fat (not a big difference), but also added sugars and other fillers to boost the flavor. And the taste of the reduced-fat version is quite different from the original.

PICK: Air-popped popcorn

SKIP: Vegetable chips. Most vegetable chips are not a swap for a serving of vegetables. While they can include colorful vegetables, they are not nutrient-rich. Corn is also a vegetable, and a 100-calorie serving has 4 grams of fiber — and that’s a 4-cup serving. A large handful of vegetable chips also has about 100 calories. And all that air puffing up the corn provides more volume to keep you fuller longer.

PICK: 2 percent milk

SKIP: 100 percent fruit juice. For optimal nutrients, it’s best to eat your fruit and not drink it —especially for a boost in fiber. An 8-ounce serving of milk or juice each contains about 120 calories; for the same calories, milk provides abundant calcium, vitamin D and protein. And the nutrients in milk are the same whether you choose non-fat milk. Shelf-stable milks are a great choice for lunchboxes.

PICK: Whole-wheat English muffin

SKIP: Multi-grain bagel. Whole-grain breads are part of a healthy diet, but stick with the English muffin with around 120 calories and 4-5 grams of fiber. You’ll get the same fiber in the bagel, but with about three times the amount of calories. Top it with an egg or spread with a tablespoon or two of peanut butter to boost the protein content.

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