Tag Archives: better pantry

heart healthy peanut butter

All About Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a great Better Pantry staple. It is low-cost, widely-available, and can be used in many different recipes. It’s a popular source of plant-based protein and heart-healthy fats. And it just tastes good! Continue reading

food safety and storage

Safe Storage for Perishable Foods

Perishable foods are foods that spoil quickly and need to be stored properly to stay fresh and keep germs from multiplying. Fruits, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood are perishable foods. We tend to waste perishable foods because they go bad before we eat them. Food is a large part of a family’s budget, so wasted food is wasted money. Let’s talk about how to store perishable foods so they have the longest shelf life, stay safe to eat, and limits food waste. Continue reading

The Wonders of Dairy: Essential Nutrition in Many Forms

Milk is the most versatile food we eat. Dairy, which can come from several different animals, takes many different shapes, flavors, and textures, all while being an important source of essential nutrients. Quick, think about the foods you have in your house right now. How many different forms of dairy are there? I’m willing to bet you have quite a few: milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, ice cream, whipped cream, buttermilk, kefir, etc.

Despite dairy being such a popular and versatile food, many of us are not getting the recommended 3 servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy each day.

Nutrients found in milk

Thanks to the Midwest Dairy Association for this helpful chart. Found at http://www.dairymakessense.com/nutrition/9-essential-nutrients/ 

Why Is Dairy So Important?

When we think of the nutrients found in dairy, calcium is probably the first thing to pop into your mind. In fact, milk and cheese are the top two sources of calcium in our diets. Calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth, as well as helping our cells send messages to each other and telling muscles to flex.

But calcium isn’t the only important nutrient found in dairy. Dairy is also an important source of Vitamin D, protein and 6 other essential nutrients.

Vitamins and Minerals found in milk

A word of caution, however. Along with those 9 essential nutrients, dairy can also have a lot of unhealthy saturated fat. Saturated fat is bad for your cholesterol levels and raises the risk of heart disease. Full fat dairy products, like butter, ice cream, whole milk, whipped cream and certain cheeses have too much saturated to eat regularly. Low-fat (1%) and fat-free (skim) dairy products have less saturated fat (and calories!), so we should focus on adding more of these types of dairy.

Add More Dairy To Your Day

Getting more low-fat and fat-free dairy is easy. Here are some tasty tips:

  • Drink milk instead of sugary drinks.
  • Make a tasty smoothie and get more dairy, as well as fruits and veggies.
  • Treat yourself to a Yogurt Parfait instead of ice cream.
  • Shave some low-fat cheese on top of your meal for a flavor boost.
  • Use low-fat (1%) milk in your coffee instead of creamer.
  • Flavor yogurt to make a creamy dip for fruit or veggies.
  • Or check out these ideas from the National Dairy Council.

What’s your favorite way to get your essential nutrition from dairy?

Spice It Up Without the Salt!

Eating too much sodium is harmful to our heart health, raising the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attacks. Even with all the reminders of this fact, we still are eating too much sodium every day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that reducing our intake of sodium to recommended levels (1500-2300 mg per day) would potentially save 40,000 lives and $7 billion in health care costs each year. That’s a pretty good reason to cut back.

But putting down the saltshaker is hard. What will our food taste like without it? This is where herbs and spices come in. They add tons of delicious flavors without adding salt (or sugar or fat, too!). Check out these great ideas for adding spices to your meals.

flavor profiles of different herbs and spices

Fresh herbs can be more expensive, but are pretty easy to grow yourself, either in a garden or a pot. The best thing about growing them in a pot is that you can bring them indoors over the winter and have a fresh supply all year long.

Dried herbs and spices won’t go bad quickly and are great items to keep in your Better Pantry. Find a little wiggle room in your budget to start building up your spice rack one at a time. You’ll eventually have a nice variety to choose from when cooking. You can also buy herb and spice blends, like Italian Blend or Grilling Blend, which gives you more variety for your money right away. Just be sure that you’re buying salt-free blends to keep the sodium low.

My favorite flavors are:

  • Basil- I use this in just about anything savory. Basil and Parsley are pretty “generic” flavors that work well in many dishes. Fresh basil is awesome for making pesto from scratch. It’s very easy to grow yourself.
  • Dill- Dried dill is one of my favorite popcorn toppings. Fresh dill smells so good and is a perfect match with salmon.
  • Cumin- This smoky spice adds flavor, but not heat, to chili, Mexican recipes or beef dishes.

What herbs and spices do you use the most?

Happy National Canned Food Month!

Not only is February American Heart Month, it’s also National Canned Food Month! Today, we’ll be focusing on the benefits of eating canned foods.


Canned foods are relatively cheap and can be easier on your wallet than buying fresh. Nutrition-wise, canned foods are actually very similar to fresh or frozen foods. Just be sure to choose low-sodium canned foods. If you can’t find low-sodium options, rinse the food in a colander to get rid of some of the excess salt. Also, try to choose fruit canned in 100% juice instead of fruit canned in syrup.

Tweet this: Fun fact: Canned tomato products have more lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes and tomato products, than fresh tomatoes. The heating process makes lycopene more easily absorbed.

Another plus of using canned foods is that they have a long shelf life. You can stock up your Better Pantry on canned goods and they will usually be good for a year or two. Just make sure to check the “use by” date and toss any expired foods.

Canned foods are also very convenient and portable. It’s much easier to open a can of vegetables, beans, or soup than to wash, chop and cook these foods from fresh ingredients. Canned foods are already cooked and are ready to heat and eat!

Remember to practice good food safety with canned foods. If you’re not going to eat the entire can of food right away, keep the leftovers in a sealed container (not the can it came in) in the refrigerator. Also, check to make sure that cans that are not busted or bulging.

Basically, canned foods are a win-win: they are nutritious, cheap, and convenient! These recipes make use of canned foods and are great go-to meals for busy days.

Confetti Bean Salsa

Three Bean Salad

Share with us: What canned foods do you like to buy? How do you use canned foods in your cooking?