When it comes to losing weight, your pantry can be your biggest ally or your biggest enemy. That’s why it’s important to rid your cabinets of temptations — bags of chips, tubs of pretzels, leftover Christmas chocolate — and stock your shelves with food that can help you get in shape.
But before you dash off to Costo to stock up on economy-size cases of healthy staples, remember that research shows that when people stockpile food, they tend to eat more. Either keep those tubs of snacks out of sight and out of mind — or divide the munchies into smaller portions.
Beyond that, while working with registered dietitian Cassandra Forsythe, I learned there are a few foods you should always keep in your kitchen if you're trying to drop kilograms.
Regular rolled oats pack six grams of protein and four grams of fibre and contain 10 percent of your daily of iron.
2. Fibre Crackers
Fibre crackers tend to be lower in calories than other kinds of crackers, and they’re dense so it takes longer to eat them and they fill you up fast.
3. Canned Tuna
Foodies may turn up their noses at canned tuna, but it’s packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, contains 16 grams of protein, is low in calories and doesn’t require any prep or cooking. Choose light tuna because it has about half as much mercury as albacore — and toss it on top of a salad or pile it on a slice of sprouted grain bread.
There’s a reason nutritionists are nuts for nuts: They contain protein, unsaturated fat (which lowers “bad” cholesterol), omega-3s, fibre, and vitamin E (which prevents plaque buildup in your arteries).
5. Canned beans
Beans are nutrient powerhouses. Take black beans, for example. Half a cup contains eight grams of protein, 128 milligrams of folic acid, two grams of iron, 60 milligrams of magnesium, 306 milligrams of potassium, and 120 milligrams of phosphorus (which helps the body use carbs and fat and improves kidney function). Add them to soups and salads, or have them as a side with dinner.
6. White wine vinegar
Scan the label of a bottle of salad dressing, and you’ll be shocked at what you see: stuff like sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and creepy sounding artificial flavours. Douse your salad with white wine vinegar and olive oil, instead; this type of vinegar has a milder flavour and less sugar and calories than balsamic.
7. Microwave popcorn
Yeah, microwave popcorn is old school—the smell brings me back to my college dorm room—but you can eat a ton of it (three and a half cups!) for minimal calories (just 130). Plus, because you have to take the time to nuke it, it’s not the kind of snack you’re going to grab a handful of every time you pass by your pantry.
8. Whole Grains
People think you can’t eat carbs when you’re trying to lose weight, but you can—and you should! You just want to pick the right ones. Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and teff pack protein, fibre, and other important nutrients. (Teff, for example, is rich in calcium, vitamin C, and iron.)
9. Protein powder
I’m not a smoothie person. These drinks can be loaded with calories (depending on what you chuck in there), and they’re over too fast. In other words, I’d find it more satisfying to sit down and have a banana, a cup of berries, a quarter-cup of yogurt, and a mound of steamed kale instead of blending it all together and sucking it down in two minutes. But many people love the taste and convenience of smoothies.
To boost the nutrition profile, add a scoop of whey protein powder, which is milk-based and higher in amino acids than other types of powder. If you have trouble digesting dairy, opt for pea protein powder instead, which contains about the same amount of protein.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US