Kitchen essentials to whip up a healthy meal anytime

Cooking a great tasting mean that's also healthy only requires having the right ingredients on hand.

Creating a dinner that's both flavorful and healthy might seem like a difficult trick. Some of our favorite foods may not be that good for us and can be filled with things like fats, salt and lots of calories.

But eating well doesn't have to be a difficult balancing act. Keeping your kitchen stocked with healthy essentials can help you whip up a great meal that's also good for you at any time and create something special. The following is a list of good-for-you essential items a well-stocked kitchen should have.

Brown Rice: Real Simple says it's a much healthier alternative to white rice. Brown rice keeps the bran and germ, both of which contain a wealth of nutrients and it's gluten-free as well.

Whole wheat flour: Like brown rice, whole wheat flour is healthier than the white version. It's got more protein and fiber, but fewer calories and carbohydrates, so those rolls or loaves of bread will be better for you.

Canned tomatoes: Whether whole, crushed, diced or pureed, they can liven up any recipe, from pastas to soups. But they're more than that: they contain lycopene, an antioxidant that fights cancer. If possible, buy the sodium-free or low-salt/sodium cans.

Extra virgin olive oil: It's high in monounsaturated fat, which experts at Harvard say is associated with low rates of heart disease. Because it's processed without high heat or chemicals, EVOO has more nutrients and a better, stronger taste. Drizzle it on pasta or pizzas to add an extra shot of flavor.

Lentils and dried beans: Both are filled with protein and fiber. Brown lentils are great for a fast meal because they cook quickly and go great with stews and soups. Meanwhile, canned beans contain the same nutrients but take less time to add to a recipe. As with tomatoes, go for the low sodium version if possible.

Whole wheat pasta: It contains almost three times the fiber as regular white flour pasta. It has a bolder taste and texture so make sure to use it with a sauce that has an equally bold flavor like garlic pesto.

Spices: Having a good selection of spices can reduce your need to add salt or sugar to a recipe. And many spices have great health benefits as well. For instance, Fitness reports that turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, cinnamon can help regulate your blood sugar and cumin can aid your immune system.

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