Whole-grain cereals. They should be low in sugar and have at least 3 grams of protein and fiber.
Brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and orzo. Fibrous fillers.
Couscous. Small pellets of semolina flour made from the heart of durum wheat.
Canned beans. Choose all varieties of low-sodium beans. Rinse under water before using to reduce starch and salt.
Dried fruit. Without the sulfites or added sugar for a healthy snack on the go.
Ground flaxseed. Heart-healthy with omega-3 fatty acids. Sprinkle on your cereal, salads, soups and yogurt.
Vinegar. Red wine and balsamic.
Miso. Boost your immune system with this fermented soybean paste full of low-calorie protein, B12 and zinc.
Cinnamon and oregano. The highest of all the spices in antioxidants and wonderful flavor.
Walnuts and other raw nuts. Healthy and great in many recipes. Nuts lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and are high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Nut butters are flavorful and make a great snack.
Canned tomatoes. Unlike most canned foods, canned tomatoes retain most of their nutrients. Canned tomatoes contain more lycopene (which protects against heart disease and cancer) than raw tomatoes.
Canned salmon. Wild-caught Alaskan canned salmon is as good as fresh, and costs much less. King, sockeye and Coho salmon have more DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids than most seafood and the lowest mercury levels.
Canned sardines. They are low in mercury and high in vitamin D with a 3-ounce serving having as much calcium as a cup of milk.
Pesto sauce. A couple tablespoons makes pasta delicious and healthy. Made from basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and hard cheese, pesto is nutrient-dense with healthy fats.
Powerful marketing can be tricky for the consumer. Simply because a product is labeled "natural" or "healthy" does not mean it is. Read the ingredients list before you buy and select products based on the label. This will help you become confident in knowing you are preparing meals that are nutritionally sound.
One last shopping tip. Once you have your pantry stocked with healthy staples, do the majority of your shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where you will find fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and lean sources of protein.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified instructor/trainer since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or email cindys...@aol.com. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," on her website, www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.