#264 Pantry Raid

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In department stores, so much kitchen equipment
is bought indiscriminately by people who just
come in for men's underwear.

Julia Child

16 Pantry Essentials

By Joe Wilkes

PantryIn Los Angeles, we're often reminded to have a well-stocked pantry in case of an earthquake, but it's for the day-to-day diet emergencies where having a full larder can really help out. The best-case scenario is that you've been to the farmers market and stocked up on fresh fruit and veggies, lean meat and fish, and other healthy staples. But when you get those items home and someone's polished off the last chicken breast, the fresh blueberries have sprouted green fuzz, and that head of romaine is now a brown puddle at the bottom of the crisper, it's time for Plan B (read this for tips on cleaning that green fuzz and that brown puddle). And hopefully, Plan B isn't that folder of delivery menus you've been collecting. You can save money and your diet by storing up some nonperishable items for a rainy day. Here's a list of items a healthy pantry shouldn't be without.

  1. Canned tuna. This is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids—120 calories and 30 grams of protein in one six-ounce can. Try to buy tuna packed in water instead of oil to reduce fat and calories. And look for preparation methods that aren't mayonnaise-based. Other good fish sources include canned salmon, sardines, or anchovies (although you might want to watch the sodium content in these). Note: Consuming large amounts of fish, including tuna, can expose you to unhealthful levels of metal contamination (especially mercury). Generally, the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risks, but it's worth mentioning to your physician to determine whether you need to limit your fish intake.

  2. Instant OatmealInstant oatmeal. Oatmeal you prepare on the stove is OK, too. But for those of us who are culinarily or time-challenged, instant is the way to go. Low in fat, high in fiber, oatmeal is a great filling breakfast or snack. Try to skip the presweetened, flavored oatmeals though. You're better off adding your own sugar, maple syrup, or honey, as you're more likely to add less than the manufacturer. Better yet, try to accustom your palate to eating it plain. The first few times might have a higher yuck factor, but before long, you'll wonder how you ever ate it so sweet. There are also a lot of oatmeals on the market with added ingredients like soy and flaxseed—even healthier!

  3. Protein powder. Needless to say, in our unbiased opinion, the tastiest, healthiest protein powder on the market is Beachbody's Whey Protein Powder. Protein powder has a pretty long shelf life, and adding a scoop to your morning oatmeal or smoothie is a great way to pack in some protein when your eggs and cottage cheese are a little past their prime.

  4. Peanut butter. The best peanut butter will be preservative-free and only contain peanuts, and will have to be refrigerated after being opened. Two tablespoons will give you eight grams of protein (although don't go "nuts"—those tablespoons also have 16 total grams of fat). If you get bored with peanut butter, you might give almond or soy nut butter a try. Nut butters are also great additions to smoothies.

  5. Canned VegetablesCanned vegetables. Fresh vegetables are usually better, and organic better still, but the downside of getting rid of nasty preservatives in your veggies is that they tend to spoil faster. Believe me, ask my crisper. Enter frozen and canned vegetables. In my opinion, frozen tastes better, but thawing adds another step to the preparation process and real estate is at a higher premium in the freezer than the cupboard, so canned vegetables win for their convenience. The only downside besides a mushier texture is the sodium that some brands load their veggies with. Read the label to make sure you're getting the veggies with the least salt.

  6. Canned fruit. Similar to the veggies, canned fruit is another easy option. Just make sure to avoid fruit that has been packed in heavy syrup. Even light syrup is the wrong direction dietwise. Try to find fruit packed in its own juice.

  7. Canned BeansLegumes. Canned or dried, it's great to have a supply of lentils, pinto beans, kidney beans, low-fat refried beans, and/or garbanzos on hand. As with other vegetables, watch the sodium content in the canned beans. Dried beans won't be as mushy as canned, but can require soaking overnight to achieve a non-tooth-breaking consistency. The lentil is a wonderful dried food that tastes great, has lots of fiber, and does not require soaking.

  8. Broth and soup. Every good cook should have several cans of chicken, beef, or vegetarian broth on hand—preferably reduced fat and low sodium. Bouillon cubes add a prep step, and can be saltier, but work in a pinch. Broth is a great way to flavor rice, vegetables, and pasta, and can be used instead of oil or butter to sauté foods. Some cooks recommend filling an ice cube tray with broth and using a cube at a time. Although make sure everyone in the household knows this system as I've seen many a cocktail hour ruined this way. Low-sodium soups are also great, but check the labels carefully. And if the name of the soup begins with "cream of" it probably isn't the best diet choice.

  9. PastaWhole-grain pasta. There has been an encouraging trend in the pasta market, with brands now offering whole-grain versions of the old white-flour standbys. Some brands also include flaxseed, protein, and other healthy stuff. Grant you, some brands of adulterated pasta also taste like feet. Some sampling may be required before you find the one that's right for you.

  10. Tomato sauce. Tomatoes are full of the antioxidant lycopene, and cooked tomatoes have even more of it than raw tomatoes, so using canned and cooked tomatoes is actually a potentially healthier choice than the farmers market tomatoes. Canned tomatoes, sauce, and paste are all great ways to get all the nutrition the tomato packs in, but with all due respect to former President Reagan, ketchup is barely a vegetable. It's mostly salt and corn syrup. As with all canned food, watch the sodium.

  11. Brown rice. Rice has an incredibly long shelf life and is easy to prepare, and brown rice and wild rice have lots of fiber. And now, there are even microwave versions available!

  12. Whole NutsNuts. Nuts are a great snack. They're filling and high in omega-3s. They're also high in fat though, so portion control is a must. I like buying the nuts with the shells on. Having to shell them myself slows me down a little, so by the time my stomach finally tells my brain it's full, I haven't powered through an entire bag. (Click here for more about nuts.)

  13. Flaxseed. This usually has to be refrigerated after it's been opened, but having ground flaxseed on hand is a great way to add a little fiber and some heart-healthy omega-3s into your diet. It's very versatile and has a mild, nutty flavor that goes with almost anything. You can add a couple of teaspoons to a smoothie, a bowl of soup, or a salad.

  14. Tea BagsTea. The best tea, healthwise, is probably green tea. But black tea has some healthy properties as well, and herbal teas offer a whole range of benefits (Click here to read more about herbal tea). Recently, I was forced to confess to being a compulsive tea buyer. I had about 30 boxes of different teas packed in my cupboard, some boxes containing only one bag or two bags. I solved the storage problem by buying a "tea box" and dumping the individually wrapped bags into it. It's a real space saver and impresses company after dinner.

  15. Condiments. Sometimes the healthiest food is not always the tastiest. Instead of resorting to salt and fats to make a meal more savory, it's good to keep a small army of healthy, flavorful condiments on hand. Vinegars, mustards, and hot sauces are among the many available flavor-izers that can perk up a drab dish without adding additional fat or calories.

  16. P90X® Peak Performance Protein BarsEnergy bars and shakes. When all else fails, I say, hit the bar. Actually, I'm usually talking about the other kind of bar, but energy bars are great too, and far more nutritious. I know several people who are short on time (and also the love of cooking) who practically live on them. But, to repeat our tired refrain yet again, it is important to read the label. Some brands are little more than glorified candy bars that have an oat or two mixed in. Try to find bars and shakes that offer a balanced mix of protein, carbs, and healthy fats, such as Beachbody's P90X® Peak Performance Protein Bars and Meal Replacement Shake.

Joe Wilkes If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.


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7 Kitchen Must-Haves

By Chef Pierre

Chef's HatIt is I, Chef Pierre, Beachbody's official chef of great excellence, back after a long absence, which I, Chef Pierre, do not feel obligated to explain. Lucky for you, I, Chef Pierre, have returned to give you, the little people, a lesson in healthy eating.

Many silly people confuse the love of fine food with the love of frying and heavy cream sauces. Mais non! Fine dining does not need to be this way. It is possible to enjoy foods in a healthy way; it is simply a matter of having the right tools for the job. So, it is with great condescension that I, Chef Pierre, share a few of my favorite kitchen utensils with you, the little people.

The first thing you need is the proper vehicle in which to deliver your meats and vegetables to, how do you say, Deliciousville. This certainly does not mean a frying pan! When preparing foods, there are two ideal ways to go.

  1. Vegetable SteamerSteamer. The healthiest cooking methods avoid adding excess oils, salts, and butters. For this, a steamer is ideal. Unlike boiling, it does not cause your vegetables to become soggy, yet it keeps in all the magnifique nutrients. It also helps your food maintain its original flavor. The only true way to pull all the flavor from an artichoke is to steam it for an hour. Chef Pierre's mouth waters just thinking of it.

  2. Indoor grill. There are certain things one just cannot steam. A turkey burger, for example, would taste rather odd. Also, after a while, steaming can become, how do you say, boring. For these reasons, I, Chef Pierre, also suggest an indoor grill. Not only is it another ideal way to avoid adding unhealthy oils, salts, and butters, it also drains away excess fats from meats! Formidable!

Of course, now that I, Chef Pierre, have robbed your foods of their precious oils, salts, and butters, you are probably crying to your mamans like this, "Maman! Chef Pierre has made my food too bland!" To you, I, Chef Pierre, say two things. The first thing is, "Shut up." The second thing is that you must invest in . . .

  1. Spice RackA spice rack. There are many other agents of flavor besides salt and oil that tickle your taste buds without tightening your arteries. In fact, many of these spices are thought to have medicinal benefits. You can click here to learn about the benefits of chilies, curries, turmeric, and other tasty spices.
  2. Garlic is said to lower blood pressure—and do not be concerned about your breath. Every Frenchman knows that the ladies love the odor of garlic on their lover's breath. Rosemary has been indicated in some studies to fight cataracts. Oregano is high in antioxidants. Sage, thyme, and ginger all have potential medicinal benefits. Spices such as basil and mint may not have any direct medicinal benefits, but they add flavor in a healthy, smart way. Doing something smart may seem strange to many of you, but trust Chef Pierre, it is a good thing.

  3. Small Bowl and SpoonSmall bowls and 5. Small spoons. Much like dogs, humans have a habit of eating whatever is put in front of them. If they have access to less food, they do fine with less food. In a study at Cornell University, researchers held an ice cream social for their peers, randomly gave them 17-ounce or 34-ounce bowls, and told them to serve themselves their own ice cream. The larger-bowl people took 31 percent more. People given 3-ounce scoops served themselves 14.5 percent more ice cream than people given 2-ounce scoops. Of course, no French researcher would have been so rude as to treat his contemporaries as guinea pigs at an ice cream social, but this is besides the point.

  4. Salad SpinnerA salad spinner. Greens are a must for any healthy diet, filled with vitamins and fiber, but oftentimes, people say, "Chef Pierre, I am a lazy American, so it is hard for me to wash lettuce all the time." To these people, I, Chef Pierre, say, "You are lazy Americans." I also suggest that they invest in a salad spinner, which is an easy and, dare I say, fun way to clean salad. The less intelligent may also find watching the leaves go around and around to be quite pleasant.

    Another option, I suppose, is to simply buy your lettuce prewashed and bagged, but this costs you extra money that you could otherwise save to buy truffles.

  5. A good blender. I, Chef Pierre, will never understand the concept of "juicing." You take a perfectly beautiful fruit—say an apple—then pulverize it and rob it of its life-giving fiber. (Don't believe Chef Pierre? Read here for "The Whole Fruit and Nothing but the Fruit.") I, Chef Pierre, have long tired of trying to talk you, the little people, out of this bizarre ritual, so instead, we shall meet halfway. Blend the apple. Turn it into a, how do you say, smoothie. This way, you have the tasty beverage you crave and I have the knowledge that you are getting some of the 25 grams of fiber you need in a day.

Not that I, Chef Pierre, care about you or anything.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Test Your Cooking IQ!

By Joe Wilkes
  1. CookbookWho published the first cookbook? The first known cookbook was published by the Vatican in 1475. Entitled Concerning Honest Pleasure and Physical Well-Being, it was a collection of recipes assembled by Vatican librarian Bartolomeo Sacchi.

  2. What is the best-selling brand of kitchenware? Tupperware. Though not available in stores, these burpable containers are the most popular items in kitchens. Since 1946, they have been sold throughout the world through direct sales. There are almost two million independent Tupperware salespeople. That's a lot of Tupperware parties!

  3. Spoon MeasureWho standardized kitchen measurements (i.e., cups, teaspoons)? Fannie Farmer (1857–1915). Her cookbook, Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, which was later simply published as the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, was the first cookbook to standardize measures instead of approximating with phrases like "a handful" or "a small lump" as previous cookbooks had done. Her precision paid off. Over a century later, the cookbook is still in publication. The Fanny Farmer brand of candy was named in tribute to her after her death.

  4. What is the oldest recipe on record? A Sumerian recipe for beer was discovered on cuneiform tablets believed to date back to 6000 BC. The recipe involved mashing grains into cakes which were fermented and then mixed with warm water.

  5. James BeardWhat was the first TV cooking show? I Love to Eat aired on NBC from 1946–1947 and was hosted by legendary chef and writer James Beard (1903–1985). Beard ran a cooking school from his Greenwich Village brownstone for 40 years. It now houses the James Beard Foundation which, among other things, annually bestows honors on chefs and food writers.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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