7 Essential Pantry Items for Weight Loss, According to a Dietitian
There are tons of things you can do in an effort to lose weight—such as hitting the gym and cutting back on your intake of added sugar—but if you're on a quest to shed some pounds, one of the first things you should do is make sure your own kitchen is in tip-top shape.
We're not talking about buying a Vitamix or undertaking a massive renovation, but if you want to shrink your waistline it's important to fill your pantry with foods that don't lead you astray and can actually help you achieve your weight loss goals.
In fact, a multitude of studies has shown that stocking your kitchen with healthy options is crucial to peeling off pounds. As the research suggests, that's because home-cooked meals are smaller, contain fewer calories, have less saturated fat and added sugars, and contain more fruits and veggies than meals prepared away from home. According to one 2011 study, those who don't have dinner at home are up to four times more likely to be overweight or obese.
With that in mind, we talked to Keri Glassman MS, RD, CDN, founder and CEO of Nutritious Life, about what items she recommends you have on hand if you're trying to fit back into those skinny jeans in time for spring. As it turns out, just a handful of items can have a substantial impact on your quest to slim down And if you're looking for more weight loss inspiration, be sure to peruse this list of the 100 Best Weight Loss Tips!
Healthy Cooking Oils
Though not all cooking oils are created equal, Keri suggests having an array of nutritious options at the ready, explaining, "I usually have a variety and will reach for different ones depending on what I'm cooking." Her top picks are fat-blasting coconut oil, nutrient-rich olive oil, and heart-healthy avocado oil. "Just a little bit adds a lot of flavor, and it has been shown that fat can help you burn fat," she says.
If you're looking to lose weight, using the appropriate cooking oil is much better for your belly (and overall health) than reaching for margarine, "light" butter, or anything else that typically contains hydrogenated oils or trans fats.
Speaking of butter, Keri often uses ghee—a class of clarified butter that originated from India—in place of the kitchen staple on toast, a baked potato, or vegetables. "I really just love the flavor, but it also has higher levels of some vitamins and beneficial fatty acids," she says. Indeed, ghee is high in fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin D, and is considered a healthy fat that can aid weight loss efforts.
Fiber-Rich Snack Bars
As someone who is "always on the go" Keri says simple snacks are a must because they will "keep you from grabbing unhealthy chemical laden snacks when you're starving and in a pinch." Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that healthy snacking throughout the day actually contributes to weight loss.
Though Keri is partial to Pure Organic's new Fruit and Nut Bars because of their real, whole, unprocessed, and organic ingredients, those attempting to lose weight should look for an option with more protein, such as KIND Sweet Cayenne BBQ, or Luna Protein Mint Chocolate Chip. For additional snack bar advice, check out this list of the 25 Best & Worst Low-Sugar Protein Bars.
In addition to having a myriad of cooking oils on hand, Keri is also a fan of a crowded spice rack. "When it comes to spices, I always use a variety. They add so much flavor (often in place of extra salt) and have so many health benefits, such as antioxidant and antimicrobial properties," she says.
Spices that can kick start weight loss include cinnamon, which has been shown to keep blood sugar in check, garlic, which garlic is a low-calorie way to pump up the flavor profile of your meals, and appetite-diminishing cayenne. In fact, in a cayenne-based study researchers found that men who ate spicy appetizers consumed 200 fewer calories at later meals than those who did not.
Though Keri also insists "no pantry is complete without quality salt," use the spicy staple in moderation if you want to lose weight since it can lead to unnecessary bloating.
When it comes to nuts, Keri readily admits she "can't choose just one kind," though some favorites include walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, and pecans. "These are all key for adding protein and fats (and crunch!) to salads and grain bowls and are perfect for fast snacking," she explains. "They're packed with antioxidants and protein, and the fat content means they're satiating, too."
As you may have guessed, nuts' satiating quality (which also comes from the waistline-friendly fiber they contain) is part of what makes them a perfect weight loss accomplice, so long as they are consumed in moderation. In fact, scientists estimated that replacing low-calorie foods with two servings of fatty, high-calorie (and high-fiber) nuts a week could save ninety thousand lives in the United States each year, according to a 2015 Open Heart study.
"Ancient grains like farro and quinoa are staples in my pantry," Keri says. "They add bulk and healthy heartiness to any meal, are protein-dense, and are so versatile for essentially any occasion."
While not all grains are created equal, farro and quinoa are both excellent allies in the battle of the belly bulge. In addition to edging out quinoa in the protein department, farro is also packed with satiating fiber (which is great for weight loss) and is a potent source of magnesium, energizing iron, and zinc, an essential mineral that's been shown to rev sex drive and aid protein synthesis and wound healing. Not to be outdone, quinoa is also known for being loaded with protein and rich with essential amino acids and fiber. "If you store them properly they'll keep forever," Keri adds of the fat-blasting grains.
"Tea is the perfect option to suit a multitude of flavor cravings from sweet to earthy and savory, and is the perfect night cap to let yourself know, 'the kitchen is closed,'" Keri explains. In addition to being a low-calorie alternative to often dairy and sugar-laden coffee, certain types of tea have actually been shown to stimulate weight loss. The fat-burning properties of green tea, for example, literally blast away flab, while yerba maté tea, a Keri favorite, promotes weight loss thanks to its ability to turn up your body's calorie burning mechanism and improve insulin sensitivity. For more information on how various teas can help shrink your waist, take a peek at this list of the 22 Best Teas for Weight Loss!
Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and CEO of Nutritious Life and The Nutrition School. Keri is the author of four best-selling books, a contributing editor and advisory board member for Women's Health Magazine, and a regular feature on national television programs like The Today Show and Good Morning America.