Standing in front of a three-way mirror trying to find a flattering swimsuit may not be your idea of a fun time. You aren't alone. More than any other time of the year, the approaching warm summer days that call for swimsuits, sleeveless blouses, cropped pants and shorts make us self-conscious about the shape of our bodies. But how we look on the outside is only part of the picture. How we look on the inside is just as important.
If you're ready to start a makeover to slim down and give your body the nutritional boost it needs, consider a pantry makeover. The March 2011 Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter provides great ideas. Listed below are ideas for items to add to your pantry or use as replacements for less healthy counterparts:
Barley: Good for your heart and for lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels, barley packs plenty of fiber and nutrients. Add to soups or stews or serve as a side dish.
Beans: A rich source of protein and a good source of B vitamins, beans are a hearty, healthy food. If you eat the canned variety, you can reduce nearly half of the sodium content by draining and rinsing the beans.
Brown rice: Made of whole grains, brown rice is a healthy and satisfying staple. Unlike its counterpart, white rice, brown rice lowers your risk for diabetes.
Canned fish: Albacore tuna, canned sardines and canned salmon are packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Tuna packed in water is best. If you make tuna salad, remember to go easy on the mayonnaise (or switch to low-fat mayonnaise).
Canola oil: Canola oil contains an ideal mix of unsaturated fats that promotes heart health. Canola oil supplies the body with essential fatty acids.
Cooking spray: As a no-calorie alternative to oil, cooking spray works well when you need just enough oil to prevent sticking.
Cornstarch: As an alternative to flour, cornstarch works well for thickening soups and sauces. A teaspoon of cornstarch is relatively low in calories (10) and adds twice the thickness of flour.
Dried fruit: Dried fruit makes a great snack or a nutritious topping on cereal or yogurt. Blueberries are particularly healthy. Check the ingredients and avoid dried fruits that contain added sugar.
Green tea: Packed with healthy antioxidants, green tea also produces feelings of satiety. Drink a cup or two with meals to suppress the urge to overeat.
Hot sauce: Hot sauce is great for adding flavor to food without adding calories or sodium. Check the label to make sure the sodium content is low.
Lentils: Quick, easy and nutritious, lentils are a good source of fiber, protein, iron and potassium.
Low-sodium chicken stock: Many recipes call for chicken stock. Make sure you use a low-sodium brand.
Nuts and nut butters: A good source of protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, nuts are often avoided because of their high calorie content. In moderation, nuts make a healthy snack.
Oatmeal: Oat groats and steel-cut oatmeal are the most nutritious, but even the quick-cook variety is chock-full of good ingredients.
Olive oil: Olive oil in vinaigrette makes a great substitute for bottled salad dressings. Add vinegar and a little Dijon mustard for a tasty vinaigrette.
Popcorn: Literally popping with antioxidants and loaded with fiber, popcorn makes a healthy snack. Remember to go easy on the salt.
Powdered egg whites: As a substitute for liquid egg whites, powdered egg whites are an excellent low-calorie, low-fat source of protein.
Quinoa: A healthier substitute for rice, quinoa makes a great side dish.
Sugar substitutes: Choose from a variety of zero-calorie sugar substitutes to satisfy your sweet tooth without adding pounds.
Vinegar: Red-wine vinegar contains only one milligram of sodium per tablespoon and no saturated fat. A caloric bargain, vinegar has only three calories per serving. Add to salads or your favorite dish.
Whole-wheat flour: Whole-wheat flour can be substituted for bleached white flour (up to one-third) in most recipes. For lighter baked goods, check supermarkets for whole-wheat, white and whole-wheat pastry flours.
Whole-wheat pasta: Stock up on this healthy alternative to white pasta. Substitute whole-wheat couscous for white rice.
Wild rice: Although some varieties of wild rice take extra time to prepare, quick-cook varieties are now available. Heat the quick-cook versions in boiling water or microwave for a nutritious and wholesome side dish.
The average American consumes 35 percent of his or her calories from SoFAS-solid fats and added sugars. Your pantry makeover can move this number down for you and your family, and the lower number will help trim surplus pounds. This list of ideas will turn your pantry into your ally in looking and feeling your best during the summer days ahead. And if you're cooking for family members, they'll appreciate the pantry makeover as well. Imagine the compliments when the new, trimmer you shows up in your new bathing suit!
Photo: ajft on Flickr.