Category Archives: healthy pantry staples

Sea Salt versus Table Salt, Is There a Difference?

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The use of sea salt is becoming more popular these days, its presence can be found in savory and sweet dishes alike. Some tout it to be a healthier alternative to regular table salt, stating that it offers more trace minerals and a “saltier” taste per teaspoon -thus reducing the amount needed in cooking to add flavor.  But is there really a difference between the two types or should this proclamation be taken with a “grain of salt”?  Read more.


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Filed under health trends, healthy eating, healthy eating tips, healthy pantry staples, salt, seasonings, sodium

Putting it on the Plate with PICKKA – Lemon-Olive Oil Tuna Noodle Casserole

This healthier version of tuna noodle casserole relies on a lemon-olive oil dressing rather than a heavy cream base for flavor.

I came across the idea for this healthier version of tuna noodle casserole a few years back and, after a few tweaks here and there, have used it ever since as one of my “go-to” recipes when I’m in a pinch.  Most of the ingredients are staples found in the pantry and ice box so it is easy to throw together when you are short for time. 

By replacing the heavy cream base of the traditional tuna noodle casserole with a lemon juice-olive oil dressing, the saturated fat content of this meal can be reduced.  Although I am an advocate for using whole-grain pasta, for this particular dish I wanted a milder tasting noodle that would not compete with the other flavors.  Therefore, I used my Evincii/PICKKA’s “Eat This?” app for the iPhone to help me find a satisfactory alternative.  After entering my health objectives, I started scanning pasta products.  To my suprise, my choice for a milder tasting pasta fell into the “Good Choice” category as did its whole-grain counterpart.  I was content with my choice and felt reassured that it was a healthy alternative.

Lemon-Olive Oil Tuna Noodle Casserole


1 (14.4 ounce) box of farfalle pasta, cooked according to package directions

2 green onions, chopped

1 small yellow pepper, chopped

3/4 cup frozen peas, cooked according to package directions

1 (12 ounce) can of solid white albacore tuna packed in water, drained and broken into pieces

1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Lemon-olive oil dressing (recipe below)*


Rinse cooked pasta in cold water and drain.  Place pasta into a large bowl.  Add yellow pepper, green onion, peas, and tuna fish.  Mix to combine the ingredients.  Pour lemon-olive oil dressing over pasta mixture and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Serve with whole-grain bread.

*Lemon-Olive Oil Dressing:  In a small bowl wisk together 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil; 3 TBS lemon juice; 3 crushed cloves of garlic; 1 tsp white vinegar; 1/2 tsp of sea salt; 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper.

What is your favorite way to eat tuna fish?  Share with us, we want to know!



Filed under easy meals, Eat This?, healthy food, healthy pantry staples, homemade meals, PICKKA, Recipes

Simply Sunday

Welcome to Simply Sunday here at the Health and Food Forum’s Blog.  Today’s topic is “Healthy Kitchen Staples.”*  A well-stocked kitchen can help you meet your weight management and nutrition goals.  Packing your cupboards and icebox full of healthy food staples will provide you with the needed ingredients to prepare well-balanced, nutrient-dense meals.  A sufficiently prepared pantry can also aid in the creation of quick meals and snacks for those hectic, on-the-go days.  The healthy staples that you should have in your kitchen include:

Healthy Pantry Staples

  • Dried Beans:  These supply your body with protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  Furthermore, they are relatively low in fat and contain no cholesterol.  A diet that is abundant in this healthy staple can help to decrease cholesterol levels, improve blood sugar values, and lower the risk of certain cancers.  Dried lentils are a good choice if you are short on time because there is no need to soak them overnight before they can be cooked.
  • Whole-Grains:  The fiber content of this food group can help with weight management by providing a sensation of fullness with a consumption of fewer calories.  Whole grains are a low-fat source of protein and complex carbohydrates.  Quinoa is a good choice, especially for vegetarians, because it is a complete protein (contains all eight essential amino acids) and is a good source of iron.
  • Healthy Oils:  Although you should not consume a high-fat diet, your body does require a certain amount of fat to carry out numerous metabolic processes.  The type of fat you consume is important for optimal health.  You will want to stock your pantry with oils high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and low in saturated fats.  Extra-virgin olive oil is a good choice because it has been shown to improve cholesterol levels and to protect against heart diseasae.
  • Spices:  Spices are an excellent way to add flavor to dishes without adding extra salt, sugar, and fat.  Cinnamon has been linked to improved fasting blood sugar levels in diabetics.  Sprinkle it over your morning oatmeal or use it as a flavoring for roasted nuts.  Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties.  Use it to flavor brown rice or other whole-grain dishes.
  • Canned Tuna:  Albacore tuna fish is an excellent source of protein and contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.  Purchase low-sodium cans of tuna and rinse with water prior to consuming to reduce sodium content.  Mix a can of tuna fish with whole-grain pasta for a quick lunch.
  • Canned Tomatoes:  This pantry staple can be used to make salsas, sauces, and soups.  It also makes a great topping for baked potatoes and omelets.  Thanks to the lycopene content, canned tomatoes offer protection against certain cancers (lung, colon, breast, prostate, and skin) and they have been linked to a reduced the risk of heart disease.
  • Nut and Seed Butters:  A great source of protein, nut and seed butters can be spread on whole-grain bread, mixed with hot cereal, or used in sauces to top whole-grain noodles or rice.

Healthy Icebox Staples

  • Soybeans (Edamame):  Soybeans are an excellent source of protein, unsaturated fat, and fiber.  Edamame can be tossed in a mixed-greens salad or eaten alone as a healthy snack.
  • Frozen Fruits and Vegetables: These icebox staples are a great source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.  They also help with weight management due to their fiber content.  Frozen fruit can be used to make smoothies and frozen vegetables can be added to soups and sauces.

Healthy eating requires planning and preparation.  By keeping your pantry and icebox stocked with staples that can be easily and quickly turned into meals, you increase your chances of adhering to a healthy lifestyle.

*Today’s post was adapted from Simply Fit’s “Kitchen Staple Essentials for the Physically Active” posted on November 5, 2009.


The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, 2005, Murray, M

“How to Build a Healthy Pantry For Busy People,” December 8, 2008, Van Sunder, T.

Food for Fitness, Eat Right to Train Right, 2004, Carmichael, C.

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Filed under easy meals, health, healthy food, healthy pantry staples, nutrition