Your weight-loss pantry

Your weight-loss pantry

For all but the most dedicated healthy foodies, the silly season can throw us off kilter. Nutritionist Bronwen King helps us set up that solid foundation at home to suit weight-loss goals.

There’s no doubt that what you have at home has a huge impact on your food choices. If your pantry contains items that may compromise your health and weight, it’s time to get started: it’s audit time on the home food front! Start with your pantry and fridge.


Foods high in kilojoules but low in useful nutrients: potato chips, buttery crackers (the melt-in-mouth variety), all biscuits, cakes, anything chocolatey (yes, even the cooking chocolate), confectionery, rich sauces, dressings, mayonnaise, most cheeses, cream, butter, white bread, rich breads such as croissants and brioche, white rice (with the exception of basmati), high-fat/low-fibre cereals, ice cream.


Foods that look after your health and weight such as: low-fat and high-fibre cereals (untoasted varieties with more than 7g fibre per 100g, eg. bran-based, rolled oats, untoasted muesli), dried legumes, brown and basmati rice, high-fibre breads and crackers (more than 5g fibre per 100g), canned fruit (canned in juice), canned vegetables such as sweet corn, tomatoes and beetroot, canned legumes (eg. chickpeas, lentils, chilli beans), heart-friendly oils such as olive, canola or sunflower oil, nuts and seeds, frozen vegetables, frozen lean meat, poultry, fish.

Add flavor with smaller amounts of Asian sauces (eg. salt-reduced soy sauce, oyster sauce, sweet chilli sauce, fish sauce, mirin).

Pantry top 10

1.  Canned legumes, eg. chickpeas, lentils, cannellini beans

Full of fibre, these fill without fattening. Purée chickpeas or cannellini beans with garlic and lemon juice for an easy hummus, or add drained, rinsed chickpeas to soups or curries for added texture and protein.

2.  Canned fish, eg. tuna, salmon, sardines

These fish are rich in protein and omega-3 fats and they are great to pop in the lunchbox with some salad and grainy bread. Go for unflavoured varieties canned in spring water or brine, or drain oil thoroughly.

3.  Canned tomatoes

Rich in lycopene (helps protect against prostate cancer), these can be added to almost anything. The flavoured varieties make a great sauce for meat or legumes.

4.  Pumpkin or sunflower seeds

Dry-fried seeds add a crunchy, nutty flavour to many dishes.

5.  Balsamic vinegar

Adds huge flavour to marinades, dressings and sauces without adding kilojoules.

6. Nuts and butters

Add flavor, crunch and/or creaminess along with heart-healthy fats.

7.  Fish sauce

A fabulous flavour booster for stir-fry sauces or Asian dressings. It is, however, high in sodium so use sparingly. Try using less than the recipe suggests or diluting with water.

8.  Seeded mustard

Great as a low-fat spread on bread (instead of butter), in salad dressings, as a rub on lean meat or as an accompaniment to almost anything.

9.  Dried chilli flakes

These add zing wherever they are used. Add to casseroles, sauces and soups.

10. Salt-reduced soy sauce

Boosts flavour without kilojoules.

Fresh top 10

Fresh vegetables and fruit are top of the list when it comes to a weight-loss pantry. Non-starchy varieties are great for adding volume and taste to meals, ‘diluting’ other higher-kilojoule foods. They are also packed with nutrients to keep you well. Watch starchy vegetables, however, such as potatoes, kumara, yams and taro: these carbohydrates make up only one-quarter of the ideal healthy plate.

1.  Salad greens


eg. baby spinach or mesclun salad mixKilojoule for kilojoule, greens are probably the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They are perfect for bulking out meals. Get into the habit of having at least one handful of greens each day!

2.  Fresh herbs

Great for adding flavour (without kilojoules). Fresh basil enhances the flavour of tomatoes while coriander goes well with almost any Asian dish.

3.  Telegraph cucumber

Low in kilojoules, use this vege to
bulk out salads, sandwiches or platters. Make an easy low-kilojoule dip by grating cucumber and adding garlic and a little salt to thick low-fat plain yoghurt.

4.  Tomatoes

Slice and enjoy with extra-light cream cheese spread on a grainy cracker or serve with cucumber and cubes of feta as a Greek salad. Tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps protect against prostate cancer.

5.  Bananas

Sweeten up your cereal with sliced banana. Keep a few at work or in the car for times when the munchies strike. They are one of nature’s best fast foods!

6.  Kiwifruit

A good source of vitamin C and fibre. If you need something sweet after dinner, try sliced kiwifruit with a little yoghurt and a sprinkle of muesli.

7.  Blueberries

Blueberries contain higher antioxidant levels than almost every other vegetable and fruit. The blue colour is due to anthocyanins, antioxidants shown to be good for brain function.

8.  Chicken breasts

Skinless chicken breasts are one of the leanest forms of meat. Although expensive, a little can go a long way in a stir-fry.

9.  Tofu

Although not big on flavour, tofu takes on the flavours of food it is prepared with, and this soy bean product can be greatly satisfying. Being low in fat and high in protein, it is great to use as a protein source in stir-fries.

10.  Falafel

A healthy fast food if ever there was one! Made from ground legumes such as chickpeas and broad beans and available ready-to-go from the deli section at the supermarket.

Fridge and freezer top 10

1.  Frozen whole baby beans

A great standby when your fresh vegetables run out. Add a handful at the last minute to bulk out curries, stir-fries and casseroles.

2.  Trim or Calci-Trim milk

Choose trim/Calci-Trim milk (green/yellow top) instead of full-cream milk (dark-blue top) and save about 8g fat in a 250ml cup.

3.  Reduced fat Greek yoghurt

Satisfies any urge for cream with a lot less fat.

4.  Tomato paste

Tubes keep for ages in the fridge. Great as a low-kilojoule pizza sauce or to boost flavour in tomato-based dishes.

5.  Parmesan cheese

While high in fat, a little goes a long way. Sprinkle lightly on Italian-style dishes or use a little to boost the flavour of reduced-fat cheese.

6.  Green curry paste

Adds heaps of flavour for relatively few kilojoules. Add one or two tablespoons to cooked chicken or fish plus a little reduced-fat coconut milk for a tasty and easy meal.

7.  Jars of grated ginger and crushed garlic

While fresh is always nicer, these are great when you are in a hurry. Low in kilojoules, they are useful flavour boosters.

8.  Grainy bread

Keep a loaf of high-fibre bread in the freezer. Control your intake by only taking out the slices you need.

9.  Jar of capers

Big on flavour and low in kilojoules, these are great in pasta sauces, on pizza or sprinkled over salad.

10. Extra-light cream cheese spread

Not to be confused with light cream cheese (with about 15 per cent fat), this makes a good alternative for butter or margarine.

HFG picks to add to your trolley


Bürgen Wholemeal & Seeds…for weight management

This bread has a whopping 10.8g fibre per 100g which makes it very filling. At 888kJ per slice, however, go for an open rather than closed sandwich and fill up with salad toppings.

Molenberg Balance

Has high fibre (7.2g per 100g) while retaining a light colour and texture. A good choice for those who find it harder to change to a higher-fibre bread.


Wholegrain oats

While these have the same amount of fibre as other rolled oats (9.2g per 100g), the fact that they are less processed means they take longer to digest. This keeps you fuller for longer. Use wholegrain oats to make muesli, as a nutty porridge or in baking.


A good source of fibre and low in sugar. For a change and for extra fibre, try the oat bran or hi–bran varieties.


De Winkel Acidophilus Yoghurt — Plain Unsweetened

With no added sugar and less than 1g fat per 100g this is a good everyday yoghurt.

Fresh’n Fruity Greek Low Fat

At 2.9g fat per 100g, this Greek yoghurt is a much better choice than traditional high-fat versions.

Table spreads

Flora Light

Based on heart-friendly sunflower oil, this spread at 47 per cent fat (12 per cent saturated) is a lower-kilojoule choice than butter or margarine.

Extra-Light Philadelphia Cream Cheese — Spreadable

At only 5 per cent fat this spreads well and works as a good alternative to butter or margarine.


Bouton d’or Camembert

At 23g fat per 100g, this is less than most firmer cheeses and considerably less than other camembert or brie brands.

Reduced-fat cheddar or edam cheese

Compared to 35g in most cheddars, these two varieties are lower in fat so make good all-round cheeses.



When choosing a cracker, go for fibre — the more the better. Vita-Weat has 12.2g fibre per 100g while being relatively low in fat.

Real Foods Soy & Linseed Corn Thins

With 11.1g fibre and just 5.7g fat per 100g these ‘crackers’ tick all the boxes. And they taste great!

Author: Bronwen King

Healthy Food Guide

First published: Feb 2012

Last updated date: 17 August 2018

2018-08-17 15:35:01

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