Just because I'm a weight-loss editor doesn't mean I'm immune to junk food cravings. See what's in my pantry, including healthy items to buy and sinful food to avoid.

June 21, 2009

By Shaun Chavis
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For the next few weeks, I thought I'd share what's in my kitchen and what I eat. I'm definitely not a model for anyone to imitate—just because I'm a weight-loss editor doesn't mean I'm immune to junk food cravings. Most days I keep things fairly balanced, but I certainly have room for improvement. I try to cook from scratch most nights, but if I'm at the office until 8 o'clock, I'm likely to succumb to the hot bar at Whole Foods.

It's a tough job, but I try to balance my inner foodie with my nutrition know-it-all. To see the struggle, take a tour of my pantry and counter. I kept everything as it was, minus a few items that had passed their prime. Let's start with the counter first.

Counter
You can see some sad-looking limes, a little bag of red potatoes from Jones Valley Urban Farm (which is less than 10 minutes from where I live), a big bar of baking chocolate, some basil I got from my closest farmers' market, and a bar of Santander for evening snacking. I break off two squares a night, about 87 calories worth of dessert.

Add this to your grocery list: Fresh herbs. They make dishes taste delicious, and you can buy them cheaply at local markets.

Pantry
We'll go from top to bottom, and left to right.

Top two shelves: Capers, oils, fish sauce, Italian chestnut honey, a can of chipotle peppers, a box of golden raisins, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, three bottles of balsamic vinegar, Cava vinegar, German vinegar, pumpkin seed oil, pistachio oil, walnut oil, sugar, anchovies, barbecue sauce made by a former Cooking Light test-kitchen professional, fig vinegar, and a bottle of Absolut with 10 vanilla beans soaking in it. (Homemade vanilla extract!)

Third shelf: Staples. Veggie broth, beans, chickpeas, cans of tuna (which are great for dinner in a pinch), whole-grain corn meal, and quick polenta.

Bottom shelf: A bag of locally produced corn meal, brown sugar, farro, and several types of rice—basmati, Arborio, and Spanish for paella.

Add this to your grocery list: Pumpkin seed oil and pistachio oil. As you can see, I love using oil and vinegars to flavor my food in a healthy way. These two oils add a delicious and strong, nutty flavor that are great for salad dressings or sprinkled over steamed veggies.

The other side: Almond butter on the far left. That little jar with a red lid? It's some fleur de sel that I scraped a vanilla bean into. (It's vanilla-flavored fleur de sel, and it's awesome on fresh pineapple, watermelon, scallops and other seafood, and roasted potatoes. I hear it's good on popcorn and ice cream too, but I haven't tried it yet.)

Next shelf: Maple syrup (which I use to make granola or drizzle on sweet potatoes), turbinado sugar that I use for baking, more vinegars, and a little pack of Justin's nut butter.

Third shelf: Pecans, pastas, sundried tomatoes, black beans, amaranth, millet, pine nuts, lentils.

Bottom shelf: Sushi rice, oatmeal, homemade vanilla sugar, two different types of brown sugar, and a bag of barley.

Add this to your grocery list: Amaranth and millet. One of my New Year's resolutions for 2009 was to eat more whole grains, and these two are full of fiber and protein.

Top pantry: Several cans of beans, including cannellini, and three cans of sardines.

Add this to your grocery list: Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, inexpensive, and delicious in pasta, on potatoes, or for bruschetta.

Now to the not-so-virtuous part. The bottom shelf is my guilty pleasure come to fruition. Besides a few types of tea and a box of soba noodles, the rest of this shelf, no kidding, is full of cocoa and hot chocolate.

This is how bad my chocolate obsession is! It's sinful, I know, but it's the hardest diet vice to give up. Left to right, two cans of Schokinag hot chocolate, a little can of spiced hot chocolate I picked up in Montreal a while ago, and three huge cans of MarieBelle hot chocolate, each in a different flavor. The white bag on top of the Schokinag is a MarieBelle refill! Then there are cacao nibs, three cans of Scharffen Berger cocoa powder, and a can of Ghirardelli cocoa powder. All I can say is, I drink less hot chocolate now than when I lived in Boston. After all, there are few good hot-chocolate nights in Alabama.

This is just a brief look into what's in my kitchen. Next week, I'll be posting exactly what I eat, including my caloric and nutritional goals. In the meantime, if you have any pantry must-haves that I missed, let me know. I'm always looking for new products.

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