I firmly believe that you don't need a lot of sugar, salt, and artificial flavorings to make your food taste good. What you do need is a good pantry. If you already have some basics on hand, you'll be more likely to experiment with new seasonings and new combinations when it's time to prepare a meal.
Here's what's in my bandster pantry. If you're not an experienced cook, this will seem like a gargantuan list, so I've highlighted the items that I absolutely MUST have on hand.
SPICES & HERBS - salt (regular & kosher), black pepper, cayenne pepper, Italian herb blend, Mrs. Dash (many flavors), Molly McButter, garlic salt, onion salt, onion power, garlic powder, celery salt, ground mustard, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground allspice, ground cumin, ground coriander, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, mustard seeds, bay leaves, rosemary, rubbed sage, thyme, basil, oregano, tarragon, dill, vanilla extract, almond extract, curry powder, chili powder, paprika, Chinese five-spice powder, & True Lemon & True Lime (packets or shaker).
BAKING - baking soda, baking powder, flours (whole wheat, white, soy, almond), cornmeal, cornstarch.
SWEETS - SF gelatin & pudding mixes, SF chocolate and caramel sauce, SF popsicles or fruit bars, Cool Whip Free, SF or NSA jams.
SWEETENERS - honey, molasses, agave, Truvia, Splenda, Splenda baking blend, Splenda brown sugar blend, granulated sugar, light brown sugar.
SEASONINGS - soy sauce, Braggs liquid aminos, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, mustard (Dijon, yellow, horseradish, honey), Wishbone Salad Spritzers, hot chili sauce, minced ginger root (in jars), minced garlic (in jars), cooking wine (white, red, sherry, rice), vinegar (rice wine, white wine, red wine, balsamic, cider, white), ketchup, salsa, pesto, horseradish, miso, reduced fat bacon bits.
PICKLES - pickles, chutney, olives (black & green), capers, roasted red peppers, hot peppers.
BEVERAGES - SF drink mix (I like Crystal Light), SF flavored syrups, coffee, tea, herbal tea, SF hot cocoa mix, SF spiced apple cider mix, flavored water (I like SoBe).
FRUITS - dried fruit (cherries, raisins, craisins, etc.), fresh fruit in season, frozen fruit (berries, mango, peaches, etc.), NSA applesauce, SF pie filling, lemon juice, lime juice, fresh lemons & limes.
SNACKS - trail mix, whole grain crackers (like Ak Mak or Wasa), popcorn, nuts, jerky.
CEREALS & GRAINS - Quaker Weight Control instant oatmeal, granola or fiber bars, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, bulgur, barley, seasoned & plain dried breadcrumbs, Panko, pasta & noodles (for my husband).
FATS - olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray, cooking spray (regular, butter, olive oil), olive oil mayo, butter, tahini (sesame paste), peanut butter, almond butter, PB2 powder (regular & chocolate).
DAIRY & EGGS - light sour cream, 2% cottage cheese, FF plain Greek yogurt, part-skim ricotta cheese, Egg Beaters, eggs, reduced fat cheese (cheddar, blue, feta, Swiss, etc.), light cream cheese, Laughing Cow light cheesees, grated Parmesan cheese.
MEAT/FISH/PROTEIN - reduced fat bacon (I don't like turkey bacon), other meat, fish & seafood, canned fish & meat, turkey sausage, protein powder, protein bars, beans (dried & canned), deli meats, hummus, tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, veggy burgers, edamame.
VEGETABLES - fresh veggies in season, frozen veggies (no sauce), canned veggies (tomatoes, artichokes, corn, beans, green chilies), fresh herbs (we grow basil, parsley, dill, cilantro, sage, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, and mint), veggies to eat raw or in salads (peppers, cucumbers, celery, jicama, mushrooms, tomatoes, scallions, etc.), basics (garlic, onion, carrots, potatoes), fresh ginger root, dried mushrooms (shiitake, porcini, etc.).
SOUPS & BROTHS - chicken, beef, vegetable & onion bouillon and/or broth, Healthy Request soups (I use in cooking sometimes), dry onion soup mix (used in cooking)