Chances are that you stock up on some of the popular standards found in most pantries such as seasonings and dry pasta, but I thought I would share with you my favorite pantry essentials for healthy eating. I think it’s important to have good ingredients and supplies on hand as it helps ease the confusion around meal times. If you have healthy food on hand, guess what….you will eat healthy and make good decisions. Below are some of my pantry essentials.
1. Oils. Of course old faithful olive oil is always within arms reach, but I also try to have others on hand such as avocado, sesame, coconut, and different flavors of olive oil. Avocado oil has a high smoking point so it’s great for cooking on medium to high heat because the oil doesn’t break down as easy and lose its nutrients. It also dissolves well in a light vinaigrette or it can be drizzled on top of fish and vegetables for added flavor and extra health benefits. Coconut oil is chock full of nutrients and can help with digestion, immunity and bone health. Sesame oil is has been around for thousands of years and it delivers an Asian flare to dishes. I love using it in vegetable dishes, stir fries, and chicken breasts. It has anti-inflammatory properties, zinc, and fiber to name a few health boosts it provides. Flavors such as garlic, lemon and even bacon flavored olive oil can really dress up a dish so I encourage you to give them a try.
2. Raw nuts. It’s best to buy raw nuts rather than salted because the sodium that salted nuts can harbor is far too high. I always have bags of walnuts, almonds, pecans and pistachios in my pantry. It’s so easy to grab a handful and snack on them to curb hunger. They’re full of healthy fats (don’t worry the good kind that helps promote heart health), protein and antioxidants. They can be roasted in the oven for a few minutes on 350 with a little oil and seasoned to your liking if you don’t like them raw. They burn quick though so watch them closely. Throw them in a baggie and store in your purse or car for a quick fix. They can be thrown in smoothies, on top of salads or crushed and crusted onto fish or meat.
3. Organic Tea. I always have multiple boxes of organic tea available to me when I want the soothing comfort of a warm mug in my hand. Tea and especially green tea are a great alternative to coffee. I quit coffee about 3 months ago and I feel better ever since doing so. Tea has a boatload of antioxidants along with other energy boosting properties! There are so many benefits to being an avid tea drinker. It’s important to purchase organic tea because tea leaves are some of the most susceptible crops when it comes to pesticides. My favorite brands are Numi and Yogi.
4. Beans. Oh the magical fruit is truly magical. I always have various kinds of beans on hand because with the quick opening of a can, a BPA-free can of course, they can be added to a dish to add heartiness and fiber. I like cannellini, garbanzo, great northern and normal and refried black beans. I also have dried beans on-hand sometimes too. They’re simple to prep….ready for it….throw them in a bowl with water and soak overnight. That’s it.
5. Jarred Organic Spaghetti Sauce. I try and buy any tomato product organic as tomatoes have loads of pesticides on them otherwise. Even after rinsing tomatoes, their thin skin can still have dozens of pesticides hanging out. These products include pizza sauce, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spaghetti sauce to name a handful. How easy is it to grab a jar of sauce and make a quick pasta dish when you’re short on time or to add it to stuffed peppers. I also use spaghetti sauce for homemade tortilla pizzas.
6. Organic Stock/Broth. Right now in my pantry I have 5 cartons of vegetable and chicken stock. You never know when a recipe will call for a few cups of stock and to me a bouillon cube just doesn’t cut it. Not only do I use the stock for recipes, but if I’m feeling under the weather, I like to sip on chicken broth just like I would a cup of tea. It helps soothe me and I begin to feel better. Be sure to check the ingredients in your stock because sometimes even organic broth can sneak in unwanted ingredients such as oil, sugar and “natural flavors.” Look for a broth that has minimal ingredients and doesn’t contain the old red flag of “natural flavors.” I like the brands Pacific and Imagine, but even liking those brands I still read the labels. Sometimes a chicken broth is legit, but then the vegetable broth is unacceptable even if made by the same brand name. General rule of thumb – always read labels.
7. Grains. Having an arsenal of healthy grains that can be cooked and added to dishes contributes to a healthy, well-stocked pantry. It’s helpful to prep grains earlier in the week to store in the fridge so you don’t have an excuse to not include them in your diet. A couple scoopfuls can be thrown into basically anything for added fiber, protein and minerals. Grains keep you full longer which helps keep you satisfied between meals. I personally like to eat grains for breakfast and lunch and they can be purchased frozen as well. Trader Joe’s has frozen brown rice and quinoa that I love to cook with every week. Within 4 minutes in the microwave, I can have a cup of either one and it just makes life so much easier. So if you don’t want to stock up on grains in your pantry, I highly recommend frozen products to keep in your freezer for last minute additions to a meal.
8. Snacks. We don’t always want to walk into the kitchen and have to prepare or cook something, especially when we’re really hungry. We want to just be able to look in the pantry and grab something quick, me included. To combat the urge to eat crap food, I really don’t buy it. Instead I have healthier alternatives around so that if I do want something quick, I’m not worried about the ingredients. I always have bags of tortilla chips, packets of Justin’s almond butter, jars of salsa, crackers I approve of, air-popped popcorn, KIND bars, and trail mix for a quick fix. I have this same mentality when I travel. I carry healthier snacks with me so I don’t have to cave and buy something overpriced at the airport that has zero nutritional value.