Pantry staples are things we often don’t think about until we’re in a pinch. Whether you’re stocking up for a pending hurricane, self-quarantining (thanks to COVID-19) or just reorganizing, a well-stocked pantry allows for versatility when you need to throw together a quick meal. Instead of reaching for shelf-stable junk food, let’s talk about healthier options to keep on hand for when emergency, or laziness, strikes.
Before we get into the essential pantry staples, let me first remind you of what a healthy plate looks like. Having this in mind will help when looking to create a balanced plate with the foods you have on hand.
The Perfect Trifecta = Protein + Healthy Fats + Fiber
- Protein – the key nutrient in satisfying hunger and the feeling of fullness.
- Healthy Fats – the nutrient that helps satisfy cravings the healthier way, gives your body energy, and supports the absorption of vitamins and minerals, specifically vitamins A, D, E and K (all fat-soluble vitamins, meaning they need fat in order to be put to use in the body).
- Fiber – notice that I didn’t list carbohydrates here. Why? Because if you’re getting fiber in your diet then you are naturally getting carbohydrates (your body’s main source of fuel). The two go hand-in-hand. You can’t consume fiber without carbohydrates, however, you can consume carbohydrates without fiber, i.e. ultra processed carbohydrates. This is why I like to focus on fiber which will help keep you full for longer, stabilize blood sugar levels to help prevent an energy crash and burn, and promote healthy digestion.
Now, let’s talk about the pantry staples to keep on hand for times when you need to create a healthy meal from what you’ve got.
Shelf-Stable Pantry Staples:
- Canned beans (if you ever end up with leftover beans once the can has been opened, you can always freeze them)
- Canned tuna
- Protein and fiber-rich pasta made from lentils or garbanzo beans
- No sugar added marinara sauce
- Your favorite whole grain (brown rice, quinoa, etc.)
- Variety of nuts and seeds (store these in the refrigerator to extend shelf life)
- Nut butters and tahini
- Old-fashioned oats
- Shelf-stable milk (non dairy, unsweetened)
- Variety of Oils/Vinegars
- Apple cider vinegar
- Coconut aminos (healthier swap for soy sauce)
- Sesame oil (for Asian flavors)
- Extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil
- Avocado oil (for high heat cooking)
- Unrefined, virgin coconut oil (for baking)
- Protein or collagen powder (for smoothies)
- Medjool Dates
Superfood Spotlight on Two Must-Have Pantry Staples:
- Hemp seeds – 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds provides 10g of protein making these an excellent addition to your pantry to sprinkle on salads, yogurt, pasta… anything!
- Nutritional yeast – 1 tablespoon provides 5g of protein and over 100% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin Bs (great for energy levels). Sprinkle on anything savory for a boost of flavor and nutrients.
For Your Freezer:
- Variety of frozen vegetables
- Peeled and pitted avocado halves
- Frozen spinach
- Whole-grain or sprouted bread
- Sprouted or grain-free tortillas
- Fresh meat/seafood
- Frozen fruit
Produce that stays fresh the longest:
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
- Citrus fruit
With these key pantry/freezer staples on hand, you’ll be able to create a healthy and easy meal in no time. Want to learn how? Click here to read part two where I show you how to combine these staples together to create a meal you’ll actually look forward to.