Is your pantry packed with the right foods? Keeping healthy food on hand is the key to eating well, getting the nutrients you need and losing weight. If you have unhealthy foods around, there’s a really good chance you’ll eat those instead. Pack your pantry with real foods and nutrient-rich essential ingredients to ensure you always have wholesome, good-for-you options available.
As a bonus, real food makes for a tidy pantry, and healthy, whole food ingredients might inspire you to experiment with new recipes! Here are the top foods to stock in your pantry to make it easy to enjoy healthy, real foods every day.
Real Food Pantry Staples
Always keep plenty of kitchen staples in your pantry like potatoes, onions, canned tomatoes, sauces, whole grain pastas, and fresh herbs and spices like garlic, ginger root and turmeric. These are ingredients in many nutritional recipes and offer plenty of health benefits on their own.
Also, add stocks and bone broths to your list of healthy-pantry staples. Find low-sodium or unsalted chicken, beef and vegetable stock to add depth of flavor to your homemade, healthy entrees and side dishes. Use it as the base for a quick soup or sauce, and spice up rice and whole grains by replacing cooking water with flavorful stock.
Whole Grains, Flours & Baking Ingredients
The vitamins and minerals from healthy whole grains and baking essentials can help fill nutrient gaps in your diet. Brown rice is a healthy, high-fiber whole grain. Couscous, bulgur and farro are available in whole-grain versions, too. These versatile grains complement any meat, fish, poultry or vegetable as a centerpiece or side dish. Couscous, bulgur and the seeds of the grain-like plant quinoa can be cooked quickly. For richer flavor, cook grains in stock. Combine them with colorful vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Keep a stash of cooking flours and baking flours made from sprouted grains. The vitamins and minerals from sprouted grains are absorbed and digested easier than non-sprouted grains. You can also opt for grain-free or gluten-free flours like coconut flour, almond flour, oat flour or rice flour. Stock healthy baking essentials as well, including organic vanilla extract, baking powder and baking soda, along with organic honey and other natural sweeteners.
Fats & Oils
Choose healthy fats and enrich your diet with essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-7. Stock avocado oil or olive oil in your pantry to use in your favorite recipes. The fruity, peppery flavor of extra-virgin olive oil is ideal for salad dressings and paired with whole grains. Drizzle it on pasta dishes or on crusty bread with diced tomatoes to make bruschetta. Regular olive oil is perfect for sautéing meat and vegetables. See our full range of oils and vinegars.
- For general use, try ghee or clarified butter
- For baking, try coconut oil, palm oil, canola oil, high oleic safflower oil, and sunflower oil
- For frying, try avocado oil, palm oil and sesame oil
- For sautéing, try canola oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil, sesame oil, high oleic safflower oil, and sunflower oil
- For dressing, dipping and drizzling, try olive and extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, flax oil, sesame oil, and walnut oil
Extra virgin coconut oil is another option for baking and sautéing. While it doesn’t contain omega-3 fatty acid, it is one of nature’s rare sources of medium-chain fatty acids. Unlike unhealthy saturated fats, coconut oil is easily digested for energy and contains beneficial caprylic acid. For more on fats, see Be Fat Fluent: Best Fatty Foods for Your Diet.
Nuts, Seeds & Nut Butters
Healthy nuts and seeds are an excellent source of protein, fiber, good fats and other nutrients. They pair well with sweet and savory foods alike. Use unsalted nuts in cereals or as a meat alternative in pasta, grains, salads or vegetables. They’re also great with fruit or yogurt, in desserts or alone as a nutritious snack.
Choose nut butters carefully; watch for added sugars, hydrogenated oils and other fillers. The best choices are all-natural or organic nut butters made with just nuts and salt. Nut butters are fantastic on apples, bananas, celery and even waffles! You can also add peanut butter to Asian sauce recipes and smoothies or use it in dips.
- Nuts: stock up on peanuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamias, walnuts, pine nuts, and pistachios
- Seeds: stock up on sunflower, sesame, hemp, pumpkin, and flax seeds
Beans & Legumes
Beans and legumes are an inexpensive alternative to animal protein. They're also an excellent source of fiber and contain powerful nutrients like antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, including folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and B vitamins. Serve them as a side dish or add them to soups, omelets, tacos, casseroles or salads. Some of the most nutritional beans and legumes are garbanzo beans (chickpeas), lentils, peas, kidney beans, black beans and vitamin B-rich navy beans.
Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables should be a big part of every meal. Whether fresh, canned or dried, they are loaded with nutrients, antioxidants and fiber. Veggies make a perfect side dish, and fruit is a delicious snack. Canned fruit can be served alone as a dessert or over yogurt, ice cream or waffles. Dried fruits add pizzazz to salads, cereals and fish. Toss a handful of dried fruit with nuts for the perfect healthy snack. When you buy canned or dried fruits, be sure to look for options with no added sugar or sodium.
Here are some of our favorite fruits and vegetables to stock in your pantry:
- Apricots, blueberries, cherries, figs, dates, mangoes, plums, peaches, pineapples, and pears
- Artichokes, beets, Brussels sprouts, squash, corn, carrots, cabbage, green beans, mushrooms, okra, pumpkin, snow peas, spinach, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes
Food Additions & Flavor Boosters
Fortify your real food pantry and make your healthy food even more nutritious with additions like apple cider vinegar (ACV) and nutritional yeasts. Use apple cider vinegar in salad dressing instead of balsamic vinegar or add ACV to a morning smoothie. Read the article 30 Ways to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for more ideas on how to use apple cider vinegar in your recipes and for your home and beauty care needs.
Fortified nutritional yeast is a perfect protein and an excellent source of vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12, along with other B vitamins and their benefits. Nutritional yeast flakes can be added to most rice and pasta dishes, soups and salads. Or try it in your scrambled eggs for breakfast.
We like to keep these other flavor enhancers on hand too:
- Wild-caught canned salmon
- Dijon mustard
- Unsweetened plain almond milk
- Various salts like pink sea salt and Celtic sea salt
- A variety of herbs and spices like garlic, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and more
Clean Out Your Pantry & Let’s Get Started!
Before you head to the grocery store, clean out your pantry to make room for these real food choices. Scale back on pantry foods like chips, cookies, candy and other high-calorie, low-nutrient foods to make room for the nutritious meals to come!
For more tips on cleaning out your pantry, check out One Step to a Healthier You: Purge the Pantry. See our full A-Z Guide to Modern Wellness here, which features more health and wellness tips for your body and home.
What are some staples in your pantry? What healthy items can't you live without? Tell us in the comments below.
About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products
Lindsey is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for pie. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food.
Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health Products.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.