Fitness Nutrition Forums

How Do You Stock A Healthy Pantry?

Fitday Editor

It’s 5 p.m. and you’re exhausted and tried. You look in the pantry and find chips, cereal and cake mix. All of these items can and should be on your shelves, but there are some staples that need a place in the first row. Healthy eating starts at home so be sure to stock up on these basics.


Full of fiber and protein, beans can be added to sauces, stews and even baked goods. Add them to some brown rice with a side of broccoli for filling and fast meal.

Canned Tomatoes

Rich in vitamin C, potassium and lycopene, canned tomatoes should be a staple in every home. You can add them to pasta, soup, stews, salsa or even throw some diced ones on a chicken and then top with shredded mozzarella for chicken “pizza.”

Low Sodium Broths

Yes, broth can be used for soup and sauces, but it is amazing to use for sautéing vegetables and cooking rice and pasta. And don’t throw away what you don’t use, just freeze it in ice cube trays so it’s always on hand.

Nuts and Nut Butters

As a good source of vitamins B and E, monounsaturated fats, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids and protein, nut and nut butters are a great snack. But they can also be great in oatmeal and salads for some texture and protein and as a coating for chicken. Since they are calorically dense, you want to watch the portions.

Whole Grains

Complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice, oatmeal, 100% whole wheat bread, popcorn, and quinoa, contain fiber, B vitamins and magnesium. And some are even complete proteins (quinoa). Whole grains are slow digesting so they give you lasting energy. Think outside the box when using grains by adding them to salads and making your own energy bars.

Olive Oil and Flavored Vinegars

Olive oil is chalk full of “healthy” fats and great flavor. Use it for roasting, dressings or to make hummus. Vinegars, such as red wine, champagne, balsamic, can help control blood sugar levels and add flavor to dressings, marinades, and sauces.

Herbs and Spices

Dried herb and spices are an easy way to boost flavor without added fat or calories. You want to make sure you have at least these ones on hand: black pepper, garlic, ground ginger, bay leaves, ground cinnamon, oregano, crushed red pepper, rosemary, chili powder, and thyme.

Tuna in Water

Tuna is high protein and omeg-3 fatty acids and can be added to just about anything to make a meal. Salads, dips, casseroles, omelets and of course, sandwiches are all items that can be enhanced with tuna.

Although your refrigerator and freezer are not typically a pantry, there are some cold items that your house should never be without.


Eggs contain the highest biological value for protein and are incredibly versatile. Whether they are hard boiled, scrambled, baked or fried, eggs can and should be part of a healthy eating plan.

Chopped Garlic in Water

This little jar is an easy way to take something from drab to fab with getting your hands dirty.

Plain Yogurt

Yogurt, especially Greek, is a good source of protein and can easily be used for dips, sauces and the base for a breakfast parfait.

Frozen Vegetables

Frozen vegetables undergo flash freezing as soon as they are picked so they retain a majority of their nutrients. Keeping bags of broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and green beans on hand ensures a vegetable with every meal. Plus you can add them to pasta sauce and casseroles.

Frozen Fruits

Great for smoothies, frozen fruit lasts longer and contains the same nutritional benefits as fresh fruit. And it’s good for more than just your morning shake. You can use it in salads, as a topping for oatmeal or even as part of a yogurt parfait. Frozen fruit is especially good for lunch boxes, as those sliced strawberries will be defrosted by noontime.

And finally, you want to have high-quality chocolate and ice cream on hand. Remember healthy eating isn’t about deprivation, and when it comes to things like chocolate and ice cream, think quality over quantity.

Joanne Perez, MS, RDN, LD is a Savannah-based dietitian who, after 20 years of food service and clinical dietetics, made the switch to nutrition communications and all things tech. She doesn't believe in diets and thinks that life is too short to be anything but happy and healthy at any weight. Read her blog, Real Bite Nutrition, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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