Items for a Healthy Pantry!

Hi Everyone! So this weekend, while I was looking for some healthy 4th of July meals to prepare, I came across this article on the Food Network’s Website. The article was entitled “The Healthy Pantry” – and I thought it was super helpful in outlining those staples that are “must haves” when creating a healthy meal. The full list is here – and my favorites / additions / modifications (and little explanations of why they’re good items to have) are below. Enjoy!

1) Oils, Vinegars & Condiments

  • Extra-virgin olive oil (Adds great flavor for cooking, perfect for salad dressing, and has tons of healthy fats and antioxidants)
  • Butter made with healthy Omega 3s (e.g. Smart Balance)
  • Balsamic Vinegar (the link has a full list of other vinegars that are good for cooking)
  • Dijon mustard
  • Ketchup (A great low cal way to spice up burgers and sandwiches)
  • Barbecue sauce (Make sure you get one that is super low in sugar – around 45 calories for 2 Tbsp)
  • Reduced-fat / fat-free mayonnaise (Trader Joe’s has a great “vegan mayo” that’s made from healthy oils instead of eggs. It tastes great – really close to regular mayo – and is way better for you!)
  • Reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • Prepared pesto (This is an item on the Food Network list that I would actually suggest not having. Prepared pesto is often very high in fat and preservatives. I’d suggest making your own or buying it fresh from a store like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods)
  • Salsa (Pace Picante or fresh pico de gallo is my favorite)
  • Hot sauce
  • If you’re into salad dressings – make sure to get fat free / low calorie versions of the original – e.g. Kraft Light or Hidden Valley Fat Free)
  • Real maple syrup (Be sure to avoid the sugary syrups like Mrs. Butterworth’s “syrup” that you can find at your local grocery store – those don’t provide any of the antioxidant health benefits that real maple syrup has, and they are often super high in sugar)
  • Fresh fruit preserves (Better than Smucker’s Jelly because they contain real fruit!)
  • Pizza Sauce (Make sure you get one that is low in sugar – Trader Joe’s has a great organic pizza sauce that’s super flavorful and low in calories/sugar)

2) Seasonings

  • Salt (Sea salt is better than regular salt because it’s less refined and has more minerals – but it is also less salty so you have to account for that in recipes)
  • Black pepper (Freshly ground is my favorite)
  • Dried herbs and spices: ground cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder, crushed red pepper, rosemary, thyme leaves, oregano, Italian seasoning blend, tarragon leaves, ground cinnamon, ground ginger
  • Vanilla extract

3) Canned Goods & Bottle Items

  • Canned tomatoes (crushed with italian seasonings are great for sauces), tomato paste
  • Reduced-sodium broths
  • Canned beans: cannellini, kidney, chickpeas (garbanzo beans) — I’d also add black beans and pinto beans to the list!
  • Canned lentils
  • Low calorie canned soups: Amy’s has a great variety of soups; also Trader Joe’s has a few that I love: Organic Tomato Bisque; Split Pea; Black Bean — tons of fiber, great tasting and high in protein
  • Fat free refried beans (Look for the vegetarian versions – I like refried black beans from Rosarita the best)
  • Chunk light tuna and salmon

4) Grains & Legumes

  • Assorted whole-wheat pasta
  • Regular and instant brown rice
  • Whole-wheat couscous
  • Quinoa – this isn’t on the Food Network list but I’d strongly recommend it – the only grain that’s a complete protein
  • Regular and quick-cooking barley
  • Bulgur
  • Rolled oats – steel cut oats are also great.
  • Dried lentils
  • For breads, I like Orowheat’s Double Fiber bread for sandwiches; Orowheat 100% Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns for burgers; Thomas’ Whole wheat bagel thins; Thomas’ Light english muffins, High fiber whole wheat pita bread; Mission carb balance tortillas  – all of these can be frozen if you don’t use them up right away – they freeze really well and taste exactly the same after being heated in a toaster oven!

5) Baking Products

  • Whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour. (Store in the refrigerator or freezer.)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Unprocessed wheat bran
  • Quick-rising yeast
  • Cornstarch
  • Brown sugar
  • Granulated sugar – I like the organic cane sugar from Trader Joe’s
  • Honey
  • Splenda or Stevia (if you’re into artificial sweeteners, these are the best)

6) Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit

  • Walnuts, pecans, sesame seeds, almonds – I’d also add cashews and sunflower seeds if you like them – they are a great source of vitamins and you can also use cashews as a substitute for cream in many dishes!
  • Dried apricots, dates, cranberries, raisins
  • Peanut butter (natural) – the only ingredient should be ground peanuts

7) Refrigerator Basics

  • 1% or skim milk
  • Reduced-fat sour cream (I’d go with fat free here – you can’t taste the difference!)
  • Fruit juice – make sure you don’t get juice that’s mostly sugar
  • Large eggs – Organic, free range eggs are the best – and if you can find omega 3 yolks that’s even better! Try using only egg whites in your omelettes/fritattas/etc – you’ll get all of the protein with none of the fat
  • Cheese: sharp Cheddar, feta, Parmesan, mozzarella (fat free feta crumbles are super low calorie and taste great… but for the other cheeses I’d go with the full fat versions)
  • For cream cheese – I’d suggest using Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges – much lower in calories and still has the great creamy taste
  • Nonfat or light vanilla yogurt – Greek yogurt is your best option here – nonfat version is still super creamy and packs up to 15g of protein!

8 ) Freezer Basics

  • Frozen fruit — frozen berries are the best – super high in fiber, and freeze really well
  • Frozen vegetables: edamame (soybeans), broccoli, corn, bell pepper-and-onion mix, peas, spinach
  • Low-fat ice cream, frozen yogurt and/or sorbet (should be around 100-120 calories per half cup)
  • Frozen cheese ravioli or tortellini — this is ok – but if you have time to get the fresh versions and freeze them I’d suggest doing that instead


Filed under Be A Picky Eater (Tips!), Picky Tips (Healthy Living/Eating)

7 responses to “Items for a Healthy Pantry!

  1. I like your pantry list. With a well stocked pantry and fridge/freezer like that, there’s so many things you can make without a quick run to the store. I must admit that I don’t usually have pesto on-hand. 😉

  2. Grand listing of ingredients. You can make anything with these staples.

  3. Great list – and I’m with you about quinoa!

  4. What a thoughtful and comprehensive pantry list. Makes a great grocery list. Your spice list is quite nice.
    One thing on the maple syrup—I totally agree. Use the real deal or nothing. But…even real maple syrup is pure sugar. That’s what sap is, it’s just a natural form of it. What it ISN’T is processed high fructose corn syrup and artificially flavored which is what most name brand syrups are. And that’s a bad combination. Thank you for all your effort!

    • anjalim

      Thanks – I’m so glad it’s helpful! Totally agree about maple syrup – it is sugar, but is at least all-natural vs. the brand syrups like you said 🙂 Thanks for the clarification!

  5. Wow Great list! Now I have to reorganize my pantry 🙂

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