Are you getting the most out of your meals?
Or are you in a rush most days and struggle to get a meal on the table for the family?
Most of us realize that we can give our families and ourselves the most nutritious (and tasty) meals when we prepare them at home and enjoy time sharing it.
The challenge is to plan ahead and be ready to get a quick meal together using our pantry.
What do you have in your pantry that can be used to whip up something that will be people pleasing and nutritious?
Pantry Staples for the Health of It
There are times when the cupboard is bare, but if we plan ahead to stock up on specific items that will be on hand for a quick meal, eating as healthy as possible and not depending on the drive thru won’t be as difficult.
The keys to a healthy pantry are stocking up on items that are packed with nutrition (protein and nutrients), easy to incorporate into your recipes, and able to have a stable shelf life.
It is important to keep track of any expiration dates and rotate the foods to keep the ones that need to be used first in the front. You don’t want to waste food or think you have dinner planned only to find your foods are spoiled.
10 Foods to Keep in the Pantry
Healthy foods that you should keep in the pantry to accompany or replace fresh items you have in the refrigerator include:
- Canned protein – tuna, salmon, chicken. There are a variety of canned meats on the market now or packaged in pouches that can substitute for protein in your recipes. Read the labels to limit the amount of salt added in a particular protein item and purchase packed in water not oil for better overall nutrition. Canned salmon is also a good source of omega 3 fatty acid and vitamin D.
- Nuts or nut butters – good source of quick protein for snacks and meals, plus adds a great crunch. If allergies keep you from using nuts, substitute a variety of seeds for quick protein, such as pumpkin or sunflower. Nuts are not only high in protein but also omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants.
- Beans – canned for quick meals or dry for soups and recipes (crock pot or stove top). Beans are a protein packed side dish or meat substitute that are a good source of fiber and B vitamins like folate, and iron. They are a good budget friendly nutrition source.
- Frozen Vegetables – fresh frozen at the field, no additional salt or preservatives, and a substantial variety from which to choose. Frozen vegetables can be sautéed, steamed, added to recipes such as stir fry or soups or even fill a bean sandwich pita or tortilla for a meatless meal. Frozen vegetables are always in season and good for the food budget.
- Healthy fats – olive oil and canola oil even coconut oil for some recipes are good pantry staples to have on hand to keep the meals you prepare healthy. Extra virgin olive (EVO) oil can be used in salad dressings, for sautéing, roasting vegetables, and to used when baking.
- Eggs – not on the pantry shelf but part of a well-stocked kitchen. Eggs are another nutritional powerhouse that have protein, iron, vitamins, and minerals essential to our health. They are inexpensive and versatile. They can be star of the plate for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and a great pick me up snack when hard boiled.
- Yogurt and yogurt drinks – another way to include protein and nutrients into your diet. Yogurt, either Greek, light or regular, can be used in your recipes as a fat replacement or enjoyed by itself as a snack. It is a good idea to buy plain or vanilla so that it can be complemented by fresh fruits or other ingredients and more easily added to recipes. Plain is lower in added sugar too.
- Quinoa or riced cauliflower to substitute for rice or potatoes as healthy side dish. Try keeping frozen cauliflower on hand for quick meals. Brown rice and quinoa are healthy, higher fiber substitutes for potatoes, and can be on hand in the pantry. They are good sources of whole grains to help you get 1/2 your grains whole!
- Spices — It is important to keep both fresh and dried herbs and spices on hand to flavor your foods. Avoiding adding salt as our go-to main seasoning is a healthy choice.
- Granola – great for snacks, to make trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, add to smoothie bowls or yogurt parfaits or sprinkle over salads. When buying granola, be careful to purchase the brand with the least amount of added sugars and the greatest daily value of nutrients comparing serving sizes (1/2 cup is standard but some can be listed as 1/4 cup). A serving of granola can add a punch of energy to your snack time due to the carbohydrate load. It is also a good source or fiber, iron, B vitamins, and healthy fats. However, it is easy to over-consume the crunch and get more calories than you bargained for, so check the calorie count if you are trying to manage your weight. Homemade granola is easy to make and you can control the ingredients. Try our recipe to make your own.
A healthy pantry stocked with food options can make your family meals easier to prepare, especially during the hectic week, as well as help you keep your food budget under control.
- Mix 6 parts of dry ingredients with one part of wet ingredients.
- Dry ingredient choices: rolled not quick cooking oats (usually at least half of the mix), flax seeds, chia, pumpkin seeds, your favorite seeds, puffed brown rice, puffed grains, millet, all kinds of nuts, coconut.
- Wet ingredient choices (½ sweet, ½ oil to reduce the sweetness): honey, maple syrup, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil or macadamia nut oil.
- Wash hands and surfaces.
- Mix wet ingredients together in large bowl.
- Stir in dry ingredients.
- As desired, add in seasonings of your choice such as cinnamon, vanilla, tumeric, nutmeg, or cumin.
- Place mixture in a single layer on parchment in baking sheet.
- Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.
- Let cool for about 30 minutes before storing.
- Add your favorite dried fruits such as raisins, craisins, figs, dates, dried apricots, or sliced bananas.
- Store in a sealed container preferably in the refrigerator. Use within 2 weeks.