NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Top 10 Must-Have Pantry Items for Healthy Eating

I get asked all the time, “What should I eat?” This is not an easy question to answer. There are foods that should definitely be eaten more often than others, and foods that are better to just have every once in a while, but it’s hard to pick certain foods that are a MUST HAVE in your diet for best nutrition. However, if you are looking for a list of items that you can purchase to have in your pantry for quick, healthy, and easy meal or snack ideas, start with this list.

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  • Pouches or cans of tuna: This shelf-stable protein source is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It is also an inexpensive protein, which is nice since meat adds the most to your grocery bill. Add it to salads, or mix with plain Greek yogurt and enjoy a tasty tuna salad. White albacore tuna is the best, but any variety that is water packed is a great choice.
  • Canned beans: These protein- and fiber-filled gems are also very inexpensive. All varieties are great and can easily be tossed into pastas, salads, or salsas for a filling meal or snack. Be sure to drain and rinse them to rid the beans of the high sodium liquid.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil: A staple of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, this flavor-packed oil is versatile; you can use it to cook meats and veggies, or drizzle it on a salad for a quick homemade dressing.
  • Oats: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and with oats you can start your day in a variety of ways! Add fruit, nuts, nut butters, pumpkin, or flax for a different bowl of goodness each day. These are also good to use in meatloaf or other recipes that call for breadcrumbs, to up the fiber amount.
  • Nuts: Nuts are loaded with fiber and protein (three times more than potato chips!). These should be a regular part of your diet. Whether you love cashews, almonds, pistachios, or another nut, grab an unsalted or lightly salted variety to get the benefits of the good-for-you fat in all nuts.
  • Quinoa/brown rice/whole-wheat pasta: To fill 25% of your plate with whole grains, it’s a good idea to keep some high-fiber options stocked in the pantry. One-half to 1 cup (cooked) of any of these grains will add staying power and tastiness to any meal.
  • Sweet potatoes: Want an alternative to a white potato? Sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber and vitamin A. Since they are naturally flavorful, they won’t need much added to them. Baked, roasted, or spiralized into noodles, a sweet potato is a great addition to any meal.
  • Salsa: A dip that is also a veggie is a must to keep in your pantry. Choose a chunky salsa where the majority of ingredients are just veggies and not a lot of additives. Then use this to top baked potatoes or eggs, or as a dip for veggies. Chips aren’t the only way to get salsa in your diet!
  • Nut butters: Another inexpensive but great protein option is nut butters. You can do the traditional peanut butter, or try new varieties like almond-nut butter or soy-nut butter. All are perfect for adding to whole-wheat toast, oatmeal, celery, or smoothies.
  • Green tea bags: If you need something more flavorful than just water to drink, add some green tea to your routine. It is loaded with antioxidants to keep you healthy, is a great way to get in your fluid intake, is naturally very low in caffeine, and has been shown to speed up your metabolism! All of these are great reasons to reach for this beverage any time of day.

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What did you eat today? Don’t underestimate the role that proper nutrition plays in your health and fitness. Contact Angie Scheetz ascheetz@nifs.org or click below to learn more about the My Nutrition Coach app

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This blog was written by Angie Scheetz, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating protein fiber pantry