Whipping up a tasty and nutritious dinner you’re actually excited about eating can be a breeze! Pair a protein with fresh or frozen produce and a grain, then flavor it with lots of spices and fun condiments.
The only catch? You’ve got to have a well stocked pantry. If right now, yours consists of a box of stale cereal and a few dusty old spices, read on to learn 9 dietitian approved pantry staples you should stock up on immediately!
Intact whole grains
Keep a variety of intact whole grains on hand to add filling, high fiber carbohydrate to your meals. I purchase whole grains in bulk, so I always have a variety of mason jars filled with various grains, but I find myself reaching for versatile brown rice, quinoa and oats most frequently.
Canned salmon (or sardines!)
Most people could stand to get more omega 3 fat in their diet. Fresh, sustainably sourced wild fish is fantastic, but for convenience and price, keep canned fish on hand. I love to eat sardines canned in mustard on whole grain rye crisp breads (try it, I dare you!). I also love to use canned salmon tossed with lemon juice, olive oil and fresh herbs, over salads, or to make patties for salmon burgers.
Low sodium broth
For more than just soup! I use store bought broth to add flavor depth in my cooking. When sautéing vegetables, meats, or fish, I add a little bit of broth to the pan to deglaze the browned bits on the bottom of the pan (aka flavor bombs) and create a sauce. Look for Asian flavored broths or mushroom broth along with your standard vegetable, chicken and beef.
Besides enjoying a spoonful with a piece of fresh fruit (or by itself!) when I need a quick energy boost, having a variety of nut butters on hand for cooking is helpful. Use nut butters to make energy bites, to replace butter in cookies, in smoothies, to make hummus (yes, really!), or for salad dressings/dipping sauces.
Think beyond topping your morning oatmeal! Naturally sweet dried fruit is a great way to add flavor to savory dishes too. One of my favorite weeknight side dishes is caramelized roasted cauliflower tossed with golden raisins and olives. You could also use dried figs in a pan sauce for roasted meats, throw dried apricots into a chicken tagine, or add dried cherries to a quinoa pilaf.
Packed with healthy fats, antioxidants, and flavor, olives are a great way to Mediterranean flavor to your meals. Blend olives with garlic, herbs and nuts to make a paste to flavor meat or fish before roasting, throw into a salad, or toss into a vegetarian pasta with sautéed vegetables and beans.
Canned or jarred tomatoes
Cooked tomatoes contain 50-150% more bioavailable lycopene, an antioxidant carotenoid, than raw tomatoes. You could use canned or jarred tomatoes to make pasta sauce, or use it to braise vegetables. I love to cook fresh green beans, kale or Brussels sprouts with olive oil, canned tomatoes, dried oregano and olives.
Omega 3 and fiber rich chia seeds swell up and hold on to liquid, turning into an almost gel-like consistency. They are great to have on hand for those days you run out of eggs and need one for baking. Just swap 1 tablespoon chia mixed with 3 tablespoons water and let it sit 10 minutes.
Whole grain pasta
I eat pasta at least once a week – it’s easy, satisfying and comforting. When I need to use up veggies before they go bad, I usually turn to pasta. Throw in roasted or sautéed vegetables, a quick tomato sauce made from canned tomatoes or a pesto using leftover greens, then add beans, canned salmon, nuts or cheese for protein.
What are your favorite healthy pantry staples? Share them with us in the comments section below and don’t forget to sign-up for Luvo’s newsletter for more nutritious recipes and exclusive giveaways.