Some people genuinely enjoy grocery shopping. They go to their favorite store often, looking for the best prices and stacking coupons. Others go as infrequently as humanly possible, spending hundreds at a time in order to put off their next shopping trip for as long as they can. However you grocery shop, you probably know it’s important to keep certain items on-hand in your home at all times, just in case. No one wants to begin preparing a family meal and realize there’s one ingredient missing, forcing a last-minute trip to the store that will likely result in more than one purchase. So, pantry staples are a must. But what items are the most important to keep handy?
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Whitney Roberts says there are seven key pantry staples you can keep nearby at all times in order to help craft healthy meals at home. “A well-stocked pantry is essential to making a good, home-cooked meal, particularly when time is scarce,” Roberts said. “If you’re preparing at the last minute, there are certain things you want to keep around to whip up healthy meals quickly. The first is healthy fats, such as olive oils and canola oils, which can be used to dress up salads and grains, or to sauté meats and vegetables. They’re both heart-healthy, and can lower your risk for certain diseases. They’re also preferable to solid fats such as butter,” she explained. “Next, you’ll want to keep a variety of whole grains in the pantry that can be cooked quickly. Brown rice, for instance, is a healthy, high-fiber whole grain. Couscous, quinoa, bulgur and faro also are available in whole grain versions. These are versatile and complement nearly any meat, poultry, fish or vegetable dish easily,” she added.
“Canned tomatoes are next on the list,” Roberts said. “Having them on-hand can make life a lot easier when you’re trying to create quick, healthy meals. They’re rich in vitamins A and C, as well as lycopene. They’ll work well in a variety of dishes, including soups or casseroles, or as a quick sauce for pasta, pizza, meats or whole grains,” she said. “While you’re stockpiling canned goods, grab some extra cans of beans because they’re a terrific meatless source of protein, fiber and iron. Plus, you can’t beat the simplicity – just rinse, drain and heat. They’re great for a quick burrito or tortilla, or to add to a soup for extra protein. Also, in the canned goods aisle, be sure to grab some extra cans of broth. Items such as chicken stock or vegetable broth can add flavor to plain foods without significantly altering their calorie counts. Try replacing water with stock when cooking brown rice, for instance,” Roberts explained.
For the final two pantry must-haves, Roberts says look to nut butters and canned tuna. “Peanut butter, almond butter and sunflower butter are great to keep around, as they can be spread on whole grain bread or waffles, and make great dips for celery or apples,” she said. “Canned tuna is one of the few great sources of protein that you can keep in your pantry long-term. This way, you always have it on-hand for sandwiches, casseroles or to add to family favorites such as macaroni and cheese. Simply keeping these items around in your pantry to add to your meals whenever you need a quick ingredient or side dish instantly can make your lunches and dinners healthier,” Roberts added.