15 Pantry Staples for Quick, Easy, Healthy Meals

So you’ve decided to eat healthier and cook more at home. Super! If you’re new to this whole home cooking thing, though, you’ll need to stock up your pantry with some essentials. You want to be able to walk into your kitchen and cook something nutritious -- that you and your family actually want to eat -- without too much trouble. Well, here are 15 pantry staples you'll be glad to have around.


1. Your favorite brown rice. I know what you’re thinking: I don’t have a favorite brown rice. Well call me a rice nerd, but you’d be surprised. Give this Lundberg sweet brown rice a try. Or get your hands on some nutty brown basmati. If you can, buy your rice from the bulk bins so you can smell the rice before buying it. Yes, really. Smell the rice.

Brown rice pilaf

Perfect brown rice recipe

17 Ways to Eat Brown Rice

2. Quinoa. Oh just give in to the hype. It’s delicious and nutritious.

4 Ways to Eat Quinoa & Not Hate It

More quinoa recipes

3. Oats. One of my favorite winter breakfasts! I’m partial to steel-cut oats for the nutty taste and chewy texture. But rolled oats are also a great choice. Instant oatmeal has less fiber, so it’s not as good a choice.

Steel-cut oatmeal

Oatmeal pancakes

Giant oatmeal cookies

4. Red palm fruit oil. This ancient, healthy saturated fat has been making a comeback thanks to fans like Dr. Oz. It’s rich in palmitic and oleic acids, lycopene, beta carotene, and vitamin E. Be sure to get the unprocessed, “virgin” variety, sustainably harvested, and don’t confuse it with significantly less-healthy palm kernel oil. Basically you can use it like you’d use any other cooking oil, but check out these recipes using red palm fruit oil.

Red palm fruit oil recipes on Pinterest

5. Coconut oil. Don’t let red palm fruit oil steal all the glory. Coconut oil is still a highly nutritious pantry fat you can depend on. Get the cold-pressed kind.

115 coconut oil recipes

6. Honey. Stop reaching for the sugar and start reaching for honey. You’re human, and you need a little sweetness in your life. Honey is a more natural, less refined sweetener. If you suffer from allergies, locally produced honey can help. And it’s soothing for coughs and sore throats.

Best honey recipes from Southern Living

7. Maple syrup. Another great natural sweetener. Grade B syrup is darker, more flavorful, and even cheaper. It may also be richer in minerals. Don’t question the logic of that inverse pricing -- just enjoy. The grade labeling of maple syrup is getting phased out, though, so stock up on B while you can.

57 Magical Ways to Use Maple Syrup

pantry staples

8. French green lentils. Any lentils are a great choice. I just happen to like these dark green lentils the best. Use them in soups, or cook to al dente for salads.

French green lentil salad

9. Black beans. For homemade chili. Or quesadillas. Or corn salad. It's protein in a can! Or in a bag, if you're super ambitious and can think ahead to soak your beans overnight.

Black bean quesadillas

Black bean corn salad

10. Chickpeas. These are great in salads, or in curry dishes, or mashed up with tahini, garlic, and olive oil for homemade hummus.

Chickpea salad

Chickpea curry

Ethereally smooth hummus

11. Tomato sauce or canned tomatoes. Here's your lycopene. Tomatoes are save-your-ass versatile. I use them for pasta sauce, soups, sloppy joes, you name it.

Marinara sauce

12. Seaweed. For the adventurous eaters, seaweed is a fun staple. You can use it to make a soup base, or add it to instant ramen for a mineral boost. I like the kind that rehydrates into a salad.

Miso soup

13. Chicken, beef, and/or vegetable stock. Any kind of soup you want is just a can away.

Quick chick and noodle soup

Easy beef stew

14. Whole wheat pasta. We all keep pasta in our pantry, right? Might as well make it whole wheat for the extra fiber. But you may want to try a few different brands to find your favorite.

Whole wheat pasta taste test

15. Marked-up cookbook. Keep one handy in the kitchen with pages with your favorite go-to recipes market. Or create an online cookbook by bookmarking some of your favorite recipes. Either way, this will help you the next time you walk into the kitchen knowing you have to feed the troops -- but with zero idea of what to make!

What are your must-have healthy eating pantry staples?


Image © Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock
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