Trying to clean up your eating habits? A well-stocked pantry will help you set yourself up for success. Rather than filling your shelves with unhealthy, processed foods that you’re more likely to grab when tired and hungry, we recommend stocking up on these 10 pantry staples that make it easier to put together healthy meals.
1. Olive Oil
Olive oil is one of the healthiest, most versatile cooking oils. It contains monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyphenols, which may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving related risk factors. Extra virgin olive oil has been found to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol levels. Drizzle some over your salads, or use it to sauté vegetables over low to medium heat.
2. Greek Yogurt
Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s a good source of calcium, potassium, protein and vitamin B12, and it also contains probiotics to keep your digestive system healthy and balanced. Greek yogurt makes for a quick, healthy breakfast when topped with fresh fruit and nuts.
Beans are high in fiber, meaning they’ll do a great job of filling you up faster and for longer periods of time. They’re high in antioxidants, and aid in the elimination of cell-damaging free radicals linked to aging, cancer and a number of neurodegenerative disease. Even though beans are rich in carbohydrates, their high fiber content helps prevent insulin spikes and curb hunger. Stock up on a mix of beans for your salads, soups and chilis.
Grains, especially whole grains, have been shown to reduce the risk of some chronic diseases and help with weight management. They’re also filled with nutrients, including fiber, B vitamins, iron and other minerals. Like beans, they work well in salads, soups and simple side dishes.
5. Tomato Paste
Similar in nutritional value to fresh tomatoes, tomato paste is a source of antioxidants, including lycopene, vitamin C, iron, potassium and B vitamins. It serves as a nice base for chilis, soups and stews.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein. Both the egg white and egg yolk are rich in nutrients that promote heart health, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, riboflavin, and folate. Cook them to your liking, and don’t be afraid to throw them into lunches or dinners if you’re in need of additional protein.
Related: How Many Eggs Should You Really Eat?
Spices add loads of flavor without adding more calories. They also contain antioxidants that aid in cardiovascular protection, cancer prevention, memory and anti-aging benefits. For example, turmeric and ginger are known for their anti-inflammatory benefits, chili powder and paprika contain metabolism-boosting capsaicin, and cinnamon has antioxidants to protect cells against free radicals.
Herbs are like spices in two key ways: they pack a powerful flavor punch while adding minimal calories to your meals, and they offer a variety of vitamins and antioxidants for added health benefits.
Beef, chicken and vegetable stock are filled with nutrients and minerals important for good health, including potassium and phosphorus. They’re also typically low in calories and easy to digest. Stocks are nice to have on hand for soups. You can cook your rice and grains in them to add more flavor, too. One caveat: stock can be high in sodium, so choose “low” and “reduced” sodium options where possible.
Garlic gives your immune, respiratory and circulatory systems a boost to prevent a number of diseases. It’s also an anti-inflammatory and a great source of antioxidants. Plus, it’s a wonderful seasoning to add aroma and taste to your dishes.
What are some of your pantry staples? Let us know in the comments!
This blog was originally published on August 5, 2015. It was last updated on April 3, 2017.