A carpenter never leaves home without a hammer, a square, and a level. A chef will never cook without their favorite knife, whetstone, cast-iron skillet, or food thermometer. Likewise, someone who wants to be prepared to make a healthy meal or snack anytime will always have certain staples in the pantry at the ready. If that someone doesn’t have the goods, one might choose to boil up those frankfurters that have been sitting in the deep freeze since the Fourth of July.
Even dietitians order Chinese takeout or pizza in a pinch when there’s nothing in the house to eat. But there’s rarely a time when these nutrition experts are at a loss for the ingredients to make a quick and healthy meal. They know that one key to good nutrition is having the goods ready to go. So, they stock up on the basic building blocks of healthy eating.
Why leave your healthy diet to chance, when you can peek into the pantries of dietitians? Here are a few pantry staples dietitians love to keep on hand.
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Registered dietitian nutritionist Jen Haugen, RDN, stocks her pantry with canned vegetables that are ready to be dumped into soups, chilis, and pasta dishes.
“I always have plenty of diced tomatoes, especially fire-roasted tomatoes—great for additional vitamin C and lycopene,” the author of Dinner, Done! explains. “They add great flavor and color. I also love having canned artichokes on hand to add to pastas or to make a lower calorie version of artichoke dip, as they have quite a bit of fiber per serving.”
When you can’t get to the fishmonger and there’s no time to thaw the fish from the freezer, you can still get your protein and omega-3s with a can opener.
“If you have canned salmon or tuna, beans, tomatoes, and 90-second whole grains, you can make an infinite number of meals,” says Virginia-based registered dietitian nutritionist Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDCES, creator of the Prediabetes Meal Planning Crash Course.
For example, Weisenberger suggests this simple salmon salad: mix canned salmon with drained marinated artichoke hearts, diced onion, and canned chickpeas. Dress with olive oil and rice vinegar.
This gluten-free flour is low in carbs and high in fiber, which supports heart and gut health as well as blood sugar stability.
“I keep this in my pantry because it is versatile and also meets my dietary needs and any guest with dietary restrictions,” says nutritionist Lisa Richards, creator of a low-sugar, anti-inflammatory diet for gut health called the candida diet. “I use it to boost the nutrition in desserts like gluten-free brownies and muffins. It’s also great for pancakes or simply as a breading for items that will go into the air fryer.”
Coconut flour absorbs a good amount of the liquid in a recipe due to its high fiber content, so Richards recommends swapping a quarter cup of coconut flour for one cup of regular flour.
Richards keeps a supply of this protein-rich grain in her pantry because it can be used to complete just about any meal.
“It’s a complete plant protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids, which is rare for plant foods,” she says. “This grain’s protein and fiber keep you feeling full and satisfied for a long time after a meal.”