10 Healthy Pantry Essentials You Should Always Have on Hand, According to RDs
Expiration dates are so last season.
Whether it’s peak summer, mid-winter, or somewhere in between, there are a few shelf-stable grocery items that chefs and health experts recommend you always have at home to stay healthy and happy in the kitchen. Each one of these pantry products is incredibly versatile, meaning they can be added to everything from breakfast smoothies and scrambled eggs to salads, sheet-pan dinners, soups, stews, or spaghetti sauce. And according to Ashley Koff, RD, these foods are also incredibly nutritious. Here are Koff’s top 10 healthy essentials you should keep stocked in your pantry all year round.
“Seeds pack minerals our bones, hair, skin, and nails need, and help enable better energy,” says Koff. For instance, sesame seeds have calcium and hemp seeds have manganese and iron. Keep them in the fridge or freezer to extend their shelf life even longer. You can sprinkle seeds into salads, yogurt parfaits, bake with them, mix them with panko for crispy chicken cutlets, or pulse them in the blender for DIY tahini.
Canned or dried beans are an excellent shelf-stable, plant-based protein source that pack plenty of fiber and B vitamins. They’re a superstar multitasker in the kitchen, too: you can toss them on soups, in or beside rice dishes, in pastas, as dips for vegetables, and use them in stews or lasagnas. If you’re buying them canned, make sure to look for low-sodium options.
“Keep a shelf-stable oat milk or almond milk on hand at all times,” says Koff. “They can be used in a variety of ways, from cooking and baking to coffee, cereal, smoothies, and more.” Be sure to look for shelf-stable milks that are lower in sugar and don’t contain gums or stabilizers. (We love Califia Farms Oat Barista Blend.)
Use them to make overnight oats with your preferred milk and plenty of fresh fruit, or make a savory breakfast bowl with fried eggs, avocado, and pico de gallo. Uncooked oats also pack probiotics, which feed good bacteria in your gut.
Garbanzo Bean (Chickpea) Flour
Garbanzo bean flour‚ also known as chickpea flour, is popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking for dishes like falafel, hummus, and papadums. It’s also an excellent ingredient for gluten-free baking. Use it to make your own crackers, cakes, breads, and pizza crusts from scratch. Chickpea flour is also great for thickening sauces, gravies, and soups. “It’s a pantry staple because—unlike all-purpose flour—it’s naturally high in protein and fiber,” says Koff.
Not to be confused with processed chocolate, raw cacao provides magnesium and powerful antioxidants like flavonoids. It’s delicious in coffee, cocoa, baked goods, or in mole sauce.
Where to even begin? “My go-to spices include red chili flakes, which help boost your immune health, and turmeric, which contains powerful antioxidants that help promote a healthy anti-inflammatory response,” Koff says. Spices add tons of delicious flavor to foods without any extra sugar, saturated fat, or chemicals.
There are plenty of flavorful and easily accessible herbal tea options, and the flavors naturally come from herbs. According to Koff, “Chamomile tea is a great choice, because it can be used as a sleep aid, and getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to stay healthy.”
Quality Olive Oil
“It contains better-for-you fats that are not only delicious, but also help promote a healthy inflammatory response.” Cook pasta, fish, and veggies in olive oil, then add an extra drizzle to your finished dish (why not?). Just make sure your olive oil bottle is made from dark glass or metal, and keep it away from heat to help it last longer.
This adds tons of rich umami flavor to one-pot meals and soups. If you’re making it from scratch, stock is also an excellent way to use up leftover bits of produce, herbs, or parmesan cheese.