By Leslie Hanft, Certified Holistic Health Coach
My Healthy Pantry Essentials

My Healthy Pantry Essentials

Wow, it has been quite some time since I posted anything new and I have truly missed sharing new recipes and interacting with you.  Fortunately, I have a good excuse for being out of touch which, in a round-about way, also provided me with the inspiration for this post.

Just a couple of short months ago, I learned that my family and I would be moving across country from New York City to Colorado, a move prompted by a fantastic career opportunity for my husband.  And while we were all excited for the change (we are big skiers in this family so Colorado is a good fit for us), it threw our world into a bit of an upheaval as we frantically began preparing for a major move in less than 2 months.  All of a sudden, packing up my home, spending as much time as possible with family and friends before saying “goodbye for now” and finding a new place to live became a priority and took up all of my time.

But as I began packing up my kitchen, I started to think about the food in my pantry and what I could make over the next several weeks to use up some of the items before the move.  And as I considered this, I realized I could make nutritious meals with just the items in my pantry.  These were truly my food staples, the various items that I couldn’t live (or I should say cook and eat) without and that made my life easier everyday.  And they were all nutrient-dense items that are part of a healthy whole foods diet.  So as I cooked and packed, I decided that in my next post I would share with you a list of my pantry essentials.

Before I share with you my list, here are a few tips for keeping a well-stocked pantry:

  • Aim to keep a few items from each of the categories on hand at all times.
  • Once your pantry is set up, keep a list and note when something is used up and needs to be restocked.
  • When purchasing canned goods, make sure the cans have a BPA-free liner.  Note, if it doesn’t say it is BPA-free then it probably isn’t.
  • Buy organic whenever possible to avoid unnecessary chemicals, pesticides and preservatives.
  • Since these are my pantry essentials, not the produce and other fresh foods that I buy during my weekly shopping trips, they generally last for a long time and you can stock-up with confidence.
  • With a properly stocked pantry, in a pinch you will be able to prepare a simple and nutritious meal without the need to go into your refrigerator or freezer.

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1.   Canned and Dried Beans - With a son who is a vegetarian by choice, I cook A LOT of beans and always have a large supply of both dried and canned in my pantry (when buying canned look for no salt added).  Beans are an excellent source of protein for everyone, not just vegetarians, and are one of the world’s healthiest foods.  My son’s favorite recipe that is chock-full of beans is this Vegetarian Chili.

  • Black Beans
  • Lentils (I recommend buying both regular and sprouted lentils. This soup is my go-to recipe when I have a bag of sprouted lentils in my pantry.)
  • Cannellini Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Garbanzo Beans aka Chickpeas.  (These Veggie Burgers are our families favorite recipe using chickpeas.)

2.   Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit - Not only do these make for  healthy snacking, they are great sprinkled on salads or added to oatmeal or greek yogurt for breakfast or a hearty snack.  I also use nuts, especially raw cashews, in my cooking.  Raw cashews are one of the secret ingredients that make this Cheesy (Veggie) Sauce so creamy and delicious.  When buying nuts, look for raw or dry roasted and skip the added oils and salt.  Nuts should be stored in air tight containers and keeping them in the refrigerator (especially walnuts, pecans and cashews that become rancid quickly in warm environments) will extend their shelf life.  I always have a supply of:   

  • Almonds (Raw almonds are essential for my Homemade Almond Milk.)
  • Cashews
  • Walnuts
  • Hemp seeds (I sprinkle these on my salads.)
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chia Seeds
  • Dried Fruits such as Apricots, Dates and Prunes.  (Dates are a great substitute for sugar when baking.)

3.   Sprouted Flours - My go-to flours for all of my baking are sprouted wheat and sprout spelt flour, which I get here.  They can be easily substituted (1:1) for all-purpose flour in any recipe and are much, much more nutritious.  With my sprouted flours, I never have a need for any other wheat flour.

  • Sprouted Spelt Flour
  • Sprouted Spring Wheat Flour 

4.   Gluten-Free Flours and Grains - I use all of these on a regular basis but quinoa is my favorite because it is so nutritious and easy to prepare.  I usually make a big pot at the beginning of the week and then use it all week long in recipes such as Quinoa Fried Rice and Pizza Quinoa or add it to salads and soups to make them more filling and satisfying.

  • Quinoa
  • Brown Rice
  • Millet (and Millet Flour)
  • Coconut Flour (Perfect for making gluten-free Chocolate Muffins.)
  • Almond Flour (Keep this one in the refrigerator.)
  • Chickpea Flour (I always have some so I can make these amazing Chickpea Fries, one of my son’s absolute favorite recipes.)
  • Flaxseed Meal

5.   Nut Butters - I add these to smoothies, use them in recipes or just enjoy them spread on some sprouted grain toast.

6.   Natural Sweeteners - When baking, I find maple sugar to be a great substitute for white sugar.  It is almost twice as sweet as regular sugar so I use half the amount, sometimes even less. With these natural sweeteners, I never have a need for any processed white sugar in my kitchen.

  • Maple Syrup (Consider choosing Grade B, which is darker and richer in minerals and flavor than Grade A and usually less expensive.) 
  • Maple Sugar 
  • Raw Honey
  • Molasses

7.   Dried Mushrooms, Sea Vegetables and Spices - Blended dried mushrooms are a “secret” ingredient I use in soups and other recipes that give them a “umami” flavor.  I always have several packages in my pantry.  I also keep a variety of  sea vegetables in my pantry.  They add a salty flavor to food and contain chlorophyll, iodine, potassium and other beneficial minerals naturally found in the ocean.  When stocking- up on spices, pick your favorites.  For garlic (which is actually a vegetable not a spice), I recommend only buying fresh and skipping the dried garlic powder.  Included below are some of the spices I can’t live without.

  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Turmeric (I love to use this spice along with my raw honey to make this amazing, anti-inflammatory, Turmeric Tea.)
  • Basil
  • Ground Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Chili Powder
  • Curry Powder
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Dried porcini and shiitake mushrooms
  • Wakame, and other sea vegetables such as Arame, Kombu and Nori.  

8.   Oils and Vinegars - Like many health conscious people, I use olive oil and coconut oil often. However, when it comes to oils it is important to be aware of the smoke point of the oil, the temperature at which the oil begins to burn.  For high heat cooking, refined avocado oil has one of the highest smoke points of all the oils and is my favorite choice.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Avocado Oil (I use refined for high heat cooking and unrefined for medium heat, dipping or as a salad dressing.)
  • Toasted Sesame Seed Oil
  • Pumpkin Seed Oil (This is great for salad dressings and marinades but is not stable when heated so avoid using it in cooking.)
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar

9.  Vegetable Broth – I only buy pre-made vegetable broth.  I have yet to find a chicken or beef broth that doesn’t contain some ingredients that I prefer to avoid (such as natural flavors, sugar and caramel color), so I make my own bone broths from scratch.

  • Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth (I like Pacific brand.)

10.  Canned and Jarred Tomato Products - When purchasing  tomato products, I look for items without any added salt or sugar.  And I always look for tomato sauce made only with olive oil (I don’t want to any soybean or other vegetable oils in my sauce).

  • Tomato Sauce
  • Tomato Paste
  • Crushed Tomatoes
  • Diced Tomatoes

11.  Pasta – I always keep some pasta (both wheat pasta and gluten-free varieties) on hand for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.  Some of my favorites are:

  • Whole Wheat Angel Hair Spaghetti
  •  Quinoa Pasta
  • Eden Organic Ancient Grain Pastas ( I usually buy a variety of the Spelt, Kamut and Buckwheat.)
  • Tolerant Red Lentil and Black Bean Pasta (This is one of my new favorite food products, a pasta made entirely from beans – how great is that?  And it is delicious too.  I find it at Whole Foods but you can also get it here.)

12.  Miscellaneous Items – these items don’t fit easily into any of the above categories, however you will always find them in my pantry!

Did I miss something?  What are your healthy pantry essentials?  What food items do you need to live, cook and eat?  Please feel free to share.  I would love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

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