Throwing together a quick, nutritious meal requires a well-stocked kitchen. However, many popular healthy foods are highly perishable and must be used within a few days, causing many home cooks to burn through their food stores quickly.
Still, you can keep a number of healthy, long-lasting staples your pantry, freezer, and fridge and use them to make nutrient-dense meals and snacks — even when you’re out of your typical go-to foods.
Here are a few healthy staples that you should always have on hand.
Nuts, seeds, and their butters
Nuts and seeds are nutritional powerhouses, providing healthy fats, filling protein, fiber, and an array of vitamins and minerals.
Depending on the type, nuts and seeds can be kept at room temperature for one-four months, making them a smart ingredient to store in your pantry. Natural nut and seed butters are long lasting, healthy alternatives to their commercial counterparts, which typically contain added oils and sugar.
Nuts and seeds can be used in many dishes, including oatmeal, yogurt, trail mix, and salads. Nut and seed butters make excellent additions to smoothies and can be added to sauces or spread onto fruits or veggies for a quick, satisfying snack.
When in a pinch, grain-based dishes like salads, grain bowls, soups, and pilafs make a great choice due to their versatility and convenience.
Depending on the type, grains like spelt, brown rice, amaranth, bulgur, oats, and quinoa can be kept safely at room temperature for months to years, making them a smart choice to buy in bulk.
Plus, these grains are excellent sources of fiber and micronutrients, including B vitamins, manganese, and magnesium, and eating them may help protect against conditions like heart disease and certain cancers.
Frozen fruit and vegetables
Many fresh fruits and veggies, such as berries and greens, are highly perishable. Yet, buying these foods in frozen form allows you to always have nutrient-dense produce on hand.
Nutrition-wise, frozen fruits and veggies are comparable to fresh produce in micronutrient content, making them a healthy and convenient freezer staple.
Try adding frozen greens to sautés, soups, and smoothies. Frozen berries can be used similarly to fresh berries and add natural sweetness to oatmeal, smoothies, baked goods, and yogurt parfaits.
Honey and maple syrups
Everyone needs a little sweetness from time to time. Honey and maple syrups are natural sweeteners that offer unique health benefits.
For example, raw honey has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and contains powerful antioxidants. Maple syrup is also rich in antioxidants and contains small amounts of nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and manganese.
Honey and maple syrups can be used to add flavour and depth to both sweet and savory recipes. Just remember to use these sweeteners sparingly, as too much sugar from any source can harm your overall health.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has multiple uses in the kitchen. For example, it’s an effective all-purpose cleaner and can be used as a flavourful addition to recipes like sauces, dressings, and baked goods.
In addition to its versatility, this tangy vinegar is incredibly healthy. Research has shown that it may have anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and heart-health promoting properties.
Healthy fats for cooking
Certain fats, including coconut oil, ghee and olive oil, can be safely kept at room temperature for a year or more, depending on the type. For this reason, you can buy these pantry staples in larger quantities so that you always have a healthy fat source on hand.
Cooking with these healthy fats helps add flavor to recipes and enhances the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from food.
Spices and dried herbs
To create flavourful recipes, it’s essential to have a well-stocked spice rack. Spices and herbs elevate the flavour of dishes and can come in handy when you’re in a recipe rut. What’s more, incorporating dried herbs and spices into your diet can promote your health in various ways.
Turmeric, cayenne pepper, rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, oregano, and cumin all offer impressive health benefits and may help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of certain diseases.