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Secrets to a Healthy Pantry

Healthy PantryWe’ve all been there. It’s 6:45 pm (or 7:45 or…10) and you’re staring into the fridge with stomach rumbling, wondering what on earth to eat for dinner.

These are the moments that can make or break your healthy eating aspirations. When I’m hungry and tired and low on groceries, I’m likely to reach for the phone (to order takeout) instead of reaching into my imagination to create a healthy and satisfying meal.

Here’s the good news: with a little planning, you can hunger-proof your pantry and make it easier to create fast and healthy meals with staples you always have on hand!

A healthy pantry starts with some of the same basics that build a healthy plate: whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and healthy flavor boosters such as vinegar and low-sodium soy sauce.

Whole Grains

Easy Teriyaki Salmon Rice BowlWhole grains are packed with fiber and nutrients. Use brown rice, quinoa or bulgur as flavorful foundations for Mighty Bowls of Goodness or simple recipes such as Easy Teriyaki Salmon Rice Bowl. Let your taste buds lead the way, but be sure to stock up on some quick-cooking varieties for busy days. (Frozen grains can be a lifesaver when you’re pressed for time too!)

Don’t forget about whole grain pasta! One cup of whole wheat pasta delivers about 7g protein, and it’s perfect for pantry meals like Puttanesca Pasta or Quick Italian Spinach and Pasta Soup.


Quick and Easy Veggie ChiliBeans provide a shelf-friendly source of protein, fiber and phytonutrients. Cooking dried beans from scratch is easy and affordable, while canned beans are key for convenient meals on the fly. With plenty of beans in your pantry, you can whip up salads, burritos, Quick and Easy Veggie Chili or Simply Delicious Homemade Hummus.

Nuts and Seeds

Creamy Sesame GreensThey may be small, but nuts and seeds pack a powerful wallop of flavor. Although they tend to be high in fat, it’s primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, and they don’t promote weight gain when eaten in moderation — about a small handful per day.

When you are making salad dressing, look to nutbutters and seedbutters as alternatives to extracted oils. Tahini adds mellow, nutty flavor to Creamy Sesame Greens, while peanut butter makes a tasty sauce for recipes such as Sesame-Peanut Noodles.

Flavor Boosters

Don’t forget those indispensable ingredients that pull everything together! A short list includes low-sodium vegetable broth, no-salt-added canned tomatoes, low-sodium soy sauce, vinegars and your favorite dried herbs and spices.

Stock Your Freezer Too

Finally, use your freezer as an extension of this healthy pantry strategy. Frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen at the peak of freshness and retain almost as many nutrients as fresh. They’ll come in handy when you’re too pooped to prep or when you run out of fresh produce.

For a shopping list of healthy pantry staples, check out our Healthy Pantry Makeover.

Do you have a healthy pantry staple that comes to the rescue when hunger strikes? I’d love to read about it in the comments below!

Hungry for more? Check out our Healthy Eating hub for tips on choosing healthy foods, healthy cooking techniques and much more!


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Sam Gugino says …

You can't eat healthfully if you don't know what's in the food you buy. Several weeks ago, I asked the meat department at the Plymouth Mtg, PA store about the nutritional content of the sausages it makes. Not once, but twice, I was sent the nutritional information of the seasonings used, not the meat, or vegetables or fruits, the seasonings, which amounted to about 2 calories, by the way. I was also sent an NGA Guide, which told me nothing about the sausages, though the person who sent the guide highlighted the part that says markets that sell sausages they make aren’t required by law to divulge the nutritional content. But as I told the people in the Plymouth Meeting store, that is beside the point. Whole Foods makes a big deal about how caring it is. Under “Core Values" on the company web site it says "We Promote the Health of Our Stakeholders Through Healthy Eating Education.” Whole Foods is not living up to its Core Values. Sam Gugino

Coach Versandra says …

Thank you Whole Foods Market for being the healthiest most transparent grocery store in America. I mean it! You guys set the standard for all the rest to try and compete. I will continue to refer all of my clients to your markets for the highest quality and most affordable natural and organic food, served on a platter with excellent customer service.

Paula says …

I have been trying for a while now to have you sell Hains baking soda.I always get the baking powder but I really do need the baking soda. Any chance you might be bringing it to the store. I spoke to management personally but maybe it's just an oversight. Will really appreciate it. Thanks. Paula

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@PAULA - Leaving a suggestion with the store is the best way to have them look in to ordering this. Our buying is done at the store/regional level so they can check if it's available for ordering in their region.