What foods should I have in my pantry?

Sherrie Pierce

A very quick rule of thumb is that the food you purchase and eat should look like the food source that it is. Healthy foods are generally ones that are not processed and refined to look like something else or cover up what they are. In general those foods  found on the outer edges of the grocery store are healthier than those processed and prepared foods found down the middle isles. The outer edge is  where you will find the fruits and vegetables, the fresh meats and the dairy foods.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Eating healthy can be expensive, but keeping some essentials in your pantry can stretch your grocery dollar. In this video, Dr. Oz quizzes his audience on pantry must-haves that will last a long time.
Remember my simple moniker for the pantry: "Triple A Nutrition!" This stands for foods that are alkalizing to the body, antioxidant rich, and anti-inflammatory. Alkalizing foods help raise the pH in the body and have very beneficial effects. In fact, studies have shown that many cancers cannot propagate when the body is more alkaline. Conversely, foods that promote acidosis like refined sugars and white flour create a more disease-promoting state. Alkalizing foods include leafy greens, especially kale, cucumbers, olive oil, soy nuts, and avocado. Antioxidant rich foods in the pantry provide needed protection against the effects of oxidative stress (the same process that "rusts" your wrought iron furniture). As for the most antioxidant rich foods in the pantry, a number of beans are king like dried small red beans, red kidney beans and pinto beans. This is followed by the berries! As far as the anti-inflammatory properties of what's in your pantry, this is more of an elimination task. There are a number of "inflammatory triggers" which many people share. Most commonly these include gluten and dairy products. I would replace everything that is white (bread, sugar, rice and cow's milk) and replace it with a healthier brown rice, stevia sweetener (also very alkaline) and alternatives to dairy like rice milk, almond milk, and hemp milk.
Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Stocking your pantry with healthy food makes eating healthier a lot easier! Start with whole grains. Purchase whole grain flour and unbleached flour for baking. Whole grain pancake and waffle mixes. Whole grain crackers, pretzels, pasta, and cereals. Do not buy large quantities unless you will use them within the expiration date. Whole grains contain the germ where the oils are and these oils can go rancid quickly. Stock up on dried and canned beans, brown rice, and canned tomatoes; ingredients that can be used to quickly throw together healthy meals. Keep extra virgin olive oil on hand, delicious vinegars, dried fruit and nuts, and coconut milk. The goal is to have enough basic foods that you can make simple healthy meals that you can quickly prepare.
Cindy Gay
Nutrition & Dietetics
Using the MyPlate method of meal planning, I'll categorize these foods into Fruits & Vegetables, Whole Grains, Lean Meat or Protein and Low Fat Dairy.  In my "pantry", I stock canned pumpkin, diced tomatoes with no added salt, cut green beans with no added salt, spaghetti sauce, tropical fruit in juice and pineapple in juice. I keep mini packs of raisins to add to my oatmeal or take on trips. Individual packs of unsweetened applesauce are good fat substitutes in baking.

Under Whole Grains, I love the instant brown rice without seasoning. Whole wheat spaghetti, rotini and lasagna are best choices for pasta.  Quinoa and whole couscous are great replacements for grainy side dishes. Old fashioned oatmeal is my cereal of choice for breakfast. I also add it to meatloaf.

Albacore tuna in water is the best choice on the tuna shelf. There are some that are canned without added salt. Depending on the budget, tuna in water is also a good protein choice. Canned cooked dry beans are great choices, high in fiber and iron. There are no-added-salt versions. Rinse and drain the beans before adding to salads, wraps or soups.  Natural peanut butter contains the best fats. (Store upside down to help the oils mix). Almonds and sunflower seeds (no-salt versions) are satisfiing after-work snacks. (I measure 1/4 cup and toast my sliced almonds prior to eating.)

Canned evaporated skim milk is a good substitute for cream in coffee and perfect for pumpkin pie.

Olive, canola and sesame oils are the preferred fats for sauteeing and salads. I like to add a little sesame oil to the cooking water for brown rice. Vinegar of choice is another favorite salad ingredient. A vegetable cooking spray is also a staple to spray pans prior to cooking.

My favorite seasoning is a gardening seasoning without added salt. Cumin and chili powder are my favorites for taco seasoning.
Donna Feldman
Nutrition & Dietetics
If you want to maximize the nutritional quality of foods you eat at home, but don't care much for cooking, or don't have time to cook, stock your pantry with healthy foods that are convenient. Here are 10 top choices:
  1. Yogurt: to control calories, pick single-serve yogurt, either low or non-fat. You can go for Greek style, which is higher in protein, or regular. Just be sure your yogurt is the real thing, not some pudding-like substance thickened with corn starch, or loaded with sweeteners or sugary cereal bits.
  2. Whole grain cereal: Bran cereals, oats or other whole grain options are your best choice when it comes to cereal.  
  3. Cut-up fresh fruit: It may seem expensive, but the convenience is worth it. Especially if ready-to-eat fresh fruit makes your snack choices easier.
  4. Cut-up/pre-washed fresh vegetables: As with fruit, the convenience makes healthy eating easier. It's easy to make a quick green salad with you just have to grab some greens out of a bag, and add some pre-cut vegetables. 
  5. Olive oil: Pick quality oil in smaller bottles. Quality olive oil tastes great. And if you buy small bottles, the oil is less likely to go bad before you use it up. Keep it out of direct sunlight, or even in the fridge if you don't use it often.
  6. Nuts: Nuts make a handy snack, and can be added to cereal or casseroles or salads for a protein boost. All nuts are great, so pick the ones you like, and keep them in the refrigerator.
  7. Low calorie/non-fat seasoning sauces: Condiments like mustards, soy sauce, hot sauce, salsa and all kinds of Asian-style hot or seasoning sauces perk up meats, grains and vegetables without adding many calories.
  8. Canned soups for quick dinners. Pick soups that are labeled "low sodium" and "no MSG," and add your own salt if you must for flavor. Pick varieties full of vegetables. To boost nutrition add...
  9. Canned beans: these are easy to add to all kinds of dishes, like canned soups, to boost protein, fiber and nutrients.  
  10. Frozen unsweetened fruit: If you can't find fresh pre-cut fruit, or you shop infrequently, frozen unsweetened berries, sliced peaches, pineapple chunks and the like are great for quick fruit salad. Or use them to make smoothies.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.