Healthy Pantry Makeover

One of the easiest ways to eat healthier is to cook your own meals, as much as possible.  That way, you know exactly what you are putting on your plates and in your mouths.  The first step in cooking healthier meals is stocking your pantry full of healthy ingredients that you can incorporate into lots of different recipes.

Chances are, you already keep healthy basics like brown rice and olive oil on hand—but wouldn’t it be nice to swap in some foods that can really amp up the nutrition and flavor of your meals? Here are some of our favorites.

A small amount of vinegar can add significant flavor to a variety of dishes with very few calories and little to no fat.

Canned tomatoes

Tomatoes are not only rich in flavor, they’re also full of the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene. Whether you choose whole, chopped, crushed, or pureed canned tomatoes, look for no-salt-added or low-sodium versions.


The nutrients in steel-cut and old-fashioned oatmeal help manage cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Thanks to oatmeal’s high fiber content, it will also keep you satisfied for hours.

Whole-wheat pasta

Whole-wheat pastas can have nearly three times as much fiber as regular spaghetti. Since the taste can be quite pungent, the noodles are best paired with a strong flavor such as garlic and pesto.

Brown rice

Brown rice is a healthier alternative to its white counterpart because it retains the bran and the germ, which have an abundance of nutrients. Plus, it doesn’t contain wheat, making it a great choice for people with gluten intolerance.

Whole-wheat flour

Whole-wheat flour contains fewer calories and carbs, but packs more protein, calcium, insoluble fiber (fiber that helps promote healthy digestion), and other nutrients than its white counterpart.


Although it cooks like a grain, quinoa is actually an herbaceous plant. Since it’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids, it provides a boost of energy and will satisfy hunger the same way meat would, sans the fat or cholesterol.


This healthy legume is low in fat and packed with protein and fiber. Brown lentils, the least expensive variety, cook quickly and make great additions to soups, stews, and salads.

Dried beans

For the healthiest (and most affordable) option, choose dried beans. If you’re looking for a convenience item, select canned beans with no salt added or make sure to rinse them well before using.


The large amount of protein, fiber, calcium, and other nutrients make nuts a delicious, energy-boosting snack. Look for walnuts, an unexpectedly good source of omega-3 fatty acids; pistachios, which are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids thought to benefit blood vessels; and almonds, a heart-healthy choice packed with more fiber and protein than any other nut.

Peanut butter

Opt for all-natural peanut (or other nut) butter, which has a high level of protein and monounsaturated fats. For the most nutritional choice, pick the spread containing just two ingredients—nuts and salt.

Popcorn kernels

Popcorn is a filling, low-cal munch (only 55 calories a cup, even after popped in oil).

Cannellini beans

These beans easily up the protein, fiber, and minerals in pasta sauce, and can also be pureed into a dip.

Black beans

An excellent source of protein for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.  Whether canned or dried, they can be an addition to chili, pastas, soups, or even lasagna!

Frozen fruit

Great for an energizing morning smoothie, added to your favorite yogurt, or even simmered in a saucepan into a berry sauce for French toast or pancakes.

Did we forget anything that you like to keep as a pantry essential? We’d love to hear from you!

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