The items you keep on hand in your kitchen set the tone for the meals you’ll be eating. On the average day, when you get home from work tired and hungry, you’re going to reach for whatever is handy. Keep a lot of frozen convenience food on hand, and you’ll inevitably end up eating it. By contrast, keeping a kitchen stocked with healthy staples is a good way to encourage yourself to eat healthier on a daily basis.
Many of these healthy pantry staples can easily be incorporated into a meal that is just as fast and easy to make as the pre-packaged options preferred by many people. Try keeping these items on-hand and using them as the basis of your next healthy lunch or dinner:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
EVOO can get any meal off to a healthy start. Cooking the main protein of your meal in this type of oil helps you get the “good fats” that help with your overall health. Extra virgin olive oil is less processed than other types of oil, and therefore offers you more of the nutrients and vitamins that naturally come from olives.
Whole Wheat Pasta
Whole wheat pasta is a great substitute for refined pasta, which is high in carbohydrates and low in nutrients. The whole wheat types of pasta contain up to three times as much fiber as the refined variety, and 25 percent more protein. Because of the high fiber content, whole wheat pasta is also more filling, which can help you keep your portions under control.
Chickpeas, or Garbanzo beans, are easy to create a dish out of on their own or incorporate into many types of dishes, including soups and stews. They give your diet a protein and fiber boost, and fit into just about any budget. Whether you purchase them dry or canned, they have a long shelf life and are usually inexpensive. If you prefer the taste of black eyed peas, pigeon peas or kidney beans, you can keep these on hand instead and reap similar health benefits.
Natural Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is high in calories, but it is packed with healthy fats and protein, and it is a must-have because it can be used in so many diverse ways. You can smear it on an apple for an easy breakfast on the go, or use it to make the sauce for an Indonesian-inspired chicken satay at dinnertime. Beware of the popular brand name peanut butters, which may have added trans fats and sugars, and make sure you read the ingredients to see exactly what is in the peanut butter before you buy it.
With these staples on hand, you are well on your way to having a healthy option for every meal time, even if you haven’t had time to properly plan all of your meals for the week. What healthy staples do you make sure to keep on-hand, and how do you mix them into your daily diet?