12 Pantry Staples for Easy, Healthy Plant-Based Eating

Maybe it’s just a nutrition student thing, but I love seeing what other people keep in their kitchen. It’s kind of a small insight into who they are – their preferences, their health values and beliefs, and their food and nutrition knowledge. Okay… that’s definitely just a nutrition student thing.

Being a student for 5 years, I’d like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at eating healthy on a budget, and part of that is relying heavily on non-perishables. If you’ve read some of my older blog posts, you know that many staples of a wholesome plant-based diet can be purchased for cheap and last a long time in your cupboards. Plus, a well-stocked pantry creates endless possibilities for delicious meals at home!

Today, I’m giving you a peak into my pantry to show you 12 items I always keep on hand. How many of these do you have in your cupboards right now?

1.Canned/dried beans and lentils

Beans and lentils fall under the category of legumes, and are a staple in many traditional plant-based diets around the world. Legumes are full of amazing nutrients, fibre, and protein, and are extremely versatile. I keep a variety of canned beans on hand to throw in soups, chili, or salads, to make delicious red beans and rice, and for homemade refried beans. Canned lentils are great for quick fixes, like on salads, but dried varieties offer great depth and add volume to chilis, stews, soups, curries, and sauces. (red lentils are great in pasta sauce FYI!)

2. Canned tomatoes

Conveniently, canned tomatoes are essential for many of those dishes! Again, it is nice to have a variety – I usually have crushed and diced canned tomatoes on hand. Crushed tomatoes are great for making homemade pasta sauces or soups, while diced tomatoes are perfect for a nice, thick chili. Bonus? The nutrients in tomatoes, such as lycopene and other carotenoids, are actually more bioavailable (i.e. better available for absorption) when they are cooked compared to eating them raw. Add a source of fat to the dish, such as a healthy oil, sliced avocado, or coconut milk, to optimize your uptake of these nutrients.

3. Onions and garlic

Although these are technically produce, they stay fresh for so long in the cupboard that they basically count as a pantry item. Because of their versatility, I use onions and garlic as the base for almost every savory dish at home. The sulfur compounds in onions and garlic (as part of the allium family) also provide various health benefits, from antimicrobial effects to improved immune function to fighting disease.

4. Oatmeal

If you despise oatmeal because of years of being force-fed it as a kid… please consider reintroducing it into your life! Not only is oatmeal super cheap, it’s super nutritious – beta-glucan is the soluble fibre found in oatmeal, and is practically a superfood in itself! Studies consistently show that people who consume oatmeal (aka beta-glucan) on a daily basis have lower body weights, better blood sugars, and lower blood cholesterol levels.  Not up for a bowl of oatmeal? Oats (and oat flour) make a really great base for pancakes!

(PS – oatmeal is naturally gluten-free! If you are gluten intolerant or have Celiac disease, just make sure to buy certified gluten-free oats to avoid cross contamination with other grains)

5. Rice and quinoa

Two more naturally gluten-free grains (although quinoa is technically not a grain…), rice and quinoa are both great sources of many minerals, B-vitamins, fibre and protein. Just make sure to use brown rice to get the full benefits – polished rice (aka white rice) actually removes the nutrient-dense husk, where many of the vitamins and minerals are found. If you don’t enjoy the taste of brown rice, try doing half brown and half white!

6. Coffee and tea

BECAUSE CAFFEINE, DUH.

But seriously… coffee and tea actually have awesome health benefits, so drink up and watch for a post coming soon on coffee. 

7. Ground turmeric

Okay, so technically this just recently became a pantry staple for me… but after learning about the significant evidence supporting its health benefits, I couldn’t wait any longer. Turmeric is an incredibly powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, and regularly including it in your diet can have tremendous impact. Although it can be bitter in large quantities, I just sprinkle that shit on EVERYTHING to get the benefits – and really, all it does is turn your food yellow. Add some pepper to your dish, and you’ve just increased the bioavailability of the turmeric by 2000%.

8. Omega-3 rich seeds

Chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp hearts are a major staple for me to ensure I’m getting omega-3 fats in my diet. If you don’t eat fish regularly or take a fish oil supplement, regular consumption of nuts and seeds is critical! Because of their small size, they can easily be hidden in any dish – oatmeal, smoothies, stirfry, salads, and even in baked goods. Not only are all of these seeds great sources of omega-3’s, but they all have healthy fats, fibre, and plant-based protein too!

9. Raw cashews

This is a pricier pantry item, but the amazing dishes you can make with them make it worthwhile. I mentioned making cashew cream in my easy plant-based swaps post – seriously… cashew cream completely subsides any dairy cravings. Alfredo sauce, mac n’ cheese sauces, creamy dips and salad dressings… It can do it all, and completely hits the spot.

10. Nutritional yeast

This wouldn’t be a plant-based staples post without talking about nooch right? Nutritional yeast is full of B-vitamins and offers a great nutty, cheesy flavor (perfect for those sauces and dips mentioned above). The most amazing part? With raw cashews and nutritional yeast you can make VEGAN. PARMESAN. CHEESE. Not only does it taste EXACTLY like Parmesan cheese, but its nutrient-packed with B vitamins, plant protein, healthy fats, and fibre – without the cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium of dairy-based Parmesan cheese. Seriously, try it.

11. Peanut butter

It’s actually insane how quickly I can go through a jar of peanut butter… However, peanut butter (and other nut butters) are a great source of healthy fats, and are oh-so-satiating. Whether its in smoothies, on toast, with sliced apples, or to make a delicious peanut sauce for stirfry, you know I’m eating it everyday. If you haven’t already, I suggest swapping to natural nut butters – although the nutrition facts may not look drastically different, “regular” peanut butter has hydrogenated oils and added sugar, ingredients you don’t need in your PB!

12. Dark chocolate

If you looked in my cupboard at any moment, you’d see a small stash of dark chocolate bars. For whatever reason, a square of dark chocolate after a meal can satiate my sweet cravings more than anything else! Plus, it’s super handy for all your baking needs. I roughly chop a bar and add it to homemade zucchini loaf (recipe in the works!) or in cookies (or this awesome cookie skillet from Rachael’s Good Eats).

 

There you have it! Did you find this insightful? Is there anything on this list that you’re going to get ASAP to have in your own pantry?

 

As always, if you have questions or comments, let me know in the comments below, here, or on Instagram or Twitter! Happy June!

 

Talk soon friends!

 

 

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