FOOD

11 Foods Everyone Should Keep In Their Pantry

Plus delicious ways to use them.

19/06/2017 7:15 AM AEST | Updated 19/06/2017 7:22 AM AEST

The key to (consistent) healthy eating is keeping your kitchen stocked with healthy food. But it can be difficult to know what ingredients to buy and keep in the pantry, especially with so many different health foods and 'superfoods' out there.

Do we really need maca powder? Or sprouted buckwheat? And what about spirulina?

Good news -- building a healthy pantry doesn't have to be complicated, nor do you have to do your whole food shop at the health food store.

"In order to stay committed to your health, fitness and wellness goals, it is imperative to keep your pantry stocked with high-quality ingredients," Ben Lucas, trainer, former NRL player and founder of Flow Athletic, told HuffPost Australia.

"A fully stocked pantry will help keep your grocery bills low, as you will only need to purchase perishable foods like meat and veggies when it's time to cook a meal."

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Having a pantry filled with healthy food, especially when you've come home after a long day, also means you're more likely to cook and less likely to resort to takeaway, celebrity trainer Tegan Haining explained.

"When you're busy or tired you need to have simple, healthy ingredients on hand to be able to make a quick and easy meal," Haining said.

"Plus, it's important to be getting the most nutrition, even out of your snacks. Being organised with a pantry full of sugar-free pick-me-ups is sure to keep your energy levels more stable (keeping your mind focused), plus give your antioxidant and macronutrient levels a boost."

Here are 11 healthy ingredients we should always keep in our pantry, according to health experts.

1. Tinned beans and tomatoes

"Legumes are high in protein and folate (good for our mood and general health and wellbeing) and can be made into dips or added to soups and stews," nutritionist Fiona Tuck told HuffPost Australia.

"Tinned tomatoes (good for antioxidants, cell protection and heart health) make a super easy, healthy base for curries, stews and pasta dishes."

Lisovskaya via Getty Images
Make simple hummus using a can of chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic.

2. Chia seeds

Although a little on the pricey side, chia seeds are a versatile and extremely healthy food, which can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

"Chia seeds are a source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. I use them to make a chia seed porridge or toss into smoothies," nutritionist and celebrity chef Zoe Bingley-Pullin told HuffPost Australia.

3. Dried herbs and spices

Dried herbs and spices add flavour, depth and extra nutrition to your meals. Lucas recommends always having turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and oregano in the pantry, which can be used for curries, soups, roast veggies and pasta dishes.

"Nothing can replace the nutritional benefits of fresh fruit and veg, but herbs and spices can nutritionally supplement your diet," Lucas said.

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Make your own chia pudding by combining chia seeds with milk and cinnamon for spice.

4. Tahini

If you love hummus, chances are you will love tahini, a creamy, nutty paste made from ground sesame seeds. But hummus isn't the only thing you can add tahini to.

"Tahini is rich in vitamin E and calcium, and can be used to replace peanut butter or sweet spreads, or used to make salad dressings, or even in baking," Tuck said.

"It's also a source of protein and minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium," Bingley-Pullin added.

5. Quinoa (and/or barley)

Quinoa is packed with protein and is a versatile pseudo-grain which you can use in place of rice, couscous and even breakfast porridge.

But if quinoa is out of your price range, try the super cheap 'super' grain, barley -- it's only $3 per kilo.

"Quinoa or barley are quick, easy grains to have with some lemon, olive oil and fresh herbs," Haining said.

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6. Nuts and seeds

Unsalted nuts and seeds, like almonds, sunflower seeds and cashews, are a pantry must-have and can be used in desserts, salads and smoothies, as well as enjoyed on their own.

Nuts and seeds are packed with health benefits -- they're high in healthy fats, protein and fibre, as well as good sources of micronutrients like vitamin E, calcium, iron and zinc.

If it's within your budget, Lucas recommends opting for 'activated' or 'fermented' nuts and seeds (those which have been soaked, sprouted and dehydrated), which are said to be more digestible than regular nuts.

7. Extra virgin olive oil

"Extra virgin olive oil is a source of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, and can be used for cooking, drizzling and baking," Bingley-Pullin said.

Opt for the highest quality olive oil within your budget and remember to store in a dark place.

Getty Images/Alloy
Transform nuts, seeds, dried fruit, nut butter and fruit into raw treats.

8. Nutritional yeast

Although this food's name doesn't exactly conjure up delicious images, nutritional yeast (affectionately called 'nooch') has an addictive cheesy, umami flavour and is a delicious staple for many vegans -- and with good reason.

"Nutritional yeast is rich in minerals and B vitamins", Tuck explained, and can be used as a 'cheese' topping on pasta, lasagna and salads, or stirred into soups and stews.

Three other pantry staples we should be adding to our shopping list are lemons (rich in vitamin C and perfect for salad dressings), rolled oats and brown rice (both sources of whole grain, complex carbohydrates).

"Seeing a pantry stocked full of healthy food can also inspire you to want to try out new, healthy recipes and can boost self-motivation," Tuck said.

OlgaMiltsova
Try adding nutritional yeast to popcorn for a cheesy, healthy snack.

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