10 Essential Pantry Foods for Short Cuts

No doubt you have ALL heard the “no processed or packaged” foods statements out there.  Or, “avoid the inner aisles of the grocery store” recommendations.  Remember, I’m your down-to-earth dietitian.  We all have busy lives and go at a frantic pace.  Sometimes, short cuts are necessary.  Face it, some partially processed foods help us to avoid fast-food drive-thru lanes.  Definitely worth it.

Avoiding HIGHLY processed foods packed with sugars, partially hydrogenated oils, and preservatives is certainly a good thing.  But, letting the food manufacturers do a little of your prep work will save you time and allow your family to eat healthier.

Here are 10 pantry foods that I keep on hand at all times…

  1. Canned Beans of ALL Kinds – High in fiber and protein!  I always have black beans, pinto beans, and garbanzo beans.  Yes, I love my homemade beans with chilies or ham…. but, canned beans are a great quick alternative.  Salads or wraps for lunch.  Burritos or ingredient in skillet dinners.  Highly recommend beans!
  2. Vegetable Broth – I like the reduced sodium, organic variety in quart-size boxes.  Super flavorful, ready to go for soups.  Definite necessity!
  3. Popcorn Kernels – My favorite simple snack!  Did you know you can pop these in a paper lunch bag, little drizzle of olive oil, in the microwave for about 2-1/2 minutes?!  I buy the jumbo container at Costco.
  4. Canned Diced Tomatoes – Just like the beans, these are such a time saver when it comes to soups, sauces or skillet meals.
  5. Brown Rice – The dried version tastes so much better than the quick minute-rice variety.  Yes, the cooking time is longer.  If you will be serving a rice-based dinner during the week, just cook up your rice over the weekend.  Cooked rice keeps well in the fridge or freezer.
  6. Whole Wheat Pasta – Such a quick weeknight meal option!  Pasta gets a bad rap lately with the low-carb craze.  Remember, portion control!  Whole wheat pasta with fiber helps your gut, fills you up, and is super versatile.
  7. Almond Butter – Quick lunches and breakfasts are so much simpler with this staple!
  8. Lentils – Because they cook quickly, red and brown lentils lend a fiber/protein-packed addition to your weeknight meals.  Try in soups, tacos, salads…. options are endless!
  9. Albacore Tuna – Super high in protein!  Highly recommend the low sodium version, packed in water for a satisfying lunch.
  10. Light Coconut Milk – Turn ordinary chowders or stir-fry into unique knock-off take-out Asian delicious-ness!  I prefer the light version, as it’s not so heavy and rich, but still packs the tasty coconut flavor.

There you have it!  What is your go-to pantry staple?

Stay tuned for essential freezer foods for short-cuts, coming soon!


Author: drjennbowersnutrition

Dr. Bowers is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with 25 years of experience in clinical nutrition, education and health promotion. Her down-to-earth philosophy is "All foods can fit!"

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