The Healthy Eater's Pantry Staples | Vegetarian Times Skip to main content

The Healthy Eater's Pantry Staples

The Healthy Eater's Pantry Staples

Amazing Grains


Aside from fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy eaters know how important it is to stock their kitchens with other nutritious foods that are less perishable. If you want to commit to healthful eating, making it easy to eat well with a well-stocked pantry is your key to success.

So what are the foods every healthy eater should have on hand?

Whole grains: Quinoa, rice, oats, barley, millet, teff, and farro—that is just a sampling of the healthy whole grains that can be kept fresh in your pantry for a very long time. Many grains take 30 minutes or fewer to prepare and can easily be added to a meal. Cooked grains freeze well, so in addition to having uncooked grains in my pantry, I tend to keep frozen ones in the freezer for days when I don’t feel like cooking.

Frozen vegetables and fruits: Yes, frozen foods are an important part of healthful eating! Frozen fruits and veggies are major time-saving foods: you can quickly make a meal from frozen vegetables, legumes, grains, and seasonings, with no cleaning or chopping necessary. Because fruits and vegetables are usually frozen at their peak of freshness, they maintain many of their fantastic nutrients.

Legumes: Beans are a beloved part of most veg diets. They’re remarkably versatile and full of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. I like to keep dried beans, canned beans, and frozen cooked beans in my kitchen—that way I’m never without a quick nutrient-packed ingredient to add to meals or to eat as a snack! Lentils are another fantastic legume. They don’t require soaking, and cook up in fewer than 30 minutes. They’re also known for being easier to digest than other beans. Definitely keep them in your pantry!   Spices and Herbs

Spices and condiments: My top priority when helping people adopt a healthy vegan diet is to show them how to make food delicious. When it doesn’t taste good, healthy eating is not sustainable. Spices and condiments will take your meals to the next level. Experiment with new recipes. Some of my favorites are coriander, cumin, fennel seeds, Ethiopian berbere, fresh ginger, tahini, olives, harissa, and miso. Just make sure that you’re buying spices and condiments that don’t have added preservatives, coloring, flavoring, or sugars.

Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds make the perfect energy-boosting snack and are a tasty addition to meals. I add walnuts to my morning porridge, eat almonds for a snack, and sprinkle pumpkin and hemp seeds on my salads, cooked veggies, and pilafs. Nuts and seeds provide us with important trace minerals, antioxidants, fiber, protein, and healthy fat.  

-Jenné Claiborne is the founder of The Nourishing Vegan, a New York–based personal chef service. She is also the creator of Sweet Potato Soul, a vegan food blog that features recipes, tips, and cooking videos. Follow Jenné on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


Comments on this Blog

How can you make food to a picky newly converted vegetarian??

Hello, I am contemplating in adapting to vegetarian eating. Few months back found out I had high cholesterol; inspite of eating just chicken and fish (fresh water). I know my eating isn't the greatest. But what just convinced me is that I went to hospital with very strong abdominal pain and finding out that I have gallbladder stones. So, I need to get a hold of my eating and try to get my protein from plant based eating and not animal protein. Can you advise how can I start this process? Mrs. T.

Mrs. T. Thanks for sharing your story. A plant-based diet is definitely the way to go! You'll be so pleased by the results, and how much better your health becomes. Also, it can be very fun, and extremely delicious! I would recommend checking out my Vegan Blueprint ( program, or you can send me an email and we can chat about what would be most beneficial for you. I also highly recommend Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book "Eat to Live", and T. Colin Campbell's book "Whole". There are lots of resources out there, including Vegetarian Times (great source!!) Eat more fruits and veggies each day :)

Hey Natalia! To make food for a picky eater, I would suggest making their favorite foods using plant-based ingredients. For example, if they like chicken nuggets, try a vegan version. If they don't like vegetables (trust me, I was there once!) try preparing them in interesting ways: roasting, sauteeing with garlic, adding to soups, using fun & familiar dressings... As a long time picky eater, turned veggie lovin' vegan, I assure you it can be done!

Jeanette, I am a pesco-vegetarian and I can tell you that it can be wonderful to change your lifestyle in this way! If you are intending on becoming a full vegetarian, I will admit that you will need something to compensate for the missing meat in your meals, and you can find may different options to try. I generally eat 1-2 meals per week that include fish. The other 5-6 days out of the week, I only eat fruits and veggies. This lifestyle can be great and taste even better! Don't restrict your eating, just eat the right things, but you'll have to give your taste-buds a chance to catch up with your new eating habits. Make similar meals but swap out the ingredients for organic ones and really start to experiment! Any recipe you find, say online, may include something your impartial to and that's okay! Swap it out for a veggie you love or try a new one! At first it may not be appealing, but rest assure that once you give it 1-2 months, you will really be loving it and not even have the desire to eat meat. Your cholesterol will go down along with your waistline and you'll feel fantastic! Below I have provided a few examples of meals I eat on a daily basis. Breakfast: - Banana Smoothie > Frozen & Fresh Bananas, fill 1/2 with light soy milk & other 1/2 with water, blend, & ENJOY! (I drink one of these almost everyday now, regardless if I have eaten anything or not. It's my go-to at work when my stomach starts talking a little too early for lunch!) - Bowl of oatmeal with organic maple or honey and cinnamon! - Platter of Fruit > Cantaloupe, Bananas, Strawberries, etc Lunch: - Homemade Hummus with a Firm Bread. - Cucumbers, Cauliflower, & Nuts. - Lettuce Dipped in Homemade Italian Dressing. Dinner: - Rice & Anything > Soup, Risotto, Homemade White Sauce. - Cod, Whole Potato, & Corn. - Noodles & Veggies with Any Sauce or Make Your Own! Snacks: - Banana Shake (listed above) - Cauliflower Dipped in Homemade Dressing - Frozen Strawberry Bars (Blend Strawberries & Freeze) I hope this will help you on your way to becoming a vegetarian! Good Luck!

my teeth are nearly gone, just the ones in front of the eye= teeth (top & bottom) & I am not in a financial position to get false ones right now. What foods will be soft enough not to hurt my gums and not have to be cooked to death to tenderize them? Wish I had started being more careful long ago, maybe I would have more teeth... Any suggestions would be appreciated. I still want to restock my pantry for myself - husband in not interested in giving up meat. Thanks much -