A well-stocked pantry is a great way to stay healthy at home while practicing social distancing. Here are some my favorite pantry staples:
- Protein-packed canned tuna – It’s a protein-filled pantry superstar! Tuna adds protein and healthy omega-3 fats to a variety of dishes. It is great on its own as well. It is versatile and can be mixed with lots of healthy ingredients in place of high-calorie mayonnaise. Think homemade dressings, vinegars, mustards, chopped pickles or dry seasonings. Experiment with the flavors you like. Eat no more than 12 ounces per week of light tuna. Eat 6 ounces or less if it is white tuna, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Beans and lentils – Stocking your pantry with a variety of beans and lentils adds endless opportunity for creativity. They can function well as the star of a recipe, but also work great as a side dish or mixed into soups, casseroles or salads. Beans and lentils are an inexpensive, convenient alternative to animal protein as well as an excellent source of fiber. Rinse your canned beans thoroughly to reduce sodium content.
- Peanut butter, nuts and nut butter powders – No healthy pantry is complete without these items. Peanut butter goes great on sandwiches, apples, bananas or celery. I also often mix peanut butter with a little soy sauce and water for an Asian-inspired dressing and mix it with broccoli slaw for a quick lunch. I also use it in smoothies, dips and baking recipes. Recently, I’ve been using PB2 powder to add a nutty flavor to oatmeal and smoothies. It has the same amount of protein and way fewer calories than peanut butter.
When choosing a peanut butter, it is very important to read the ingredients. You want your peanut butter to contain peanuts as the main ingredient and not much else. Many popular brands have added sugar, salt and oil. Nuts are great as a snack or mixed in spicy dishes. They provide protein, fiber, and a good dose of healthy fats. Like with pasta and whole grains, be sure to always measure out your portion size.
- Dried Pasta – Who doesn’t love pasta? It comes in all shapes and sizes for every different palate. Pasta goes with just about every vegetable or meat. It’s great warm or cold in a salad. Use with leftover veggies or toss leftover pasta into soups. When watching your weight, it is extremely important to measure pasta servings, because it is so easy to overeat! Add more fiber by choosing a whole-grain pasta. Add more protein and fiber by choosing a chickpea pasta variety.
- Whole Grains – Our family go-to is brown rice, a healthy, high-fiber whole grain. We also use whole-grain couscous, quinoa and farro, which tend to cook quicker. Like pasta, whole grains are versatile, pairing well with meats and vegetables. Also, like pasta, be sure to measure serving size. I typically use 1 cup of vegetables to ½ cup of grain for a serving size.
- Canned Tomatoes – They are full of lycopene, Vitamin A and Vitamin C, and they make everything taste better! I pair them with fresh herbs when I have them available. I also use them in soups, casseroles, vegetable mixes and pastas. Be sure to buy a low-sodium version.
- Protein-packed pancake mix – Being a busy working mom, I use this mix several times each week. I use it for pancakes, waffles or muffins. I experiment with lots of added ingredients. My current go-to add-ins are bananas with chocolate and peanut butter chips. My kids go wild for these! I add eggs and milk for extra protein.
About the author: Megan Zakarewicz, DO, is a family medicine physician with certification in obesity medicine. She leads the Grand View Health Medical Weight Loss program. She is accepting new patients via telemedicine appointments. For more information, call the Grand View Health hotline at 215-453-4100 to schedule an appointment.