N4L's Top 10 Pantry Essentials

N4L's Top 10 Pantry Essentials

During this unprecedented time, we are committed to helping you maintain your health and continue to reach centenarian status! Our team of chefs and dietitians composed a list of the 10 items to always keep in your pantry. These foods are versatile, delicious and most importantly, nutritious!

1. Beans/Legumes

Beans and legumes are a wonderful source of plant-based protein and dietary fiber.  You can buy a lot at once because, whether canned or dried, they will last a long time.  You can find a wide variety of beans and legumes in your grocery store that take on flavor well.  Get creative and play with adding your favorite herbs/seasonings to different varieties of beans and legumes.  They are quick, easy and delicious!

2. Whole Grains

    Buying plain, dried grains in bulk is a great idea!  Whole grains, like quinoa, farro, barley, brown rice and rolled oats are high in fiber, B-vitamins and offer some plant-based protein. They can be a hearty, energy-boosting side dish, or the star of your meal!  Enjoy them warm like a hot bowl of cinnamon quinoa or oatmeal, or cold as the base of any “Buddha Bowl” inspired dish. 

    3. Pasta

      Yes, pasta! Since we can’t always get the homemade Italian kind, choose the most authentic kind you can kind.  To increase fiber and protein choose the whole wheat version or chickpea and lentil versions for our gluten-free and plant-forward eaters. Pasta takes only minutes to make and can be transformed into a variety of dishes- like Lentil Bolognese or Cacio e Pepe!  

      3. Tomato Sauce

        Tomato sauce is zesty, nutrient dense, and most importantly versatile!  Add some dried herbs and sautéed veggies for a quick pasta sauce, spoon over fish to upgrade any dinner or use it as the base for soups and stews. Tomatoes are high in lycopene, an anti-inflammatory photochemical associated with decreased risk for chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

        4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

          Extra virgin olive oil is an incredibly healthy fat source known for its high percentage of unsaturated fatty acid. Unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids help decrease pro-inflammatory LDL cholesterol (lousy cholesterol) and increase anti-inflammatory HDL cholesterol (healthy cholesterol).  Olive oil is our choice of cooking oil or as a base for salad dressings! 

          6. Vegetable Stock

            Having a vegetable stock stored in the pantry is beyond beneficial!  It is great for any soup or stew base, and excellent way to add flavor to your meals. If you want to make your rice or quinoa more savory, use vegetable stock instead of water. Using vegetable stock adds a richness and flavor to the grains.  Be careful though- most vegetable stocks have a lot of sodium. We recommend choosing the low-sodium versions that are equally as flavorful!

            7. Nuts

              Tree nuts are always a great item to have on hand.  Walnuts, cashews, almonds…the list goes on and on. They are a great source of healthy fats, fiber and protein.  Raw whole nuts can be enjoyed alone, paired with fruits, or combined into a homemade trail mix.  Raw nut butters can be spread on whole wheat toast, spread on whole fruit, or blended into a smoothie.  What an amazing way to snack on the go! Be mindful of the serving size these healthy fats are also calorie-dense (~200 calories for 2 tbsp.).

               8. Seeds

                 Allergic to peanuts or tree nuts? Trade them in for seeds and seed butters!  They add layers, textures and dimensions to every dish.  Hemp, Flax, Chia, pumpkin and sunflower are filled with fiber, healthy fat, protein, essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals! All seeds can be enjoyed on top of a salad, mixed into an oatmeal bowl, blended into a smoothie, or used as a garnish on flavorful avocado and nut butter toasts. 

                9. Dried Fruit

                  Dried fruit is the sweeter, more shelf stable version of whole fruit.  Make sure you look for dried fruit versions that don’t have any added sugars them! Mixing dried fruit with whole nuts make for an epic pre or post-workout snack!  

                   10. Dried Herbs and Spices

                    Herbs and spices are a great way to turn a simple meal into an exciting dish.  Not only do they add depth to flavor, and increase the nutrient density of meals, they also add color.  Next time you make dinner, look for ways to add more spices and flavor to your meals. Look up recipes that use herbs or spices you haven’t heard of or tried before to expand your taste palate and turn your dishes into 5-star masterpieces!