6 Healthy Pantry Staples To Have For Weeknight Meals

Having a well-stocked pantry can help you make healthier choices on weekdays, especially when it’s dinner time and you don’t really have a plan. Pantry staples can be used to supplement the fresh fruits and vegetables you already have, or they can be used as a substitute for frozen pizza and instant ramen.

When buying beans, broths, vegetables, and other canned foods, it’s worth looking at food labels, because these types of foods often contain more salt and sugar than their fresh counterparts.

Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition The spokesperson New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. while the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Valdez recommends consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (and no more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day for people with high blood pressure), Valdez told HuffPost that the average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day.

If you’re watching your sodium intake, look for low, low, or sodium-free options if they’re available. Along the same lines, for canned fruit, experts recommend finding options in which the fruit is packed into its own juices or water (rather than syrup).

“Looking at the ingredients list to see if anything has been added is the best place to look,” Meredith Price, registered vegan dietitian and co-founder of Best Friends Fit Plant, told HuffPost.

We asked registered dietitians to share their favorite nutrients and ways to use them. Below, we’ve rounded up their top picks.

food yeast

“This is a must in any vegan kitchen,” Price said, noting that nutritional yeast is a great source of protein, fiber and B vitamins. Plus, it’s shelf-stable for up to two years and gives food a cheesy flavor.

“It’s also low-FODMAP friendly, which is great for anyone with digestive issues, especially IBS,” she said.

Price loves to sprinkle nutritional yeast on her popcorn for a healthy snack, and she also uses it to make vegan pasta and cheese (mixing cashews with nutritional yeast to make a creamy vegan sauce).

Here are some additional tips on what you can make with it.

Brent Hofker / 500px via Getty Images

Nutritional yeast is a flaky vegetable ingredient that lends a cheesy flavor to any dish you add to it.

dried lentils

Lentils are a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, and iron, Price said, adding, “They’re a great alternative to meat for many dishes.”

Dried lentils are the main ingredient in some of her favorite weeknight meals, including dal (lentil stew) and lentil curry that she serves with rice. When cooking with staples, Price tries to incorporate at least some type of fresh produce, even if it’s just an onion.

“I like to have some fresh veggies on the side to make the meal more delicious and nutritious, like a side salad, sautéed cabbage, or roasted carrots,” she said.

Want specific recipes? Here’s how to turn a bag of lentils into three meals.


Rice is a great base for adding proteins and vegetables, and any leftovers you have can be turned into fried rice the next day. Throw an egg, minced garlic, and any wilted vegetables in your fridge and thank us later – leftovers have never tasted so good.

“It goes into practically every dish and has a very long shelf life,” Valdez said of the cereal.

Ali Webster, Director of Nutrition Research and Communications at International Food Information CouncilIt is part of brown rice because it is a whole grain.

“It’s higher in nutrients like fiber, manganese, magnesium, and selenium than white rice,” Webster told HuffPost.

Here are 21 rice recipes that you can make with pantry ingredients.

Canned vegetables that are not in season

If fresh vegetables are not available, a freezer is the next best option. And then, it’s a good idea to have canned options on hand.

“On the rare occasions that I don’t find the vegetables I’m looking for in the grocery store, I like to turn to canned corn for something that’s easy and can be microwaved, especially if the corn isn’t in season,” Valdez said. He uses canned corn in ramen, on salads, and more.

canned beans

Webster adds that canned beans add fiber and protein to soups and salads, and they can also be mixed into a dip like hummus or paired with tortillas and other toppings for tacos.

“The versatility of canned beans is unparalleled,” she said.

At home, Webster and her family cook a lot of staples because they reduce preparation time and help get healthy meals on the table quickly. Unlike dried beans, which can take hours to soak and cook, canned beans can be heated up and added to dishes in minutes.

Find great recipes that use canned black beans here.

nut butter

Whether you like peanut butter, almond butter, or any other type of nut butter, this is your stocking reminder.

“Nut butter is a source of protein and fiber, and it’s high in healthy fats,” Webster said. “They can be used in everything from toast to smoothies to sauces.”

Webster loves to use peanut butter to make peanut sauces to dip vegetables in or as a wrap Complementary to rice noodle dishes.


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