As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I am often asked what a healthy pantry should look like. For a full, personalized answer you can always have a "pantry makeover" (see Pricing & Services page). But for my short answer, here are some questions you can use to assess the healthfulness of your pantry.
- Do I find a lot of expired, or past-date foods? (The obvious answer is for food safety reasons, but also, if you are rotating through your pantry foods and staples regularly, it is a sign that you cook and eat at home often which is a major sign of good nutrition.)
- Do I have 3 or more types of cooking oils? (Canola for baking, olive oil for dressings and pestos, and a seed or nut oil for ethnic dishes or special sauces)
- Do I have at least 2 types of legumes" (Dry or canned, dried beans and lentils are nutritional powerhouses and are a great source of protein, fiber, folate and iron. Just be sure to rinse your canned beans to reduce the sodium.)
- Do I have a couple types of whole grain pasta? (Choose pasta with decent amounts of fiber - 5 grams per serving - and have a couple different shapes on hand to increase the variety of your cuisine.)
- Do I have low-sodium canned vegetables? (Fresh may be ideal, but not always workable. Rinse your canned vegetables to reduce the sodium, and take advantage of the convenience of shelf-stable veggies. Tomatoes in particular are a wonderful source of lycopene and other beneficial nutrients.)
- Do I have reduced fat mayonnaise and salad dressings? (Full-fat versions contain so many calories, fat-free are far from acceptable substitutes for for taste or nutrition, but reduced-fat versions are a great, middle-of-the-road choice.)
- Do I have at least 2 types of vinegars? (The greater variety, the greater the chance that you are cooking a variety of delicious and healthful foods.)
- Do I have at least 2 whole grains? (Quinoa and barley for example, or oat and brown rice - whole grains provide so much more nutrition than refined versions.)
- Do I stock healthy breakfast cereal choices? (This is a blogpost unto itself, but shoot for higher fiber and lower sugar.)
- Do I have a variety of lower-sodium condiments and spices? (Mustards, reduced sodium soy sauce, worchestershire sauce, chili paste, garlic, pesto and a variety of spices lend themselves to delicious, home-cooked food that will happily keep you out of the drive through or the convenience-food aisle of the store.)
For more detailed pantry information, or if you have specific questions on the state of your pantry and fridge, feel free to schedule a pantry makeover (see Pricing & Services).