Stock Your Pantry with These Staples for Healthier Eating

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You’re trying to stick to a healthier diet, so you make an effort to fill your pantry with items that will keep you on track. You avoid the center aisles while at the grocery store – because you often hear that’s where tempting snacks may derail you. But is that really the case?

“The reason we try to stay away from the middle isles at grocery stores is because that is where all of the junk food lives,” said Katie Johnson, a registered dietitian and board-certified health and wellness coach. “But there are lots of healthy things that you can find in the center aisles that are going to be helpful for your pantry.”

Whole grains

Whole grains have beneficial nutrients, including antioxidants, B vitamins and fiber. Some examples include:

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grain crackers, tortillas, pastas and bread
  • Cereal – look for 100 percent whole grain and make sure there is minimal sugar


Nuts are a great source of protein and contain unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients essential for a healthier diet. Remember nuts are made up of mostly fat, so eat them in moderation. Katie recommends a few good options:

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almond, cashew, peanut and mixed nut butters

Canned goods

Canned goods are a convenient way to add protein and flavor to salads, soups or salsa. Remember, check the ingredient labels and look for low sodium versions.

  • Canned or dried beans
  • Canned vegetables
  • Bean or broth-based soups – look for no more than 400mg of sodium per cup
  • Salmon, sardines or tuna canned in water
  • Canned tomatoes – no salt added or no more than 200mg of sodium per half cup
  • Pasta sauces with no more than 400mg of sodium per half cup


Heart-healthy oils should be kept on hand to help you cook healthier meals. You can even use it to make your own dressings.

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil

Other items

A few miscellaneous healthy items to keep in your pantry to make meal preparation easier:

  • Light mayo
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Cinnamon
  • Popcorn
  • Dried fruit

Using these healthier items, Katie shared a few recipes that are easy to throw together for a great alternative option, without the guilt: 

Popcorn with peanuts and raisins

  • Combine 2 cups popcorn with 10 unsalted peanuts, 13 raisins and ½ teaspoon of olive oil
  • This snack will provide your body with 160 calories, 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber

Chocolate popcorn

  • Combine ½ cup of air popped popcorn, ½ teaspoon of olive oil, a dash of salt and 16 bittersweet chocolate chips
  • This snack is 105 calories, 2 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber

Seasoned Grains

  • Combine 2 cups of cooked whole grain, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, ⅛ teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • This snack is 138 calories, 2 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber

Layered Tuna Salad

  • Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a dash of salt, canned while beans, 5 ounces of light tuna, 1 tablespoon of light mayo and tomato.  Layer tomato with tuna/white bean mixture.
  • This meal is 419 calories, 39 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber