Katie's Healthy Bites: Pantry Must-Haves

by in Uncategorized, May 31, 2009

A healthy pantry is the building block for any wholesome meal. For some inspiration, I wanted to share a peek inside my kitchen’s pantry. This is what I always have on hand so I’m prepared on busy days when there’s not a lot of meal-planning time.


  • Low-Sodium Stock (usually vegetable or chicken) – Great to add as a flavoring ingredient when cooking rice or grain, deglazing a pan or throwing together a quick soup (soups are a perfect for a clean-out-the-fridge meal — to use up veggies before they go bad)
  • Roasted Peppers (packed in water) – I love roasted peppers! They’re a wholesome, colorful addition to any meal (even a salad). I keep some around for when company stops by and I need a simple appetizer. Serve them with bread, hummus or pureed with a can of beans and cut-up veggies for dipping.
  • Airplane Bottles of Wine – I open a bottle of wine to cook with and it always goes to waste. I was so excited when I found the small, airplane bottles at the store. This is the perfect amount for most recipes, and no guilt attached for wasted vino!
  • Dried and Canned Beans – Dried beans are a healthy addition to soups, salads and sides. If I have time, I cook them from scratch. When I am in a pinch, a can of rinsed beans does the trick.
  • Whole Wheat, Brown Rice or Spelt Pasta – Need I say more? Pasta is a cornerstone to many easy, throw-together meals because it takes no time to cook up.
  • Bulk Grains (usually millet, quinoa, amaranth and brown rice) – Buying bulk saves lots of money and dried grains keep well. I store my grains in sealed bags and containers. If I don’t use them often, they will stay fresh in the fridge for months.
  • Dijon Mustard – You will always find an open bottle in my fridge and some spare bottles in the pantry. Dijon is low-calorie and can work in most anything, as far as I’m concerned.
  • Canned Tomatoes – Stock up on these because you never know when you will need to make basic pasta sauce.
  • Olive Oil – This is almost all I cook with! Experiment with olive oils from all over the world (Greece, Italy, and Spain are good places to start) — to taste the variations.
  • Sesame Oil – As with most oils for the calorie conscious, a little bit goes a really long way. This is one of my favorite Asian flavors.
  • Low-Sodium Soy Sauce – I use soy sauce instead of salt in a bunch of recipes. It has a more complex flavor than table salt and gives my dishes more unique depth.
  • Sea Salt – We get tons of sodium from packaged food, but sea salt is more wholesome, loaded with nutrients and packed with flavor. But again, a little goes a long way! Try this instead of iodized salt, which has been stripped of most nutrients and is not nearly as flavorful.
  • Peppercorn Medley – I like to keep different colors (green, pink, black, etc.) peppercorns mixed together in my grinder. The variety of flavors add dimension to the dish I’m prepping.

Katie Cavuto, MS, RD, owns HealthyBites, LLC and is a finalist on season five of The Next Food Network Star, which premieres June 7 on Food Network.

TELL US: What’s always in your healthy pantry?

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Comments (26)

  1. daisy mae says:

    Info on cooking grains can be found here- http://www.vegparadise.com/charts.html

  2. Phyllis Freeman says:

    I always have a couple of cans of tuna on hand, some balsamic and red wine vinegar, and capers.

  3. Christiana says:

    1. Frozen veggies – puree peas, broccoli, etc and make a soup or dip with crudite
    2. Nuts – sprinkle on salads, yogurt, oatmeal
    3. Dry Pasta – make as much or as little as you need…no waste!
    4. Balsamic Vinegar – good on anything, and so little calories with huge flavor
    5. Generic canned tomato or vegetable juice – usually I water it down a little to decrease the salt content. It’s my own “V8″
    6. Canned beets – roast them, bake them, or sprinkle them with a little salt and add to salads
    7. Garlic – I slice the bulb length-wise, toss with olive oil and salt, and roast them in the oven….so good

  4. Mimi says:

    Canned chickpeas and light coconut milk

  5. Linda says:

    Is there a difference between a can (or box)of stock or broth? Sometimes I see recipes (or cooks) use chicken, or vegetable broth, but they are saying with their mouths to use stock. I see some brands of broth, and other brands that say stock?

  6. Patty Ranieri says:

    I always keep anchovies on hand. In a small saucepan sautee 1 small tin or 8 to 10 anchovies from a jar with about 1/4 cup olive oil and 3 or 4 cloves of garlic. Boil 1lb. pasta of your choice and reserve about 1 cup of pasta water. Drain and toss with water & anchovies

  7. Patty Ranieri says:

    To the pasta with anchovies I sometimes add canned: sliced mushrooms, artichoke hearts, calamats olives, capers, or anything I have on hand.

  8. Karen Kelley says:

    I always use the Herb-Ox no salt added bouillon, it has 0 sodium and adds lots of flavor.

  9. Welcome, Katie! It’s so nice to have more “folks” on the Healthy site. I look forward to your comments!

  10. MystiLynne says:

    Great information and ideas for things to try.

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