It’s in the Bag

 In Feature, Food

Shopping for a whole foods pantry.


We've all been there. You find a crazy healthy recipe on Pinterest and get a sudden burst of inspiration. You think, “I can do this! This is the night I’m finally going to cook a meal from scratch!” You scan the ingredients list and, low and behold, you see one ingredient (“Um, what is tamari”) that you don’t have in the pantry. Motivation: suddenly deflated.

Eating healthy starts with buying the right ingredients. Eating whole foods (i.e. unprocessed foods) and cooking meals from scratch is the healthiest way to eat, since this is how our bodies get the most nutrients—from eating foods in their most natural state. The most important part of eating healthy is making sure your kitchen is stocked with essential whole ingredients. If you have everything on hand, it’s much easier to find the inspiration and motivation to make a delicious meal any night of the week. Here are a few tips to help you shop and eat healthier—and have more fun doing it.

  • Make a List You’re likely to spend more money on groceries if you don’t have a grocery list—without a list, you’re prone to grab items that you don’t really need or want.
  • Have a Strategy When making your list, always write it according to the layout of the grocery store (write the produce section first, then the dry goods section, then the refrigerated section, etc.). That way, you won’t have to read your list repeatedly as you shop. When I started writing my list in this way, it completely changed the way I felt about grocery shopping.
  • Allow Yourself One or Two “Cheat” Items Too often, I get distracted by items that are high in fat, salt and sugar. I always allow myself to buy at least one or two “cheat” items each week. I’m much more likely to enjoy eating a healthy diet if I know I can have a cookie every once in a while!

Now that you have a plan, let’s talk about what ingredients to put on that list. Having whole ingredients on-hand will provide opportunities for creativity in the kitchen while also allowing you to make fast, healthy meals from scratch. Here are the staples of a whole foods pantry:

  • Baking: unbleached flour, buckwheat flour (gluten-free), agave nectar, all-natural brown sugar, vanilla extract, panko bread crumbs
  • Condiments: Veganaise (vegan mayo), Earth Balance (butter alternative), all-natural peanut butter, tahini, dijon mustard, tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • Canned Goods: coconut milk, black beans, chickpeas, red kidney beans
  • Oil & Vinegar: olive oil, coconut oil, toasted sesame oil, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar
  • Nuts & Seeds: almonds, sesame seeds, walnuts
  • Grains: brown rice pasta, quinoa, brown rice k Herbs & Spices: kosher salt, black pepper, cumin, garlic powder, ginger, cayenne pepper, chili powder, oregano, curry powder, rosemary, paprika

Once your pantry is stocked with the main building blocks, you’ll find it’s much easier to navigate your way through recipes and meal planning. If a recipe calls for something you don’t have, search “substitutions for [insert ingredient],” and you will most likely have the substitution in your pantry. Here are some wonderful flavor pairings using ingredients you’ll already have on-hand:

  • Taco Seasoning: cumin, chili powder, oregano, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt
  • Hummus: chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, cumin

Stocking your pantry with whole ingredients is the foundation for healthy eating. Having these essential items will cut down on the time it takes to make healthy, wholesome and delicious meals from scratch. Happy shopping!



It’s in the Bag


Photo credit: Illustration by Sarah Quatrano

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