A well-stocked kitchen is the secret weapon to getting healthy and delicious dinners on the table fast. Having the best ingredients on hand can be the difference between a nutritious homemade meal or turning to your well-worn takeout menus.
We asked nutrition professionals to share the items they always stock up on so they can throw dinner together in a flash.
Since you don’t have to worry about using pantry items up before they go bad, you can buy in bulk and stock a variety of options here.
Broaden your culinary horizons beyond pasta and sauce, and pick up some of these dietitian pantry favorites next time you’re at the market.
- Quick-cooking whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, barley)
- Whole-grain and bean-based pastas
- Dried red lentils
- Canned beans (black beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans)
- Canned tomatoes
- Canned artichokes
- Canned Roasted red peppers
- Canned coconut milk
- Canned tuna in olive oil
- Jarred salsa
- Low-sodium tamari
- Olive oil, coconut oil, and ghee
- Flavored vinegars
- Nuts and seeds (walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds)
- Nut and seed butters (peanut butter, almond butter, tahini)
- Sweet potatoes and potatoes
- Onions and garlic
- Spice mixes
With a full pantry, the dinner possibilities are endless, even when it’s been a while since your last trip to the grocery store.
Catherine Brown, Plant-based Chef & Culinary Nutritionist at A Seat at My Table loves coming up with creative meals using what she finds in her cabinet. One of her favorite pantry meals is coconut curried lentils over brown rice.
Ensuring that you have fresh items in the fridge takes a little forethought so you don’t end up wasting food. These are some refrigerated items dietitians rely on:
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
- Feta or goat cheese
- Extra-firm tofu
- Bagged salad mixes
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Zucchini and squash
When it comes to eggs, think beyond breakfast. Eggs for dinner is a top dietitian tip. Add fresh or frozen vegetables and cheese, and dinner is only minutes away.
Stacy Lewis, MS, RDN, says “eggs are a quick and easy protein source.” She relies on veggie omelettes on days when life keeps her out of the kitchen.
Jessica Ivey, RDN, agrees. She reaches for eggs on busy nights for high-protein veggie frittatas.
These are essentials to stock up on:
- Frozen veggies (broccoli, cauliflower)
- Salmon and tuna burgers
- Cooked shrimp
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Corn and peas
- Frozen fruit (berries, pineapple, mango)
- Pre-cooked grains (rice, quinoa)
What you keep in your freezer is only limited by the amount of space that you have available. Making planned leftovers of soups, stews or casseroles is one smart strategy.
Marie T. Dittmer, MA, RD of healthyideasplace.com makes extra homemade tomato sauce to store in individual containers in her freezer. She says, “I use it for all kinds of quick meals like chili or spaghetti.”
Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LD at Healthy Inspiration says “A bag of shelled edamame is one staple you’ll always find in my freezer. They take only minutes to defrost and are the perfect plant protein for a variety of last-minute meals.”
This should give you some ideas to stock your pantry, fridge and freezer like a dietitian, so that you can get delicious dinners on the table fast!
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