If you think a pantry is only found in films from centuries past, think again! The truth is, we all have a version of a pantry in our homes — but in the age of convenient, fast, faux food, most of us just don’t take advantage of this much-needed part of our kitchen.
Keep reading to find out why we need a pantry and how to stock yours in a way that encourages healthy living.
Why we need our pantries now more than ever
If it’s convenience you’re after, you might be surprised to learn that keeping your pantry clean and stocked makes it the most convenient cupboard, closet or room in your home! Imagine always having the food you need on hand, day or night. Say-goodbye to last-minute runs to the grocery store.
It gets better: Not only does stocking your pantry save you time, it will save you money in the long run too — especially if you buy in bulk during sales.
And what about the idea of having non-perishables around in the event of an emergency? If you’ve got a full stocked pantry, you don’t have to worry (too much) if your fridge and stove stop working, or if your money is stuck in the ATMs.
Plus, stocking your pantry — with the right stuff — is one of the best ways to commit to healthy eating. But in order to do that, you may need to give it a good hard look to see if it’s time for a purge.
Purge your pantry, then start re-stocking
It can be tough to fill up your pantry with healthy items when food myths and misleading labels are around. Unfortunately, many foods that are marketed as healthy are, in fact, highly processed and downright bad for you.
Ready to start purging? Use the list below as your guide to getting rid of the bad stuff:
1. Weight loss snacks, or foods marketed as “low-fat” or “low-sugar”
• These are often high in natural sugars or artificial sweeteners, and low in healthy fats that will keep you fuller longer — which means you’ll be reaching for another “low-fat” snack… and another… and another. You get the point. (Why do you think the keto diet is such an effective weight loss tool when done right?)
2. Items with more than 5 ingredients
• A rule of thumb is to avoid products with more than a handful of ingredients. The fewer the ingredients, the cleaner the food — you can’t argue with that logic!
3. Items with ingredient lists you can’t pronounce
• Similar to mile-long ingredient lists, those with mile-long words you can’t pronounce should also be avoided at all costs.
4. Foods marketed as vegan, gluten-free or diabetic-friendly
• This can be a marketing ploy. Our brains associate terms like “gluten-free” and “vegan” with healthy lifestyles, so we immediately assume these products are healthy. Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, many are processed foods that fall into the categories #2 and #3 (see above).
5. Products that come with a long shelf life
• How do we keep food from going bad? Preservatives! And while some are worse for us than others, it’s always a good idea to limit the amount of additives we consume.
6. Anything with added sodium or a specific list of sugars
• Every day, the majority of us exceed the recommended amount of salt and sugar, both of which are linked to illness and disease. So the next time you pick up a product with added sodium or more than one sugar listed, put it back down and back away slowly.
By the way, there are a whole bunch of common healthy foods that we’d still recommend purging from your pantry — mostly because they should be refrigerated. From maple syrup and soy sauce, to corn and bananas, to unsalted butter and fresh herbs, you can prolong the life of your foods by simply sticking them in the fridge.
(Re)Stock your pantry with these foods
If you’re starting to feel like there are no healthy choices out there, we’re here to tell you there absolutely are! It just takes a bit of detective work (a.k.a., label-reading) and some patience. Eventually, you’ll know exactly where to find your healthy foods (hint: avoid the middle aisles) and grocery shopping will be a synch! But we’ll get you started with this list of pantry must-haves:
1. Canned foods that don’t have added sodium or sugars, and aren’t lined with BPAs.
2. Have a variety of spices and vinegars on hand to flavour your foods naturally.
3. Stock up on Himalayan salt and coconut sugar (as opposed to table salt and white sugar).
4. If you like a spoonful of sugar in your tea or coffee, try natural sweeteners, like honey or organic maple syrup, instead.
5. For cooking essentials, stick to non-hydrogenated oils, like avocado, coconut, nut, or olive oils.
6. Choose healthy snacks where the one ingredient is the food (e.g., nuts, seeds, fruit).
7. Make sure to have alternatives to white rice and white pasta on hand — whole grains, like couscous, quinoa, soba noodles, or whole wheat pasta, are healthy options.
8. Choose healthier alternatives to your baking essentials, like almond or coconut flour, apple sauce, or dark chocolate chips.
9. Don’t forget you’ll need items to keep your foods fresh, like foil, saran wrap and glass tupperware (avoid plastic if you like to throw your leftovers in the microwave before plating them).
Already a health guru with a close-to-perfect pantry? Check this article out for ways to transform yours into a “healing pantry.”