12 Healthy Cooking & Pantry Essentials to Keep on Hand
Eating healthy can be pretty overwhelmingso daunting, in fact, that you decide to ditch the whole idea all together. But dont do that just yet. After all, your body and mind deserve nutritious fuel, and itll all pay off in the long run.
Maintaining a healthy diet, no matter which one you decide is best for you (keto, paleo, Whole30oh my!), doesnt have to be incredibly complex. And were willing to bet that equipping your kitchen with these tools and food items will make your quest easier, even if your sole goal is to stop eating so much processed food.
Related Reading: 11 Healthy Diet Tips to Keep You on Track All Year
Healthy Cooking Tools
This equipment will make it easier to stick to healthy eating resolutions of all kinds.
Its perfect for making things like tomato sauce, pesto, guacamole (yes please!), hummus, and even homemade baby food. You can throw some nuts in there to chop them for salad or granola, or keep blitzing to make them into nut butter. Its always good to know exactly what goes into each item of your food, especially without having to navigate a complicated nutrition label ingredients list.Buy Now
Were not here to villainize regular pasta. But, in general, whenever you can put more veggies into your system, its a good thing. With this tool, you can whip up some noodles made from zucchini (known as zoodles), beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, and more. Mimic a delicious pasta experience without being too carb heavy. Buy Now
This one is a game changer. It has seven different functions (yes, seven!), including serving as a slow cooker, steamer, and a pressure cooker. Its great for making big batches of soup, chili, and your favorite oatmeal recipe, as well as beans, whole grains, and hard-boiled eggs. See our Instant Pot meal prep tips for more ideas on making the most of it. And consider adding a Mealthy CrispLid to turn it into an air fryer when youre craving healthier fried food.Buy Now
The NutriBullets biggest strength is smoothies, which are a great way to start off your morning, refuel after a workout, and jam pack your system with fruits and vegetables. Its compact and easy to clean. While smoothies are a very common use for it, NutriBullets can also make soup, and with the milling blade, it even makes nut butter.Buy Now
Adding a little zest to your food can create a whole new flavor profile, as can grating a little bit of cheese on top of your pasta (zoodles or regular) or salad. And, yes, its perfectly fine to consume cheese in small doses. Unless, of course, youre allergic or vegan. Use it for grating garlic to liven up your dinner too (and support heart health).Buy Now
Staple Pantry Items
Keep these ingredients on hand to foster healthy eating habits too.
Spices make the cooking world go round. There are just so many ways to use and combine themfrom baking chicken with salt and paprika, to making taco seasoning, to throwing some cinnamon in your coffee grounds before you hit brew.
Theyre a fabulous way to add flavor without increasing calories. If your spice cabinet is a little bare, we suggest starting with: salt, pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, and cumin. Work your way up to blends like zaatar and Chinese five spice powder.
YouCopia Chef's Edition SpiceStack 30-Bottle Spice Organizer, $39.99 on Amazon
A compact storage solution for lots of spices.
Oil and Vinegar
Two absolutely essential items in every kitchen. Not only can you cook with each, but you can also use them for dressings and sauces. Canola oil is good to cook with, though it doesnt have much flavor. For that, go with extra virgin olive oil (or EVOO).
Chef's Planet Glass Oil Decanter, $24.99 on Amazon
One of the Chowhound community's top picks for olive oil dispensers.
As far as vinegar goes, try balsamic or red wine vinegar for jazzing up veggies and salads. Rice vinegar is nice if you like to cook Asian dishes, and white vinegar is good for pickles but otherwise best suited for cleaning.
Chowhounds Indian Chickpea Curry with Spinach
Legumesspecifically beans and chickpeasare extremely affordable and chock-full of nutrients. Cook them up whole with some of your favorite spices (try easy oven roasted chickpeas or this Indian chickpea curry), add them to vegetable stew for extra protein, or pop them in a food processor to make things like black bean burgers and hummus.
SimpleHouseware Stackable Can Rack Organizer, $19.87 on Amazon
Maximize pantry space and keep things organized with this can storage rack.
With tons of protein and fiber, oatmeal should be a regular breakfast choice, as long as you stay away from the versions full of sugar.
Oats are quite versatile, too. You can add them to a smoothie, make homemade granola, or turn them into gluten-free flour. They can even be part of a veggie burger. Endless oat-pportunities, you know?
Related Reading: Savory Oatmeal Recipes to Try for Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner
Other Dry Grains
Grains are a great meal base. In addition to oats, farro and quinoa are great healthy options. And, yes, you can keep some whole wheat pasta on hand, too. Again, pasta is not the enemy, especially in the correct portion sizes. In fact, its a good way to fit in some fiber and protein.
Chowhounds Paper Bag Popcorn
Healthy snacking can be difficult. Carrot and celery sticks can get boring quickly. Thats where popcorn comes in. A low-calorie, low-fat option, popcorn is a great snack choice. You just need to be mindful of how you make it and what you put on top of it. Air popping is the best way to go, and you definitely dont want to drench it in butter or oil. If you dont have an air popper, try Chowhounds paper bag popcorn recipe. (Then flavor it with black sesame and mustard or spicy cinnamon.)
Choose your favorite nut or make a mixture. Full of healthy fats, you just want to watch how many you consume. And while theyre fine on their own, they can also be a nice crunchy addition to oatmeal or salads, or ground into a healthier flour option. If you buy in bulk, store them in the fridge or freezer to keep them fresh.