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Cleaning out your pantry is key to improving your health. Simply by making sure we have healthy food staples at hand and minimal temptation in the house means we can stay on track with our health goals. Sometimes we feel that we need to keep snack foods in the pantry for the kids or other family members. This often creates unnecessary tension between what we want to eat and what is available. If there are less healthy food choices kept in the home then more often than not in a moment of fatigue, upset or other we will make the wrong choice. My suggestion would be to take some time to clean out the pantry. Try not to worry about wasting food. Donate your unwanted food tems to charity food drive. Clearing out the pantry will be of benefit to the whole family as healthier snack alternatives are sought and eaten in place of highly processed foods. Employing the help of family members and explaining to them the importance of eating healthy may engender less resistance with clearing out the pantry.

Below is a list of pantry staples to which all other food items can be made. Top up your pantry weekly with these staples. Buying in bulk sometimes means saving money, too, so look for weekly shopping bargains and stock up on non-perishable items that may be on sale.

Pantry Staples

  • Wholegrain, spelt or rye bread (not wholemeal, which is still high-glycaemic index. Avoid low-glycaemic index white breads which are still very processed)
  • Flat breads such as Mountain Bread. Not only are they great for wraps, but they can also be used to make lasagne and quiches in place of filo pastry.
  • Wholegrains (brown rice, Basmati, Dongara, wild, pearl barley, burghal)
  • Wholemeal pasta (or buckwheat pasta if gluten intolerant/allergic)
  • Canned corn (no added sugar or salt)
  • Canned beans and lentils (unsalted)
  • Dried lentils
  • Plain rice cakes or corn thins
  • Plain rice crackers
  • Wholegrain crispbreads such as Ryvita®
  • Fruit-free wholegrain muesli bars such as Carman’s Fruit Free
  • Plain rolled oats and/or wholegrain cereals such as the Goodness Superfoods range
  • Wholemeal plain and self-raising flour
  • Bicarbonate soda
  • Herbs and spices (any variety, but do choose cinnamon without added sugar)
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt (the least processed and has the most minerals including iodine, which many women are deficient in, which can lead to thyroid issues)
  • Vanilla essence (without added sugar)
  • Unsalted raw nuts (all except peanuts have health benefits)
  • Chicken or vegetable stock (preservative and MSG free) such as Massel brand
  • Cooking oil such as Rice Bran oil, Macadamia oil, Avocado oil, Coconut oil, or Grapeseed oil (these have a high smoke point)
  • Olive Oil as a salad dressing
  • Apple Cider vinegar and/or Balsamic vinegar as a dressing
  • Plain minimally sweetened biscuits (ideally trans fat free)
  • Xylitol and/or stevia
  • Raw cacao (can be used to add chocolate flavour to baking and making other snacks without adding the sugar and unhealthy fats)
  • Good quality protein powder such as brown rice protein, pea protein, or whey isolate (if not dairy intolerant). This can be used to make protein shakes and protein balls for a snack
  • Popping corn for movie nights or as a healthy snack
  • Canned salmon and tuna (there is concern over mercury in tuna these days. Limit tuna to once a week and choose mostly salmon, which has a lower mercury content. Smaller tuna have lower amounts of mercury if you can find them on your supermarket shelves. Look for Tungol tuna)
  • Unsalted pretzels
  • Black tea, herbal teas and coffee (aim for plain instant coffee rather than flavoured and sweetened varieties. Also, if choosing decaffeinated coffee keep in mind to buy either organic or water-filtered decaffeinated rather than standard decaffeinated,
    which is chemically produced)
  • Red wine (Preservative-free ideally. Red wine has the most health benefits whereas beer has the least)
  • Psyllium husks to add to breakfast cereal or a protein shake for added fibre
  • Keep in mind that items that are labelled gluten-free are not always that healthy for us. Often they are refined, white rice products, which have a very high glycaemic index. A better choice is to look for wholegrain gluten-free products such as those containing millet, buckwheat, amaranth and brown rice.

Avoid keeping highly processed foods in the pantry such as potato chips, flavoured biscuits and lollies. Along with the above pantry staples it is worth also clearing out the fridge and freezer and replacing items that are not that healthy for us with alternatives. Below is a list of fridge and freezer staples.

Freezer Staples

  • Frozen berries (good for baking with as well as in smoothies)
  • Frozen white fish and salmon (unflavoured or battered)
  • Frozen steam-fresh vegetables

Fridge Staples

Fresh milk (choose A2 milk if you find that digestion is a problem. If you find dairy still causes issues trial lactose-free milk, unsweetened almond milk or rice milk. Avoid soy milk if you can as there is some suggestion that too much soy may cause issues with hormone
and thyroid imbalances)

  • Butter instead of margarine (choose unsalted butter and avoid margarine, which is highly processed)
  • A wide range of fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Unsweetened yoghurt such as Greek yoghurt
  • Hummus (make sure it is preservative-free or make your own)
  • Almond spread (instead of peanut butter spread)
  • Ricotta, cottage, or fetta cheese instead of block cheeses, soft cheeses, or processed cheese)
  • Eggs (free range, organic, and if you can find them omega-3 eggs are best
  • Ham and/or turkey for sandwiches (nitrate free is best)
  • Fresh fish (avoid bass, swordfish, flake as these are high in mercury content)
  • Fresh seafood such as shellfish, oysters and prawns (limit these to once per week due to high natural cholesterol content)
  • Chicken breast, tenderloins, and/or thighs (choose free-range, hormone-free or organic)
  • Lean beef (hormone-free)
  • Lamb (hormone-free)
  • Mineral water, soda water or tonic water (to make spritzers or as a variation to plain water)
  • Dark chocolate (ideally buy small snack sizes rather than large family blocks)

Avoid dressings, sauces, mayonnaise, soft drinks and cordials. Instead of jams try almond spread or avocado.

#healthyhabits

Dr Cris

Holistic Medical Doctor, Author ‘Healthy Habits, 52 Ways to Better Health

Healthy Habits book Dr Cris