As every home cook knows there’s nothing worse than starting to prepare a meal and discovering mid-chop that you’re missing a key ingredient. In most kitchens, you can find the basics, like garlic and olive oil, but a truly well-rounded pantry requires a few more items to help cooks prepare healthy meals efficiently.
Here are the seven pantry items you don’t want to be caught without:
Brown rice: This fiber-rich grain helps produce energy and lower cholesterol, among other health benefits. Keep it on hand to serve with veggies, meat or fish for an easy weeknight meal.
>> Read more: 7 Easy Dinners for a Busy Week
Reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth: The versatility of chicken and vegetable broth is unmatched in the kitchen — we use it to make everything from pastas to sauces to potatoes. Buy reduced-sodium whenever possible, since excessive sodium intake can lead to dehydration and hypertension.
Canned tomatoes: Canned tomatoes are a godsend, especially when wintertime hits and fresh tomatoes lose all discernible flavor in cold-weather regions. We recommend keeping both diced and crushed tomatoes in the pantry to make your own pasta sauce. They’re also a must-have for a number of slow cooker recipes.
Beans: Beans deliver healthy amounts of fiber, protein and iron; and with so many varieties available, you can decide whether you need to stock white beans for hummus, black beans for tacos, kidney beans for chili or all of the above!
Tuna: Packed with nutrients — including calcium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids — tuna makes a healthy sandwich, salad or pasta. Or, spread it on crackers for a quick snack.
Nuts: Heart-healthy nuts help lower cholesterol and improve artery health. We like to keep at least one or two bags of different varieties on hand at all times — almonds, walnuts and pistachios are all great for both cooking and snacking.
>> Read more: Why You Should Incorporate Nuts Into Your Diet
Whole-wheat pasta: Whole-wheat pasta has traditionally gotten a bad rap on texture and flavor, but the tide seems to be changing. Healthier than its white alternatives, fiber-filled whole-wheat pasta pairs well with chunky, flavorful sauces — like the ones you’re making with those canned tomatoes.
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