Have you been thinking that your pantry needs an overhaul but you’re not really sure what exactly to change? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Below I’ve put together a basic list (updated November 2020) of healthy food essentials for your pantry so you can add them to your own grocery items list. Many of the items will simply replace similar, but less nourishing varieties that you may already have on your pantry shelves. This is a great first step to creating a healthy food kitchen, whether your goals include weight loss or simply better health in general.
(This post includes affiliate links for which I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase)
By the way, I purchase most of my healthy pantry essentials from iherb. They have an amazing selection and they deliver all over the world. You can find out more about what I think of iherb in this review post about their products and service.
Amazon and Walmart also have a great supply of healthy eating essentials. You can check out details of my own healthy eating recommendations via the kits below. The one immediately below shares products from Amazon. Or you can scroll further down the page to check out the same products from Walmart.
Healthy food essentials | Oils
- Coconut Oil. Great for high heat cooking, using as a spread, or in healthy sweet treats such as homemade truffles
- Olive Oil. Drizzle over roasted vegetables and use for salad dressings
Before we go any further, let me address your concern about the high content of saturated fat contained in coconut oil. The myth that this type of fat is ‘bad’ for you is gradually being dispelled and a number of surprising health benefits are being found.
Do away with any cheap vegetable oils that you have still floating around. Sunflower oil (unless it’s cold-pressed) and canola oil are highly processed and ‘damaged’ oils that contain ‘trans fats’ – the fats that all scientists agree are ‘bad’ fats. The only reason these oils should be in your cupboard is for making playdough for your kids. They have no place in a healthy food kitchen or on an essential grocery list!
Healthy food essentials | Tinned goods for meals
- Chick peas. Great for making hummus, using in curries, soups, casseroles, patties, and salads! You can also buy dried if you can be organized enough to prepare them in advance.
- Chopped tomatoes. Used in many dishes including soups and pasta
- Coconut Cream. Amazing in curries and smoothies
Healthy food essentials | Meal Bulkers
- Buckwheat and Quinoa. Two examples of low allergenic, healthy whole grains that can be used in a variety of dishes. Use in the same way as you would rice, make into patties, or add to salads. Make sure you soak them before using, for optimal nutrition.
Healthy food essentials | Condiments For A Healthy Kitchen
- Natural Sea Salt. This is a healthy alternative to common table salt, which has been ‘iodized’ and ‘refined’ to have all the goodness removed from it. Choose a sea salt with naturally occurring iodine. Add to your whole-food dishes and/or put a pinch in a glass of water
- Peppercorns. Great for adding flavor to any dish.
- Tamari. This is wheat-free soy sauce. Great for flavoring stir-fry’s and other dishes
- Herbs and spices. Most herbs and spices have incredible health properties, plus they can make your meals super flavorful and delicious! I love to use a range of different herbs and spices in my cooking. You can find out about the amazing health benefits of a few of my favorite spices (turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger) in this article about the incredible benefits of turmeric milk.
This is not a complete food pantry list but should be a great start to creating a healthy food kitchen. (If and where possible, I encourage you to choose organic varieties and eat alongside plenty of ‘real’ food; i.e. primarily vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, and meats (f you choose to eat meat). You’ll also want to check that you’ve read my top five tips for healthy eating habits.
Equipment essentials for a healthy kitchen
It’s important that you have a few basic essentials to prepare and cook healthy food. These include:
- Pots and pans of different sizes, as required. If you’re cooking for a family or like to cook in batches, go for larger sizes. Stainless steel is my favorite healthy option for pots, and I love heavy, cast iron fry pans. Avoid “non-stick” options such as Teflon, which contain chemicals that can be released into your food.
- Wooden chopping boards, as required. My preference is definitely for the natural antibacterial properties of wood, rather than a plastic board.
- Utensils, as required. You may need specific types of utensils for different types of meals. For example, a soup ladle, spatula, grater, and strainer.
- Slow cookers are one of my favorite additions to a healthy food kitchen. They are perfect for busy people. You can pop your slow cooker on in the morning and come home to a delicious aroma as you walk through the door. There are endless healthy slow cooker recipes you can choose from. I especially love them for the cooler months of the year because you can make great soups and casseroles in them
- Smoothie makers like the amazing Ninja (personally tried, tested, and loved) are my favorite summer addition to a healthy food kitchen. Honestly, I mostly drink herbal tea in the cooler months and tend to move away from cold foods and drinks at this time of year. But in the warmer months, a smoothie maker is a Godsend for your healthy kitchen equipment list.
Once you’ve got this real food kitchen list sorted, check out part two! You may also be interested in reading my answers to a few frequently asked questions about creating a healthy food kitchen below.
Often, one or more of knowledge, skills, or desire is missing. When it comes to cooking healthy food at home, knowledge includes understanding what could be considered as healthy. Skills include meal prepping, cooking, and time management. Desire includes internal and external drivers to make the decision to eat healthy food.
The easiest and fastest healthy food you can rely on are foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. These are known as whole foods, and there are plenty of options that are fast and easy because they don’t require any preparation. These include snacking vegetables like carrots and peppers, fresh fruit, and raw (or preferably activated) nuts and seeds.
It really depends on what you are making, but generally it’s easier to ensure you are consuming nourishing, healthy food when you cook at home. This is because you know exactly what is going into it. It’s important to have a good level of knowledge about what constitutes “healthy food” so you can make good choices whether you’re cooking at home, or eating out.
Local markets are a great place to find healthy foods. You should find a great selection of fresh foods that haven’t had to travel far, and therefore retain a great level of nutrients. You might also find artisan goods that are made from simple ingredients. You can also find healthy foods at your local supermarket, health food store, and online. When you are shopping at a supermarket, focus on the foods around the outside of the supermarket. There are more processed options in the aisles.
Growing fruits and vegetables is more time and labor-intensive than producing processed foods.
It really depends on what choices you are making and how processed they are. If you eat highly processed convenience foods on a regular basis, that could be considered as an unhealthy behavior. Lesser processed whole foods should form the majority of your food intake. A healthy lifestyle is determined by what you do MOST of the time, so it’s ok to opt for more processed convenience foods from time to time.
One that is focused on minimally processed whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and meat and dairy if you choose to eat them. There is no one “right” diet. Each person needs to find a healthy, sustainable solution that works for them.
Choose to eat separately if you need to. You can’t affect other peoples choices, but you can affect your own.
Further up this post, I linked to my healthy eating essentials kit from Amazon. The one below is a collection of the same products from Walmart.
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these recommended service provider links, like an insurance broker, or a travel agent, I may earn a commission – at no extra cost to you. [For my full disclosure, please see my DISCLAIMER page]
Great choices that you shared. I especially love (well many of them) Quinoa. It is such a tasty and easy way for me to get really good protein. I make a batch in the beginning of the week and then rewarm as needed.
Thanks for your comment Elise! I’m a big fan of batch cooking..so good to set you up for a healthy week ahead:)
I love coconut oil. I use it for cooking, on my skin and hair. Love this!
Thanks for your comment. I also use on my skin and it makes a great carrier oil too.