Pantry staples for healthy eating

Korina Richmond
Time to read: 3 minutes

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five glass jars sitting on a pantry shelf

Stocking the pantry with some staple ingredients is a great way to make it easier to create a healthy meal or snack.

No matter what size pantry you have, these are our top 6 essential items to keep in the pantry to boost your fruit, vegetable and wholegrain intake. All important for reducing your risk of cancer.

1. Brown rice

Brown rice is a wholegrain, has a delicious nutty flavour and contains more fibre than white rice. This means you stay fuller for longer. If you aren’t sure you like brown rice, why not start by mixing some brown and white rice together.

Brown rice does take a little longer to cook. To make it easier, you can use sachets of precooked brown rice or cook a batch of brown rice and freeze in individual portions so you have cooked rice on hand.

Brown rice is delicious on its own or in recipes like our chicken burrito bowl or tofu poke bowl.

round white bowl containing tofu, brown rice, avocado, cucumber, carrot and red cabbage on a wooden platter with wooden chopsticks and a small bowl of soy sauce on the right

2. Wholemeal pasta

Like brown rice, wholemeal pasta is higher in fibre, which is good for your gut.

Wholemeal pasta is less refined than white pasta, so it contains more nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. 

So, give wholemeal pasta a go – delicious in a lasagne, pasta bake or vegie pasta soup. If you aren’t sure, then try a mix of wholemeal and white pasta.

A baked chicken and vegetable lasagne with a metal serving spoon and a spoonful missing in a large rectangle oven proof dish, served with basil leaves, forks, dressing and a white cloth napkin on the side.

3. Rolled oats

Rolled oats are an inexpensive, must-have wholegrain for the pantry. They are easy to use and boost the fibre and nutrients of meals and snacks.

For a healthy breakfast, have oats hot in porridge or soaked overnight in our apple pie overnight oats. Throw oats in a smoothie or make our toasted muesli.

Make oat-based snacks like our oat and dried fruit flapjacks or oaty biscuits.

Image of bake flapjacks on baking paper in a baking tray with a bottle of milk and straw on the side

4. Legumes

A few cans of legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, cannellini beans and baked beans are fantastic to have in the cupboard as a quick and easy snack or addition to a meal.

Dried legumes are easy to use too, but take a bit longer to prepare.

Legumes are high in fibre and are an inexpensive alternative to meat as they are higher in protein than most other plant foods.

You can add canned beans to a classic bean salad, have baked beans on toast for lunch, whip up dahl with dried lentils or  try a lentil burger.

Aim to buy no-added-salt or reduced-salt cans to help lower your sodium intake.

See our blog on 5 tips to get you loving legumes.

Image of an open lentil burger serving on a white cutting board

5. Canned vegetables

Having canned vegies such as corn and tomatoes to use in recipes is a great way to get some of your recommended vegie serves when fresh isn’t available or is too expensive. 

Try our delicious zucchini and corn fritters – they are great as a lunch option and can be frozen ready to use whenever you need.

Canned tomatoes are easy to use as in our chicken cacciatore or roast pumpkin and tomato pasta sauce.

As with beans, aim to buy no-added-salt or reduced-salt versions.

Image of stacked zucchini and corn fritters topped with tzatziki on a large plate with a side of dill and lemon wedges

6. Canned fruit

Canned fruit in juice is a good option when fruit is out of season or too expensive.  Perfect in the lunch box, on your breakfast cereal or added to yoghurt and muesli for a quick and healthy dessert.  Canned fruit is perfect in baking, like peaches in our oat, sultana and peach bread recipe or pears in our delicious pear and yoghurt slice.

Buy fruit in natural juice, not syrup for a lower sugar option.

Having the right ingredients in the pantry helps you create nourishing and delicious meals. They save making a last-minute trip to the supermarket or ordering take-away food. They can even save money, as pantry staples generally have a long shelf life and often have ‘home brand’ varieties that are less expensive.


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© Cancer Council NSW 2024 Head Office Address: 153 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo NSW 2011. Cancer Council NSW is registered with the Australian Taxation Office as an Income Tax Exempt Charity: Charitable Fundraising Authority No. 18521.

Some images on this site have been supplied by Cancer Council Western Australia's Crunch & Sip website

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