By Laura Baum
Stocking your pantry is an art. You want to make sure you have the correct staples, in the perfect quantities, in the ideal sizes to fit in your cupboards – which for me is tough given my condo kitchen. Space and pantry efficiency is key. If you are new to plant-based eating or want to start including more plant-based foods into your daily routine, this article is for you! If you are already following a plant-based diet and could perhaps use a pantry check-in, check out the more advanced options later in the blog.
Here are my top plant-based pantry staples which I recommend to keep on hand, and stock up whenever you see them on sale at the grocery store:
- Canned proteins: chickpeas, mixed beans, lentils, and any other bean of choice.
Chickpeas have soluble fiber which forms a gel in our digestive tract and helps absorb and excrete cholesterol, lower blood sugar, and makes us feel full. Canned proteins are convenient and cost-effective. Simply rinse them in water, drain, and eat.
- Grains: pasta, quinoa, barley, rice, couscous, etc.
Choose whole grains when you can, which include barley, couscous, and brown or wild rice. Whole grains will add more fiber into your meal, which keeps you feeling full for longer. You always want to pair carbohydrates with a source of protein for a balanced meal. I am not opposed to white pasta or rice. I do feel they have a purpose in our diet – comfort food, after all. Just be more mindful of the portion sizes of these white options, and how often you are consuming them.
- Nuts + Nut Butters:
The list is endless for nuts, whether one type or a mix. Many nuts have now been made into nut butters, in addition to the classic peanut butter. Nuts and nut butters contribute monounsaturated heart healthy fats, protein, as well as some fiber. Nuts can be quite filling and are a great snack and topping. They are excellent for taking with you on the go, in the car, or in your purse. Be mindful as a portion of nuts is ¼ cup or 2 tbsp of nut butter.
- Seeds: chia, flax, pumpkin, hemp:
Seeds pack an excellent amount of fiber per tablespoon. Throw them into a smoothie, in your cereal, parfait, salad, even baking. Whole flax seeds will contribute the fiber benefit, whereas the ground equivalent will contribute fiber and the omega-3 benefits. Ground flax can also be used in a flax egg as an egg substitute. Hemp hearts are a complete protein source, which means it contains all the amino acids our body needs in this one food, not a common characteristic of plant-based foods.
- Flavouring Agents:
This category is also endless. All these items are the flavour enhancers which is half the fun of cooking and experimenting in your kitchen. Of source, salt and fat make our food taste good, but they are a part of a wide repertoire of options. Start with a few staples, which can go a long way! A few examples of dried herbs and spices include salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, Italian mix, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Liquid flavouring agents include olive oil, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, and tomato paste or sauce, to name a few. These contribute to the enjoyment of foods, bring out individual preferences and creativity, and are a way to learn about different cultures and cuisines.
For those who already have these items confidently stocked up, here are my more advanced pantry packing ideas:
- Protein Powders:
These can be used in smoothies to grab and go, smoothie bowls, baking, pancakes, and more. They are a dense protein option, as sometimes when following a plant-based diet, it can be tough to ensure you are consuming enough protein daily.
- Tetra Packed Milks:
These are useful to keep in a pantry for times when you run out of milk (or alternatives) in your fridge and may not be going grocery shopping for a while. They have an excellent shelf-life. Each time before pouring, give these a good shake, as a lot of the added calcium can sediment to the bottom.
- Nutritional Yeast:
Also a complete protein source, nutritional yeast increases the overall protein composition of a meal. It also adds a naturally cheesy flavour. Look for the fortified version which has Vitamin B12, an important vitamin for plant-based eaters to note.
- Corn Starch:
Helps thicken soups, broths or any liquid being heated that requires thickening. It is also a great option to coat tofu to make it crispy. Corn starch has similar uses to flour but is a gluten free option.
- Soba Noodles:
Soba noodles are made of buckwheat, a whole grain, and therefore are a higher fiber noodle. Soba noodles also have more protein than a white noodle alternative. Great for stir fries and Asian-inspired dishes and they are tasty as the base of a hot or cold dish.
There you have it – my list of non-perishable plant-based pantry staples. These are primarily protein and starch options, so ensure you add vegetables and fruit to your meals and snacks to make a balanced plate. Packing your pantry should be fun and exciting, as with cooking. Health starts at home, and the more comfortable we are in our kitchen, the more we improve our food skills and take control of our health and lifestyle. Cooking as simply as with 5 key ingredients is exactly how I learned to cook, and I still hold onto these tips today. Experiment with what you have, learn through making mistakes, trial and error, and most of all – have fun in your kitchen! The more food skills we develop, the better off we will be.
Laura Baum is a Dietitian and Founder of Baum’s Box. Baum’s Box is the first dietitian curated food box in Toronto. A Baum’s Box contains all the non-perishable food staples you need to outfit one’s pantry. Containing over 30 dietitian curated non-perishable food items, as well as a 50-page healthy eating toolkit, a Baum’s Box provides tools to establish healthy habits for life. Perfect as an original housewarming gift, an elegant thank you gift, a practical wedding gift, a staple university kit, or an ideal gift to oneself!
Alternative Food Network. “Plant-Based Pantry Essentials”, Plant-Based Diet podcast series, July 2021. http://alternativefoodnetwork.com/plant-based-diet/episode-12-plant-based-pantry-essentials/
All content provided or opinions expressed are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please see advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner.