Easy ways to build a healthy and tasty pantry to feed your family

Across many homes in Australia, each afternoon between 3.30-5.30pm, the cry of ‘I’m hungry, what’s for dinner ‘can be heard.

My house is certainly no different.

When I am helping clients to plan healthy lifestyles for their families, I start with the kitchen pantry. The more stocked your pantry is with healthy ingredients, the easier life will be.

In my experience, mums (and of course some dads) are experts at whipping something up from what is available in the pantry, whilst other household members claim there is simply ‘nothing to eat’, or ‘nothing in the fridge’.

Here are my top 5 tips for building a pantry that is healthy and always ready to feed your family.

1)    Firstly, let’s talk storage. I have been using glass jars for storage for more than a decade. I prefer not to use plastic for numerous reasons, starting with

petrochemicals and xenoestrogens.  Besides, you can always see what you have in there, they don’t stain or have lasting smells and they look a lot nicer too.

2)    Stock up on real, whole foods. These are ingredients or products that are in their most pure and basic form, meaning they retain more goodness and nutrients compared to those that are processed and refined in packaged foods. Avoid foods which are full of additives and chemicals, see my article Food Additives And How They Affect Our Children about what to really look for on your ingredient list.

3)    Buy “BPA- Free” canned foods. Items such as coconut milk & cream, beans and tomatoes. BPA is a toxic chemical that can filter into foods from the lining of tins, bottles or other containers made from plastic.

4)    Buy organic where possible. This ensures your food is pure, minimally processed, highly nutritious, contains no genetically modified organisms (GMO) or added nasties, and is sustainably sourced.

5)    Have these items on hand:

Dried or tinned beans and legumes. Items such as lentils, butter beans, kidney beans and chickpeas are great – not only inexpensive, they’re also a great source of protein and fibre. One cup of chickpeas, for example, contains a whopping 15 grams of protein and 12 grams of fibre.

Nuts and seeds are a great snack (if there are no issues with these) and contain good fats (omega-3), protein and fibre as well as healthy antioxidants such as vitamin E and selenium. Many children love cashews, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, natural nut butters and pumpkin seeds (pepitas).

Good oils and fats are a must. Try to use extra-virgin olive oil – this oil can be safely heated when cooking and is one of the reasons the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world. Also grapeseed oil and coconut butter and oil are good to use.

Sweeteners are part of a much bigger article of mine. Sugar alternatives you can use in moderation are Xylitol, Stevia and natural honey is a very versatile sweetener. Local is best, so keep an eye for this in your local stores.

Canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes – cooked tomatoes are bursting with lycopene a potent antioxidant that gives the colour red to fruits and vegetables like tomato, watermelon, papayas and pink grapefruit.

Whole grains are great sources of good complex carbohydrates. Look for brown rice, quinoa, millet, wheat germ and whole grain pasta – because sometimes rice and pasta is just the only thing you have time to make. Also rolled and/or steel-cut oats – the cleanest of the clean when it comes to cereals, as they contain just one ingredient: oat.

Basic condiments and spices – we like to buy these fresh to retain flavour, but these are an essential part of your pantry. Depending on your taste and cuisine preferences, you might like to stock black pepper, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ground cloves, ground ginger, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, curry powder and reduced sodium tamari (soy sauce), organic tomato sauce, Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar.

Dried or frozen fruit is great but watch for sugary versions and only eat a few pieces not a whole bowlful. Cranberries, raisins, berries, bananas, mangos and apricot can be found dried or in freezer ready packets. Great for smoothies or snacks at sport.

Pantry stocked? Now it is time to get cooking and hopefully enjoy some peace and quiet, once everyone is feed of course.

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