Low-cost healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard. Here are my favourite nutritious and budget-friendly pantry staples you should always have in your cupboard to stir up a healthy meal.
Oats are one of the most versatile and nutritious breakfast options. From porridge to overnight oats to homemade granola, this delicious grain is hard to top. Oats are packed with fibre and contain a particular type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan has been shown to reduce cholesterol reabsorption in the digestive tract and therefore helps to improve cholesterol profiles, which in turn can lower your risk of a heart attack. Oats provide plenty of important micronutrients such as potassium, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin B1 and zinc.
This humble grain also contains fiber, vitamin E and essential fatty acids.
As one of the most versatile pantry staples on the planet, rice serves as a good source of B vitamins (B1, B3, B9) and iron. The carbohydrates in rice provide instant energy, and the fiber (especially in brown rice) helps regulate and improve bowel movements, and manage blood sugar levels. Rice is also an excellent source of manganese and magnesium. Try to aim for organic rice as organically-farmed rice contains fewer pesticides. There are many different varieties: brown rice, basmati rice, wild rice – mix it up!
Quinoa is a gluten-free South American seed, high in protein and one of the few plant foods that contain sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is also high in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various antioxidants. A cup of quinoa will also provide twice the protein and about 5 grams more fiber than the same amount of white rice. Due to this higher quantity of protein and fiber, quinoa will also fill you up faster, allowing for smaller portion sizes.
Beans and Lentils are one of the most nutrient-dense foods around. They are a great way to load up on fiber and plant-based protein and provide good amounts of magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and folate. Beans such as chickpeas are a great source of zinc. This essential mineral is involved in the production of certain immune cells. Even mildly low levels of zinc may impair your immune function so you want to make sure you keep your zinc levels high.
This is another versatile pantry staple you can use in salads, soups, curries and dips. Ideally you buy dried lentils or beans and cook them yourself. Not only is this more budget-friendly but also more sustainable
- Nuts and Seeds
Keep a variety of nuts in your pantry. They are an easy and healthy snack (a small handful is plenty) and can also be used in salads or soups. One nut that is often overlooked is the brazil nut. It is a potent source of Selenium and contains more of this mineral than any other nut. Selenium is a trace element that is vital for the proper functioning of your immune system. When it comes to serving size, 2-3 brazil nuts per day are enough to get your recommended dose of selenium.
Turmeric Beans on Toast
Turmeric and especially its most active compound curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and may also help improve symptoms of depression and arthritis.
- ½ tablespoon olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
- ½ small onion, sliced
- 227g can chopped tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ¼ teaspoon honey
- 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 210g can organic cannellini beans (or cook from scratch)
- 1 slice whole grain bread
- Fresh oregano, finely chopped
- Heat oil in a small frying pan, add the onion and pepper, and fry for about 10-12 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, vinegar, beans, honey and turmeric powder.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until thickened.
- Spoon beans over the toast, drizzle with a little olive oil and chopped oregano.
Spicy Rice and Black Beans
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
- 1 cup veggie stock
- 1/2 can black beans (or cook from scratch)
- 1 tablespoons lime juice (optional)
- Salt & pepper
- Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté. Add the minced or chopped garlic and sauté for a further minute.
- Add cumin, chili powder and rice, mix and sauté for 2- 3 minutes
- Pour in veggie stock and beans, bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes (don’t forget to stir).
- Remove from heat and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, lime juice and parsley.
- Season with a little salt and pepper…if needed
Autumn Oatmeal Porridge
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 cup water
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of ground cinnamon
- Pinch of ground turmeric
- Pinch of cardamom powder
- ½ ripe banana
- 2 walnuts
- Maple Syrup (if needed)
- Combine oats, milk or milk alternative like rice or coconut, water, salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low. Add spices.
- Simmer uncovered for up to 5 minutes until oats have thickened. Stir occasionally.
- Remove from heat.
- Divide equally between two bowls.
- Add bananas and walnuts and additional desired toppings