Five fantastic foods for your pantry all year round

I know that fresh vegetables and fruit are not always available or affordable. Canned and frozen foods can be healthy too. Be sure to keep an eye out for lower sodium items and opt to pick items packed in water rather than in syrup or juices.

Plus, when they are on special, it’s a great time get stocked! A well-equipped pantry makes cooking a nutritious, delicious meal easy, any day. Having items on hand is key to creating healthy meals in a hurry!

When buying packaged foods, try to choose nutrient-rich ones that offer more vitamins, minerals and fibre, and contain less sodium, fat and sugar. Look for canned foods, such as beans, tomatoes or fish, without added salt.

Here are five fantastic foods I recommend keeping in your pantry all year round:

  1. Tomatoes – whole, diced or crushed, in cans. These make a beautiful base for a simple pasta sauce, soup or casserole.
  2. Fruit – dried, jarred or canned. Try adding a scoop of mashed canned pears to pancakes, muffins or smoothies.
  3. Legumes – including canned or dried peas, beans and lentils. These protein-rich plant foods make satisfying soups, stews and chilies that are deliciously nutritious.
  4. Fish – such as canned salmon and light tuna packed in water. These make tasty, protein-packed sandwiches, and they’re healthy additions to casseroles and pasta dishes.
  5. Whole grains – such as quinoa, parboiled brown rice or oats. Keep a variety of whole grains on hand for a nutrient-rich side dish or main meal.

Bonus items! Flavour boosters such as fresh garlic, spices, flavoured vinegars and reduced-sodium broths liven up cooking without lots of extra salt or fat.

Here’s a straightforward recipe (from that uses three of my fave five to make a hearty, delicious meal :

Quick Beans and RIce

Quick Black Beans and Rice


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, undrained
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked instant brown rice


  1. In large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high.
  2. Add onion, cook and stir until tender.
  3. Add beans, tomatoes, oregano and garlic powder.
  4. Bring to a boil; stir in rice.
  5. Cover; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 
Calories: 271; Total Fat: 5.3g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 552mg; Carbs: 47.8g; Dietary Fibre: 8.8g; Protein: 10g

Wishing you continued good luck in putting your Best Food Forward: Plan Shop Cook Enjoy!

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.


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