12 Heart Healthy Staples to Keep on Hand
Do you ever wonder what you will do if you have to rely on what’s in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for a week or two? What if you’re snowed in (assuming you still have electricity), or there’s a mandatory quarantine, or you’re unable to leave the house for a while for any other reason? In this article, I’ve rounded up twelve of my favorite staples to keep on hand so you can make a heart healthy meal easily!
No Sodium Canned Beans
Canned beans are so convenient and have a long shelf life. Not to mention they are incredibly versatile! Blend them up into a spread or dip, or simply toss them into soups or casseroles.
Look for no added salt varieties. They’re widely available, usually next to the regular beans. And a bonus: they’re really budget friendly! Beans and rice are excellent for health as well as being a quick, pantry staple meal!
I love dry lentils because they are easy to cook up in just 30 minutes (unlike other dry beans that can take hours)! But just like other beans, they’re really versatile and can go in just about anything or be eaten plain.
Lentils come in many varieties, including green/brown, yellow, red, and more. Any and all are great! I love them in casseroles, like this Italian Lentil & Rice Casserole, using all pantry staples!
Brown Rice, Quinoa, and Whole Grain Pasta
Whole grains are a must to keep in your pantry. They make it simple to pull together a whole healthy meal relatively quickly. It’s fine to go for the quick cooking ones, as long as they’re still the whole grain. Brown rice is one I absolutely recommend. Brown rice can take up to an hour to cook, but the quick cooking kind takes just 20 minutes. It also comes in an instant variety.
When you’re looking for whole grain pasta, make sure you are actually getting a 100% whole grain. Read the ingredients to make sure. Another option now is lentil and bean pastas. Those are great, too. They aren’t grains, and are usually gluten free, if you need that option. They’re high in protein, too.
Frozen and Canned Vegetables
Both frozen and canned vegetables can be very nutritious, and are good to keep on hand all the time.
Be sure to read the ingredients, though! You want to specifically look at the fat and sodium content. Both should be low. If not, check the ingredients to see what was added. You want to have full control over what you add to vegetables! So make sure to get no added salt and no sauce varieties. Plus, they can be used in more recipes without sauces and seasonings.
Frozen and Canned Fruit
Another excellent option for nutritious foods to keep on hand is frozen or canned fruit. They can be eaten plain or as part of recipes.
If you’re keen on frozen fruit, look for brands that don’t add sugar. The only ingredient should be the fruit. For canned fruit, look for varieties that are canned in fruit juice without added sugar.
Raisins, cranberries, mangoes, dates, etc., are all good dried fruit to keep in your pantry. They can easily be added to cereal or oatmeal for sweeter dishes, or to rices and casseroles for more savory dishes. Plus they make a great snack right out of the bag!
Look for dried fruit without added sugar. Cranberries are an exception here – it’s difficult to find cranberries without sugar because they’re so sour. In that case, just look for one that has less sugar.
No Added Salt Canned Tuna and/or Salmon
Tuna and salmon canned without salt are becoming more available now, and that makes these great heart healthy pantry staples! Tuna and salmon are both high in omega-3 fats, which help protect your heart.
Canned tuna or salmon (or in pouches) are great to use in casseroles or sandwiches, or just to eat plain.
Whole Grain Crackers
You’ll want some healthy snacks to keep on hand, too. Whole grain crackers are a nice option for your heart healthy pantry. Portion control is key with snacks though. Know yourself! Use your own best judgement here if portion control is a struggle for you.
Look for brands that have a 100% whole grain as the first ingredient. Also watch the sodium content. Look for less than 200mg per serving.
Low or No Sodium Vegetable Broth
I like to make my own vegetable broth from kitchen scraps and freeze it. That way I always have no added salt vegetable broth on hand to use in soup, or to flavor rice, casseroles, or anything else I want!
If you’re buying vegetable broth, look for the lowest amount of sodium you can find. Broth and soup contain a high amount of salt regularly.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Good old stand-bys! Peanut butter and jelly are perfect pantry staples!
For peanut butter, look for one of the natural varieties, and read the ingredients. Peanuts and maybe some salt should really be the only ingredients. You may have to stir it. A good way to do that is to dump it all in your food processor and process on high until it’s all mixed. Then pour it back in the jar and refrigerate to avoid having it separate again. Shout out to my mom for the food processor tip! It’s so much less messy that way!
When it comes to jelly, look for one without added sugar. There are many brands on the market these days. Jelly is sweet enough without sugar. If you’re so inclined, you may want to make your own and freeze it! Blueberry thyme chia jam is a nice choice. You can even use frozen blueberries for it!
Did you know you can freeze bread? It’s true. Make sure it’s wrapped tightly. If it doesn’t come from the store with an inner wrapper, you may want to consider wrapping it in plastic wrap and slipping it back in the sleeve before freezing. This will help prevent freezer burn. Be forewarned, the bread doesn’t have the exact same texture after being frozen. But when you’re stuck in the house unable to get to the store, this is a great way to have bread! If your bread is in your freezer for 6 months, it’s time to take it out. Eat that one and replace it with a fresh one. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the house and have a loaf of bread that’s been in the freezer for two years and now it’s so freezer burned you have to throw it out anyway!
Look for 100% whole grain bread. That will have the most nutrition for your buck!
Oats are another flexible ingredient. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, oats can help you out! They can of course be cooked for oatmeal, but can also be used in more savory dishes, and can be used as filling just as you would use bread crumbs. And oatmeal cookies, too. Ha!
Steel cut, old fashioned, quick oats, or instant; it’s all in what you like! Just steer clear of the oatmeal packets. Those are loaded with sugar and are not very budget friendly per serving compared to a canister of oats!
There you have it! A dozen heart healthy staples to help you stay the course if you end up stuck in your house for a long time. What do you always keep on hand in case of such events? Let me know in the comments!
If you need some recipes for your pantry staples, head on over to the Pantry Staples page!