What’s in a Dietitian’s Shopping Cart?Part 1: Pantry Staples

Aug 08, 2013
Tagged with: What’s in a Dietitian’s Shopping Cart?Part 1: Pantry Staples

Do you ever get home at night and feel as if you have no energy to fix dinner? Well, if you are like most people, you probably experience this at least once a week. It’s at these times that I am so glad I keep my pantry stocked with healthy items. However, not all packaged foods are created equal.When it comes to canned foods, the number one thing you want to watch out for is sodium. Your best bet is to go with a low sodium or no salt added version. Why is salt so bad for you? An over-consumption of salt or sodium can lead to hypertension (aka high blood pressure). And if you have a family history of high blood pressure, it is pertinent for you to monitor your salt intake each day. The Dietary Guidelines set by the US Department of Agriculture recommends that kids to adults eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (aim for 1,500 mg if you are older than 51, African American, or have health concerns). Do you know how much 2,300 mg of sodium is when it comes to salt? It’s only about 1 teaspoon of salt! So next time you are in the store buying your canned goods, make sure the sodium content on the nutrition label reads about 300 mg or less.

When it comes to rice, I only fix Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice. It takes just 90 seconds to cook in the microwave and it’s an easy way to make sure I get my whole grains for the day. My favorite flavors are the Whole Grain Medleys (keep serving size to ½ cup so you don’t eat too much sodium) and the Whole Grain Brown (best pick). It’s important to eat whole grains each day because they are high in fiber. Your body needs fiber for a few reasons: keeps your bowels going, fills you up for longer, and helps lower bad cholesterol. So when I am buying pasta, I choose the whole wheat versions. I think they taste much better than the refined pasta options. They do take just a bit longer to cook though.

Other pantry staples of mine include Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a variety of vinegars (homemade salad dressing is the way to go!), and No Salt Added Chicken Broth. It’s also great to stock up on a few freezer items. What you will find in my freezer are a few bags of fruit, vegetables (not in a sauce), chicken breasts, and sometimes steak. Between your pantry and freezer, you can have an easy but healthy meal in no time! I have listed below some of my favorite recipes that I go to when I’m not feeling up to cooking dinner. Give them a try and let me know what you think. Also, do you have a favorite no-cook or little-cook recipe? What kind of food items are staples in your pantry?


Corn, Bean, and Chicken Salad over Rice


1 can low sodium corn, drained

1 can low sodium black beans, drained

1 can low sodium diced tomatoes, drained

1 package Uncle Ben’s Ready Brown Rice

1 bunch of scallions or green onions

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Rotisserie chicken, skin removed, shredded or cubed


You can either serve this dish cold or hot. Combine corn, black beans, tomatoes, and garlic in a bowl or saucepan. If you are serving this dish hot, cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Prepare rice by following the directions on the package. Top with onions and chicken and serve over rice. Enjoy!


Warm Tortellini and Cherry Tomato Salad

Original recipe: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/warm-tortellini-cherry-tomato-salad-10000001011332/

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)


2 (9-ounce) packages fresh whole wheat cheese tortellini

1 1/2 cups (1 1/2-inch-long) slices fresh asparagus (about 1 pound)

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 cups trimmed arugula

1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes

3/4 cup (3 ounces) pre-grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered


Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add asparagus to pasta during last 2 minutes of cook time. Drain.

While pasta cooks, combine vinegars, oil, and pepper in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pasta mixture, arugula, and remaining ingredients; toss to coat.


Pantry Pasta with Black Beans, Kale and Spicy Chicken Sausage

Original Recipe: http://www.eatliverun.com/pantry-pasta-with-black-beans-kale-and-spicy-chicken-sausage/

Yield: 3 servings


6 oz whole wheat bow-tie pasta (I just eyeball it and use half a bag)

1 large bunch kale, roughly chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

2 chicken sausage links, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup low sodium black beans, drained

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 tsp black pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook bow-tie past until its el dente, then drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add the sliced chicken sausage. Cook sausage for about five minutes, until golden on both sides. Then, add the garlic, kale, red pepper flakes and a sprinkle of sea salt. Continue sautéing until kale begins to wilt. Add black beans and heat through.

Add hot pasta to the kale as well as the feta cheese and pepper.

Author: Carleton Rivers