Stocking a Healthy Pantry

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Many people believe they are sacrificing health and quality by shopping in dry food aisles at the grocery store. In fact, making sure your pantry is well-stocked can be the key to eating healthy and staying on budget. When you have the right ingredients on hand, healthy balanced meals are just within your reach.

Make sure to keep herbs and spices on hand to limit reaching for the salt shaker. Adults with no health issues like high blood pressure or diabetes should limit sodium consumption to 2300 mg/day. By keeping herbs and spices on hand you can make your own seasoning blends. For instance, basil, oregano, and basil will give you Italian flavors, whereas chili powder and cumin will give you Mexican flavors.

canned goodsGrain products are another staple item for a healthy food pantry. Although many people try to limit their carbs, it is our main source of energy. This is why it is important for grains to take up one-fourth of our plate. The healthiest options to choose are whole grains, listed as the first ingredient. Healthy choices include brown rice, oatmeal, pasta of all shapes and sizes, popcorn, 100% whole-wheat bread, whole-grain cold cereals, and 100% whole grain tortillas.

Protein sources also play an important role in maintaining a healthy food pantry. Canned tuna and salmon are great ways of getting protein and healthy fats as well as beans. Beans and peas average about 15 grams of protein per cup and should be consumed several times a week. Beans also count towards your daily servings of vegetables. Peanut butter, as well as other nuts and seeds, are great items to have on hand for making healthy snacks.

To have a balanced meal, you need to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies and keeping canned fruits and vegetables on hand makes that easy to do. The best options are low sodium vegetables and fruits canned in their own juice or water. Add veggies to your pastas, casseroles, and soups to make sure you are getting vegetables every day in delicious ways.

Food insecurity is still high in Richmond County with 21 percent (2017) of the population not having access to a reliable source of food during the last year. Food insecurity is related to negative health outcomes like weight-gain and indicates balanced meals are not being provided. To help balance meals and prevent weight-gain, three food pantries in Richmond County are making efforts to become recognized as healthy food pantries by offering healthy options. Some of the food banks most needed items are the same items needed to build your own healthy pantry.

The Food Bank lists the following foods as needed items for donation.

  • Canned Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, and Soup (Pop-top cans and low sodium a plus!)
  • Whole Grain Pasta, Brown Rice, Dried Beans, and Cereal
  • Peanut Butter
  • For Infants: Pedialyte, Infant Cereal, Diapers, and Wipes
  • For Kids: Fruit Cups, Juice Boxes, Granola Bars, Crackers, Popcorn and Sugar-Free Pudding Cups
  • Non-Food Essentials: Hygiene Items, Household Items, and Paper Products

*Please – No loose glass and plastic jars of baby food as they will have to be discarded due to health regulations

Please be sure to choose from this list to build a healthy pantry at home, and in your community.

N.C. Cooperative Extension of Richmond County’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, health, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Janice Roberts, MS at 910-997-8255