After a long, hectic day, the last thing you want to do is return home to an empty kitchen, with no prospective dinner ingredients in sight. For those days (which, let’s face it, we’ve all experienced), you’re left either Seamlessing a less-than-healthy meal, or running out to the grocery store for yet another shopping mission. Neither situation is ideal.
But keeping a pantry stocked full of easy-to-cook ingredients will mean that you can easily transform a few simple foods into a healthy and filling meal.
Just take it from athletes Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky, the authors of the New York Times bestselling cookbook, Run Fast. Eat Slow. While creating their recipes, Flanagan (an Olympian and marathoner, and winner of the 2017 New York City Marathon) and Kopecky (a whole-foods chef and nutrition coach) focused on easy, energy-packed meals that incorporated the pantry staples that we all have in our homes.
“The biggest obstacle to cooking fresh food on a daily basis is a poorly stocked kitchen,” Flanagan and Kopecky write. “With a well-stocked pantry and a few staples waiting in your fridge, there will always be something delicious that you can get on the table fast.”
So to get started, make sure your pantry is stocked with these necessary staples:
1. Baking basics
“To fuel our baking addiction, we keep a few key ingredients on hand such as unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla and almond extracts, baking powder, baking soda, and, of course, dark chocolate,” they note.
Think of the most commonly used ingredients in recipes — you’ll want to have these ready and within reach when you need to create a meal of their signature Superhero Muffins or Teff Pumpkin Pancakes with Currants.
If you’re craving or meal planning a hearty soup or stew, having broth in your kitchen is key. If you don’t want to create your own, a carton of organic and additive-free broth will let you put together a dish in 30 minutes or less.
This versatile flavor comes in many forms — coconut water, milk, oil, and sugar, which are all prime choices — or even in shredded form for desserts. Plus, it’s packed with nutritional benefits that can’t be matched by many other foods.
“The medium chain fatty acid in coconut is a highly usable energy source, and it enhances our ability to absorb nutrients, stimulates metabolism and boosts immunity,” they add.
4. Dried fruit
Heading out on a hike or a long run and need a natural energy boost? Reach for some dried dates, figs, or even raisins, Flanagan and Kopecky say. They’re easy to transport and digest, and will hold you over until your next meal.
5. Almond flour
While Flanagan and Kopecky also reach for the teff, dark rye, oat, and spelt flours, it’s almond flour that’s become the go-to, especially for baked desserts.
“We can feel good about devouring our baked goods made with almond flour since they’re high in healthy fats, calcium, magnesium, and potassium,” they add.
For a quick and filling meal (like a salad or a side for a protein), you’ll want to have farro, quinoa, millet, short-grain brown rice, wild rice, steel-cut oats, and rolled oats, they recommend. If you’re a vegetarian, make it an extra point to have these, since they will give you sustainable energy and B vitamins.
7. Legumes (beans)
For fiber and complete protein (when combined with grains), no other foods beat legumes. They’re “high in B vitamins, folate, magnesium, zinc, and iron — all essential nutrients for energy,” Flanagan and Kopecky say.
Plus, they’ll help keep you regular, which is a great added bonus.
8. Nuts and seeds
When you need a healthy snack, or a topping for your oatmeal or muffins, have almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, and peanuts in your pantry. They’re filled with heart-healthy fats, and are ideal snacks post-workout since they aid in muscle recovery.
9. Olive oil
Use it to cook with, to marinate meats, and to turn into salad dressing. Olive oil is a versatile cooking addition, and has “anti-inflammatory powers [that] make it an ideal fat for runners.”
All runners know about the need to carbo-load before a big race, and nothing beats pasta in that department. Opt for the semolina flour or durum pasta for the best possible quality and ingredients.
11. Sardines (canned)
It’s an “instant power meal,” Flanagan and Kopecky say. “They’re lower in toxins and better for the environment [than tuna] and have a superior nutrition profile.”
Not to mention, they’re stacked with B12 and B4, omega-3s, calcium, vitamin D, and more.
12. Sea salt
You can’t cook without salt, and it’s “essential for bringing out the flavor in the kitchen,” they add. Be careful not to oversalt, but know that any good dish (especially one with animal proteins) should get a sprinkle of sea salt.
13. Tomatoes (canned or carton)
Add it to the broth or the pasta you have in your fridge to create a soup or a marinara sauce. Make sure you’re choosing the organic variety — and those with BPA-free packaging — they’re “light-years better than anything you’ll find in the produce section.”
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