Whether you’re trying out a new recipe or making a family favourite, having nutritious pantry staples ready to go can help boost the nutritional value of your go-to meals – while also ensuring they’re delicious and cost-effective.
Staple pantry items are replenished frequently, so ensuring these foods have the highest nutritional value possible is the best way to provide your family with food that’s as natural as possible, free from added nasties and low in added fats and sugars.
With so many different alternatives to choose from, we asked leading dietitian and Mayver’s ambassador, Susie Burrell, to share her tips on the healthiest pantry staples to swap out in your cupboard that won’t compromise on taste.
Herbs and spices
“Compared to store bought sauces and marinades that can have added salts, sugars and preservatives, plain spices and herbs are one of the healthiest alternatives you can make when it comes to seasoning foods,” says Sudie.
In addition to creating a delicious balance of flavours, Susie says that herbs and spices can have different health benefits like assisting in the reduction of inflammation or aiding your immune system.
- Turmeric has been shown to provide anti-inflammatory benefits
- Black pepper is an antioxidant
- Cinnamon helps to support steady blood sugar levels
- Ginger may help improve digestion and relieve nausea
- Basil is an antioxidant and may also assists with lowering stress-induced cholesterol levels
- Oregano is an impressive infection fighter
- Parsley helps with fluid retention and freshen breath
- Rosemary helps prevent allergies and nasal congestion
- Sage may help improve brain function and memory
- Thyme is a great source of Vitamin A and doubles as an antioxidant
Chips, chocolate, biscuits and other 3pm snack favourites can come high in saturated fats and artificial sugars, and without any protein to help keep you full until dinner they’re more likely to have you visiting the kitchen again for more.
“In addition to adding crunch and creamy textures to recipes, nuts and seeds are one of the most nutritious options for snacks, thanks to their healthy fats and protein content,” says Susie. “A handful of peanuts or peanut butter on a whole grain piece of toast will keep you going until dinner time.”
“Always opt for Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil as your cooking oil of choice,” says Susie. “Its high antioxidant content protects it from damage during cooking, making it the perfect oil for your day to day cooking as well as a nutrient rich salad dressing.”
When it comes to breads, grains and pasta choose a wholemeal or wholegrain variety, such as bean or lentil pasta, oats, brown rice and ancient grains such as farro and quinoa to increase the fibre, vitamin and mineral content of the meal.
“While picky children might turn their nose up at wholemeal and wholegrain food types, refined grains are used to make white varieties of breads, grains and pasta and provide less fibre and typically have added sugars, fats and salts,” says Susie. “If you’re pressed for time in the evenings, plain pre-cooked varieties of brown rice, farro and other grains that have longer-cooking times are a convenient option to stock up on.”
A favourite in many households amongst adults and children alike, chocolate, peanut butter and other jams are often enjoyed on toast, pancakes and used in recipes.
“Spreads are a food group that parents need to look at really closely as they can contain high levels of sugars, salts and oils,” says Susie. “Check the ingredients and put back anything that has unnecessarily added ingredients or includes ingredients that you don’t recognise.”
Natural varieties are the most nutritious spread option and you can easily tell them apart – just look for the separation of good oils at the top of the jar that every 100% natural spread has.
“Mayver’s Smooth Peanut Butter only contains peanuts and a pinch of salt and for a chocolate spread alternative, Mayver’s Hazelnut, Cashew and Cacao spread is a delicious and nutritious option,” says Susie.
No matter your budget, even incorporating some of these items into your pantry will assist with the overall nutritional value of your meals and while it’s by no means exhaustive feel free to experiment with new ingredients and find what works best for you.