6 Healthy Foods That Should Always Be in Your Pantry

Article posted in: Lifestyle
Cinnamon sticks and powder in wooden scoop

Little things really do add up to a big difference when you’re trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. Like these six ordinary items found in any supermarket. They don’t have magical powers that melt excess pounds, but each of these healthy pantry foods helps you save calories while nourishing you fully and leaving you feeling satisfied long after you eat. If you keep them on hand at all times, you’ll be ready and able to make the healthiest choices when you prepare your healthy meals and snacks.

Red Wine Vinegar

High in flavor and low in calories, red wine vinegar has a fruity, acidic flavor that brings out the best in many foods. Better yet, for those following a Nutrisystem weight loss plan, vinegars are so low in calories they’re considered “Free Foods,” meaning there’s no limit to how much of them you can enjoy while staying on track to your weight loss goals. Try red wine vinegar as a light alternative to high-fat salad dressings. Brush the vinegar on roasted vegetables to brighten up the taste or use it to marinate meats or seafood. For extra rich flavor, look for sherry or champagne vinegars—they’re pricey but even a splash or two can give any dish exceptional taste.


Sugar is not only loaded with empty calories, it can cause dramatic swings in your energy level and appetite. When you have a craving for sweet flavor, reach for the cinnamon instead of sugary treats. The spice can help stabilize blood sugar, reducing hunger and cravings for sweets, according to research from the Human Nutrition Center at Tufts University. Pantry friendly cinnamon is one of our favorite healthy and low-calorie Free Foods on Nutrisystem. It sweetens up the taste of oatmeal, plain yogurt and coffee. Sprinkle it into rice and other grain dishes, on fresh fruit or on vegetables such as squash or sweet potatoes. The spice also brings out the flavors of roasted beef, pork and lamb.

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Garlic Powder

Sodium is essential to our health, but excess salt in your diet plan can cause you to retain fluids, which hinders your progress to your weight loss goal, and may also stimulate your body to build fat cells rather than muscle. Garlic powder—just ground dehydrated garlic—perks up the flavor of many savory foods without adding extra sodium and it’s a Free Food on Nutrisystem. So you can enjoy it liberally. Try garlic powder on chicken, potatoes, popcorn or any other food to which you like to add salt. Love garlic but hate peeling it? Try this simple tip for peeling garlic in mere seconds!

Canned Beans

When you open a can of kidney, black or pinto beans, you get a lot of nutrients, especially fiber, in a convenient package. Dried beans can take hours to cook, but the canned type are ready to eat whenever hunger strikes. SmartCarbs like these types of beans are low on the Glycemic Index because they digest slowly and leave you feeling full for a long time. You can get the benefits by adding the beans to salads, soups, burritos and dips. Just be sure to always opt for low-sodium varieties and rinse the beans thoroughly to rid them of extra salt. Healthy hint: We love dried beans, too, so if you have the time to wait for them to cook, by all means go right ahead!

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Coconut Oil

While high in saturated fats, coconut oil is a healthful substitute for butter, shortening and even other vegetable oils. In fact, a study of women in Brazil who cooked with coconut instead of soybean oil reduced their waist size and improved their balance of good (HDL) vs. damaging (LDL) cholesterol, according to a report by the National Institutes of Health. The oil has a light coconut taste and aroma that diminishes with cooking. It tolerates high heat without burning and becomes solid at room temperature. Use coconut oil for sautéing vegetables or seafood, as a tasty spread for whole-grain bread or pancakes, and in baked goods. It also works as a light moisturizer for your skin. Just use it sparingly in foods—one teaspoon counts as one Extra on the Nutrisystem weight loss program.

Nut Butters

Nut butters are one of our favorite healthy pantry foods. PowerFuels like peanut butter can give you lots of energy and they can help satisfy the hunger you work up on busy days. Even better, a study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that consuming one ounce of peanut butter daily may lower the risk of developing diabetes by almost 30 percent. You can enjoy the same benefits from almond, cashew or other nut butters, but be wary of reduced-fat brands, which often have added sugar. A peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread makes a quick and filling breakfast or lunch. Add a tablespoon to a fruit-and-vegetable smoothie for flavor and extra creaminess. Use the same amount to make a sauce for stir-fries or for dipping apple slices. One tablespoon of most nut butters count as one PowerFuel on the Nutrisystem program.