15 Essentials to Store in Your Kitchen

This post was written by Tiana Yom, MPH, CHES 

By now your spring cleaning is done and the shelves and drawers in your kitchen are clean and ready to be restocked. Before you put back all the old stuff, make sure you have the top items every kitchen should house! 

Top 5 Pantry Essentials:

  1. Olive and Canola Oil: Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats you can use for sautéing, roasting, marinating, salad dressings, and more. A little goes a long way with these items!
  2. Spices and Dried Herbs: These are low-calorie options to jazz up any dish! When you use blends, make sure they are labeled “low-sodium.”
  3. Brown rice, barley, quinoa, farro, buckwheat: Packed with dietary fiber and magnesium, these whole grains can be used to make heart healthy side dishes and vegetarian entrees
  4. Low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth: No need to make your own broth from scratch, but be careful about canned and boxed broths that are high in sodium. Switch to low-sodium varieties and add your own salt, herbs, and spices to flavor your dish as needed. Add broth to stews, soups, braises, and pasta dishes.
  5. Boxed or Canned Tomatoes: As Jessica mentioned in Women’s Day, “open a can and you’re halfway to a sauce.” Canned tomatoes add depth and texture to any dish. Just make sure to look for 200mg or fewer of sodium per serving. Jessica’s favorite is Pomi chopped tomatoes, which are nothing but tomatoes!

stock a healthy kitchen

Top 5 Refrigerator Essentials:

  1. Fresh Vegetables and Fruits: Where to even begin? Fresh fruits and vegetables are vital for good health! The CDC and American Heart Association recommend at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Fill your refrigerator and countertop fruit bowls with a colorful array of fruits and vegetables!
  2. Low-Fat or Fat-Free Greek Yogurt: Deliciously tart and protein-rich, Greek yogurt isn’t only a filling breakfast choice – it can be used as substitutes for sour cream or mayonnaise in recipes.
  3. Eggs: Eggs are great for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner! They provide an awesome source of protein as well lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that are needed to keep your eyes healthy.
  4. Avocados: These green gems are rich in omega-3s, and when ripe, they’re fantastic to use on sandwiches or mashed into guacamole. Be sure to keep them at room temperature until they’re ripe.
  5. Hummus: This Mediterranean dip is made of chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), which are an excellent source of protein, dietary fiber, folate, phosphorus, and iron. Pair hummus with fresh vegetables on a crudité platter or spread on a sandwich or burger in place of mayo or ketchup.

Top 5 Freezer Essentials:

  1. Frozen Fruit and Vegetables: Frozen fruit and veggies are picked at the peak of ripeness and flash frozen immediately to maintain their nutrient content. Keep a variety on hand to make certain meals when fresh aren’t in season. Try spinach and squash in mac and cheese, corn in chili, and berries in a smoothie.
  2. Unsalted Nuts: Nuts such as pistachios and pine nuts are heart healthy and protein rich. Keep them in the freezer so they don’t go rancid.
  3. Lean Ground Turkey or Chicken Breast: Ground meats freeze well for 3 to 4 months and come in handy when you want to make a quick dinner like burgers, meatloaf, tacos, or meatballs. Just be sure to defrost them in the fridge at least 24 hours in advance.
  4. Whole Grain Breads: You want to keep bread in the freezer to keep it beyond its ‘best before’ date or when mold growth is a concern. Make sure that the first ingredient is a whole grain (whole wheat flour). Watch out for misleading words – “enriched flour” doesn’t mean it’s a whole grain.
  5. Raw, Peeled, and Deveined Shrimp: This crustacean is an excellent source of selenium and B12 and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Since they’re already peeled and deveined, they’re perfect for a quick weeknight meal like shrimp scampi or grilled shrimp kebabs.

Now that your kitchen is restocked and your spring cleaning is done, gather spices from your pantry, yogurt from your refrigerator, and corn from your freezer to make these Nutritioulicious Corn Basil Cakes.

 For more pantry and fridge essentials, check out Women’s Day Healthy Kitchen article!

What ingredients are essential in your kitchen?

4 Responses to 15 Essentials to Store in Your Kitchen


  1. datondra says:

    Everything sounds great but, I have siliac (gluten allergic). I need a least of staples more friend to my disorder, please and thank you

    • Jessica says:

      Would be happy to write a post with a GF list of kitchen staples. Check back soon!

  2. Cindy Gay says:

    I love the cooked frozen dried beans without salt (you can even make hummus in just a few minutes:)

    • Jessica says:

      Yes! And they add great protein and fiber to salads and stews too!

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