9 Pantry Must-Haves for Healthy Cooking & Baking

By: Michelle Mudge

Have you ever gotten on a health kick and wanted to really commit to healthier eating but you go to make your first recipe and it calls for 7 ingredients you certainly don’t have in your pantry and most of which you’ve never heard of before? Me too. Well now that I’ve been going at this healthy thing for about a decade, I’ve finally realized that if I just had these 9 items in my pantry to begin with, I would have been a lot more successful from the start. So here ya go… 

  1. Almond Flour. If you enjoy baking or breading, almond flour is a must. Most gluten free and paleo recipes use a combination of almond flour and coconut flour as a substitute for white and wheat flour. A combination of the two also makes for a great breading on zucchini, pork chops, chicken and shrimp. Almond flour has also come in handy when making keto english muffins, gluten free hamburger buns, and my personal favorite… paleo chocolate chip cookies. Personally I opt for the the Anthony’s brand of almond flour and buy in bulk on Amazon. 

  2. Coconut Flour. Similar to almond flour, coconut flour in combination with the almond flour, makes for a great low carb baking flour substitute. The best ratio when substituting the two for white or wheat flour is a 3:1 ratio, almond flour to coconut flour. For example. if a recipe calls for 1 cup of flour, replace with 3/4 cup almond flour and 1/4 cup coconut flour. When breading anything, I use a 1:1 ratio of almond flour to coconut flour. Just like the almond flour, I opt for the Anthony’s brand and purchase on Amazon. 

  3. Coconut Aminos. Coconut aminos are a healthy substitute for soy sauce. Many people, whether they know it or not, do not tolerate soy well. Coconut aminos are a healthy, easy substitute for any stir fry, marinade or dressing that calls for soy sauce. For best pricing, check amazon or Trader Joe’s if you have one near you! 

  4. Ghee/Coconut Oil. For those that are unfamiliar with ghee, it is clarified butter. This means that the butter has been melted down and the milk proteins have been skimmed off the top. What is left is called ghee. Most everyone with a dairy allergy or intolerance can tolerate ghee since the milk protein has been removed. You will see ghee in many paleo recipes. If you don’t have ghee or prefer a non-animal based product, coconut oil makes for the perfect 1:1 substitution for butter or ghee. Pro tip: If you don’t mind the grease, coconut oil also makes for a great body lotion and toothpaste! You can find ghee and coconut oil just about anywhere these days… Walmart, Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Food Lion etc. 

  5. Coconut Sugar. Now, full disclosure, coconut sugar is not some amazing miraculously healthy substitute for sugar BUT compared to table sugar it does have minimal amounts of antioxidants, minerals and fiber. Personally I use it because it makes me feel better about my baked goods, but the fact that I always half the amount of sugar the recipe calls for probably does me a lot more good health wise compared to swapping table sugar for coconut sugar. I buy mine from Walmart or Aldi, but you can find coconut sugar just about anywhere. 

  6. Minced Garlic. For starters minced garlic makes just about any meat or veggie palatable to any human, even the picky ones. Secondly, you’ll find that the majority of dinner recipes will call for some form of garlic. While minced garlic is not the FRESHEST garlic, it beats garlic powder and saves you at least 5 minutes by not having to peel and smash garlic cloves and clean a garlic peeler.

  7. Quinoa. For those unfamiliar with this complex grain, “keen-wa” makes for a super easy, healthy side dish to complement any meal. You can throw it in your rice cooker or on the stove top in a sauce pan. Warning, it does not have much of a taste but that means it will absorb whatever flavors you add to it!

  8. Balsamic Vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is a very versatile ingredient that you might see called for in a sauce, dressing or marinade. Of course, it also makes for a great, healthy salad dressing when mixed with olive oil. There are a gazillion types of balsamic vinegar out there that range from cheap to way too much. My personal favorite is the Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, however if I am making a marinade or sauce that calls for a good amount of balsamic vinegar, I will opt for a cheaper brand such as Walmart’s Pompeian Balsamic Vinegar.

  9. Baking Soda/Baking Powder. If you want to bake anything ever, these are a must and no, they are not the same thing. If you find yourself in a bind and you only have baking powder but no baking soda, you can use baking powder as a substitute but you must triple what the recipe calls for. To make it easy on yourself, keep both in your cabinet. They are crazy cheap and you can find them anywhere.

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