Planning healthy meals starts with how we stock our pantry. As we march through January, maintaining our goals for healthy eating can be challenging. A thoughtfully stocked pantry, however, can take out a lot of the guesswork and keep us on track. Here are 10 items I can’t live without. They’re great to keep on hand for healthy meals any day of the week.

01 Lentils

If your goal for this year is to eat less meat, then this is the protein source for you. Lentils are a great source of protein, iron, and B vitamins. There are three different kinds of lentils:

  • Brown lentils: This is the most common type of lentil. It has a mild, earthy flavor and cooks in 20-30 minutes.
  • Red lentils: These are a more sweet and nutty tasting lentil, with a cook time of 30 minutes.
  • Green Lentils: These lentils have the longest cook time at 45 minutes and have a robust, somewhat peppery flavor to them.

02 Avocados

You may not be surprised to see avocado on the list, but who doesn’t love avocado? You can put them on anything, and they make any meal better. Avocado is a great source of healthy fat (monounsaturated fat), but be careful of how much avocado you pile onto your quinoa bowl. A proper serving size is ⅓ avocado. Also, be extra careful when cutting an avocado. Watch this video for the proper technique.

03 Oats

There are many reasons to eat your oats, and they’re probably one of the most underrated healthy foods. Oats are great for your heart and an excellent source of fiber, which helps keep you regular. Oats are also versatile. Try our strawberry overnight oats recipe for a healthy meal-prep breakfast for when you’re on the go.

04 Almond Milk

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Trying to limit dairy intake? Almond milk is our go-to and actually has a longer shelf life than cow’s milk. Talk about making your dollar go further! Dairy has been found to be a contributor to inflammation. Also, this may be shocking: Our bodies don’t actually require milk, but they do require calcium. Milk is just an easy way to get calcium in.

05 Chia Seeds

Don’t judge a book by its cover! This saying pertains to chia seeds, as they pack a powerful punch! They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, and they provide fiber, iron, and calcium. Omega-3 fatty acids help raise HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that protects against heart attack and stroke. You can add chia seeds to just about any meal. Sprinkle some on your oatmeal, blend them up in a smoothie, or add them on top of some avocado toast. The sky’s the limit!

06 Almonds

Have a healthy snack! Almonds are great to keep in your pantry, car, gym bag, or office desk. They are high in Vitamin E, antioxidants, and monounsaturated fat. One serving is 1 ounce or 23 almonds. That’s about 165 calories and 6 grams of protein, making it a filling snack. However, almonds have moved past just being a healthy snack option. Have you ever heard of almond flour? Almond flour is taking the cooking world by storm. If you love breaded chicken or breaded anything, try these baked buffalo chicken strips, which are perfect for dinner or any game day get-together.

07 Plain Greek Yogurt

Plain Greek yogurt is a great alternative to using sour cream, is an excellent source of calcium and has a good amount of protein.

08 Garlic

One of our favorite ways to flavor any dish! Garlic has a range of health benefits, both raw and cooked. It also may have significant antibiotic properties. Hydrogen sulfide gas has been shown to protect the heart from damage. Also, many cultures use it for medicinal purposes. Add it to any sauce with zoodles, mix it in with some mashed cauliflower, flavor soups and roasted vegetables, and sauté it with some olive oil for a garlic-infused olive oil.

09 Pomegranate Seeds

Ahhh … nature’s gusher. Pomegranate seeds pack a powerful flavor and health punch. These tiny seeds are full of Vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. Jazz up your yogurt parfait or oatmeal, sprinkle on a salad or even try it with some Brussels sprouts. They are extremely versatile. A prep suggestion: Cut in half and then pull wedges out like an orange. You can get the seeds out easily if in a bowl of water so you don’t lose them everywhere.

10 Spinach

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Now, we don’t suggest putting spinach in the pantry, but this is a MUST HAVE in your fridge. Spinach even has a national day dedicated to it. Spinach is a good source of iron and lots of nutrients, including vitamins A, K, and C, folic acid, and calcium. It has many uses and isn’t just for salads. Sauté it and serve it as a side add nutrients to your smoothie by throwing a few leaves in it, add it to eggs, etc.

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