Clean Eating: Tips for a Healthy Pantry

Want some good news? You don’t have to give up on taste to eat healthy! The bad news? Chances are, many of the foods that are currently in your pantry may not be doing your health any favors…particularly if cookies, crackers and potato chips are taking up a lot of space. But choosing nutritious and tasty options to stock your shelves isn’t difficult at all—you just need to focus on “eating clean.” Not sure what that means, or where to start? Let’s dig in!

What is clean eating?

Women eating healthy food

“Eating clean” means choosing foods rich in nutrients that impact your overall health. Your body needs more than calories as a form of energy—it requires nutrients like vitamins and minerals that support the many biological processes that power your muscles, organs and other tissues. Conveniently, healthier foods also tend to be more filling, so you’ll be less likely to overeat.

Specifically, you need foods that are rich in:

  • Protein—Amino acids like arginine, leucine and valine are essential for the body to use for supporting lean muscle, hormone balance and even healthy immune function.

  • Healthy fats—Fish, avocado, cheese, seeds and nuts are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that play a crucial role in heart, brain, eye and joint health (and so much more).

  • Complex carbohydrates— Foods rich in fiber and starches—such as peas, sweet potatoes, brown rice—provide your body with more lasting energy and nutrients than the simple sugars found in white rice, pasta and processed foods.

  • Vitamins & minerals— Vitamins A, C, D, E, K and B-vitamins, as well as calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc (to name a few). Your body uses these nutrients to power your circulation, breathing, metabolism, muscle contraction…even thinking and learning.

As the saying goes, you are what you eat—so it makes sense to eat strategically to become the best, healthiest version of you possible!

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Why a well-stocked pantry is key to good health

Women checking the pantry to create a healthy food list.

It pays to be strategic when grocery shopping to make sure you always have healthy, nutrient-dense foods on hand. Fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy and lean protein are great places to start, but as anyone who’s found green fuzz developing on an orange can attest, timing is everything with fresh food!

To avoid spoilage and without ever running out of healthy nibbles, shop for only enough perishables that you can reasonably consume before they spoil, while filling your freezer with easy-to-thaw veggies and meats.

Meanwhile, pack that pantry to the max with clean, healthy staples! Here are our suggestions:

    1. Pasta, grains & legumes (beans)

  • Lentils (green, black, yellow, red, take your pick)

  • Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

  • Peas

  • Kidney, black, navy and pinto beans

  • Brown, jasmine and basmati rice (these may contain more calories than white rice, but they also have more nutrients)

  • Quinoa (so many colors to choose from!)

  • Barley and bulgur

  • Pasta made from black beans and red lentil are great alternatives to white pasta

    2. Canned and packaged foods

  • Crushed, diced tomatoes and tomato paste

  • Marinara or your favorite sauce

  • Canned coconut milk

  • Almond, oat and cashew milk

  • Canned tuna

  • Canned beans

  • Vegetable, chicken or bone broth

  • Pro tip: Make sure the canned goods you choose don’t have added sugars or excess salt

    3. Healthy fats: nuts, seeds, non-dairy

  • Shaved or whole almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios (so many choices; choose pasteurized and raw nuts and avoid additives)

  • Chia seeds

  • Flaxseeds

  • Hempseeds

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Shredded coconut

  • Nuts/seed butter (almond, peanut, coconut, tahini, etc.)

    4. Condiments, spices, oils & vinegar

  • Avocado oil

  • Cold press coconut oil

  • Extra virgin olive oil for cooking or salad dressings

  • Apple cider, balsamic, rice or red wine vinegar

  • Ghee (healthy butter alternative)

  • Mustard

  • Coconut amino acids (soy sauce alternative; make sure they are low in sodium)

  • Cumin, smoked paprika, chili, black pepper, curry, turmeric and other colorful spices

  • Sriracha

  • Honey, agave, monk fruit extract and other healthy sweeteners

    5. Shelf-stable fruits & veggies

  • Onions

  • Garlic

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Yellow, white and red potatoes

  • Squash or butternut

  • Bananas, apples, lemons, limes, oranges, grapes, blueberries

  • Avocado and tomatoes

  • Pro tip: Eat the rainbow! Mix and match all the colorful produce and fruits you can.

    6. Baking essentials

  • Almond, oat, coconut flours

  • Coconut sugar and honey

  • Dark chocolate chips

  • Baking soda/baking powder

  • Vanilla and almond extracts

Take this list with you the next time you go to the grocery store and fill your cart with everything you need for a well-stocked pantry! And be sure to shop the outer perimeters of the store for healthy fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein, too.

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Your journey to a healthier you

healthy food bowl

Choosing to eat clean brings so many benefits to your overall well-being. Above all, it’s about how the foods you consume make you feel, and the nutritional value they add to your daily activities—so you can live your best life, and fine-tune it as you go along.

Remember: it’s about balance, not restriction. Eating healthy isn’t about swearing off foods that aren’t nutritious; while you don’t want your pantry to look like a kid’s birthday party spread, it’s okay to have that donut or finish your bag of Cheetos on occasion.

As long as you’re eating more nutrient-rich foods than junk food, you’ll be able to sustain a healthy way of eating. And a smart, focused supplement plan helps fill in any dietary gaps—so that you can nurture your body so that it functions optimally.


By: Jessica Monge, Health & Wellness Writer

Jessica Monge has a bachelor's degree in biological sciences & neuroscience and a master's degree in comparative studies and related languages from Florida Atlantic University. She worked as a tutor, freelance writer and editor before joining Life Extension as a Copywriter.

Scientifically Reviewed By: Michael A. Smith, MD