10 of the best pantry essentials (plus recipes) for people with diabetes

Friday, 17 April 2020

Are you at home in self-isolation or quarantine, or simply trying to spend less time out shopping? A cleverly stocked pantry of non-perishable foods is a great way to minimise your trips to the store.

Many shelf-stable foods also have a minimal effect on your blood glucose levels, and you may even already have some in your pantry or freezer.

Here’s our top 10 pantry essentials, plus dietitian-approved recipes to give you ideas on nutritious meals and snacks.

  1. Canned foods (salt reduced)

Nutritionally speaking, many canned products are comparable to their cooked fresh or frozen counterparts. Canned foods such as chickpeas, beans, vegetables, lentils, corn kernels, and tomatoes are available all year round. It’s a good idea to drain and rinse canned foods before using to reduce the salt (sodium) content.

Being at home means your fresh produce can dwindle so canned varieties are an healthy alternative. Canned fruit in natural juice is a great way to enjoy fruit and still be able to meet the dietary guidelines of two a day.

Canned fish in spring water gives you a boost of heart healthy omega 3 fats and can assist in reducing inflammation.

Try this frittata recipe if you have canned salmon, potatoes and eggs in your pantry.

  1. Dry goods

Dry goods are usually the least expensive and most versatile ingredients in your kitchen. Flour is an essential and can be used to make homemade pizza bases, fresh pasta or bread. Some healthy alternatives to white flour include whole wheat, whole meal spelt, quinoa, oat or almond flour.

Dry beans like kidney beans, garbanzo, black or cannellini, as well as lentils and legumes are a great source of protein and fibre. For people living with diabetes, eating a diet high in fibre helps slow glucose absorption and keeps blood glucose levels stable. Fibre is especially important for older people.

Why not try this high fibre lentil soup on a cold day?

  1. Breakfast cereal and rolled oats

Breakfast cereals or old fashioned oats are nutrient dense and can make fibre-rich, quick and handy mini meals or snacks. Use up old bananas with a cup of oats to make these tasty banana oat bars.

  1. Powdered or long life milk

Milk is a powerhouse of essential nutrients: protein, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous as well as vitamins A, D, B2 and B12. Long life milk can be stored in the pantry at room temperature for months before being opened. Powdered milk has the water reduced or removed. There is little nutrition difference. Buy the one you enjoy the most.

  1. Rice, grains and pasta

Brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, buckwheat, whole grain pasta and whole wheat couscous are nutrient-rich grains to stock up on, and they can be used as a side dish or mixed with proteins and vegetables. This tuna couscous salad is quick to prepare and is made with canned tuna, canned sweetcorn and a cup of couscous.

  1. Oil and vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil and balsamic vinegar are essential to giving life to your food as they add flavour, zing and can liven up even the most boring meals.

  1. Dried fruit

Prunes, apricots, raisins, cranberries and figs are sweet yet they are a great source of iron, fibre and antioxidants. Dried fruit are nutritious but energy dense so stick to your serves – a serve of dried fruit is about ¼ of cup.

Why not try this date and muesli slice for morning tea?

  1. Unsalted nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are good sources of healthy fats, fibres, vitamin E, vitamin B6, Niacin, folate and minerals – magnesium, zinc, calcium, copper, selenium, phosphorus and potassium. Add to breakfast cereals or meals for extra protein. Nut butters are great alternatives for those who have difficulty chewing.

These chickpea and nut cakes make a delicious savoury meal.

  1. Savoury crackers

Vita-weat, Ryvita, 9 grains or five super seeds are savoury crackers that are lower in saturated fat and higher in fibre that can last in the pantry for months. Try storing in airtight container or zip lock bags to maintain freshness once opened.

  1. Dry herbs and spices

Herbs and spices turn boring, flavourless food into a mouth-watering creations. There is no expiration date for herbs and spices but a good way to determine their potency is to give them a sniff. If you can’t smell your spices, you most likely will not be able to taste them in your food. Spices have a long shelf life if stored in air-tight containers away from heat and sunlight.

Having these basics on hand provides the foundations to a variety of meals that can be adapted to whatever fresh produce you have available.


Dyala Al Jabi, Accredited Practising Dietitian

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