10 Pantry Essentials for the Gluten-Free, Vegan or Paleo Diet
It’s happened to the best of us. You start cooking dinner only to discover halfway through that you’re missing that oh-so-essential ingredient. If you’re working with a dietary restriction, this has probably happened more than once. Avoiding this frustration is as simple as keeping a well stocked pantry! Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, or just interested in having plenty of healthy meal options on hand, we have 10 pantry staples for any diet.
The Gluten-Free Pantry
Living a gluten-free lifestyle can seem challenging, but a well-stocked pantry makes it a whole lot easier. By keeping a few staples on hand, you’ll be able to ensure that you have the components to create a gluten-free meal that satisfies your dietary needs, and your taste buds, at any time. Here’s our list of 10 gluten-free pantry essentials:
- Raw Cashews: it’s a good idea to have plenty of nuts and seeds around in general if you’re building a gluten-free pantry. They’re super easy to toss in a salad, grain bowl, or to have as a snack, and many nuts and seeds can be ground down and used for other purposes in cooking and baking. Raw cashews are particularly great because they can be blended up with a little water to create a thickening agent in soups and sauces.
- Buckwheat: don’t be deterred by the fact that the name has wheat in it! Buckwheat is a gluten-free grain packed full of protein, iron, zinc and selenium. You can have it for breakfast or grind it down to a flour to make buckwheat pancakes.
- Millet: not just for the birds! This gluten-free ‘grain’ (technically it’s a seed), is a versatile addition to many meals and therefore a fantastic pantry staple. It has a rice-like texture when cooked, and can be used for cereal, as a base for stews, in casseroles, and stuffing.
- Quinoa: another ‘grain’ that is technically a seed. Quinoa is an ancient grain and one that’s a complete protein (meaning it has all of the necessary amino acids to be considered a complete source of protein). It’s also a great source of calcium, which is good for gluten-free and dairy-free diets. Quinoa is great in salads, as a pasta replacement, in soups and stews, chili, and much more.
- Brown rice pasta: sometimes you just want a bowl of pasta. However, when you’re gluten-free that’s not always an easy task! Enter brown rice pasta – the answer to your gluten-free pasta dreams.
- Gluten-free flour: if you love to bake, it’s a good idea to keep an all-purpose gluten-free flour mix on hand so you can whip up cakes, muffins, cookies, pancakes or whatever you’re feeling, in a pinch!
- Oats: gluten-free oats are a great addition to any diet! Oats help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol, as well as blood pressure, and they may reduce the risk of heart disease. They help you feel fuller longer, and are full of soluble fiber, protein, healthy fats, and lower in carbohydrates than most other whole grains.
- Almond meal: almond meal is made from grinding almonds with the skin as opposed to almond flour, which is ground almonds without the skin (also great!). It can be used as a replacement for breadcrumbs, and is also a great addition to baking. It adds a nutty flavor, awesome texture, and reduces carbohydrates – win!
- Tamari: a thicker, less salty, fermented soy sauce that contains little to no wheat (depending on the brand). Tamari is made from soy beans and goes great in both Asian and non-Asian cooking – in marinades, in soups, in salads etc. It adds that great umami flavour!
- Gluten-free crackers: A good idea to have on hand when the urge to snack strikes! Eat them with cheese or your favourite gluten-free dip whether it’s hummus, guacamole, salsa or spinach & artichoke.
The Vegan/Vegetarian Pantry
No matter how busy life gets, stocking your pantry with these meatless essentials will help make impromptu meals that much easier. Here are the 10 vegan/vegetarian staples we recommend having on hand to avoid last-minute trips to the grocery store:
- Almond milk: soy or coconut works too – whatever you’re into! Almond milk is great in cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, coffee, baked goods, curries and more. It’s a heart-healthy, low-calorie, nutrient-dense dairy alternative.
- Cashews: having a stash of raw cashews on hand will come in handy in several different scenarios. Use them in nut butters, sauces, baked goods or to make a vegan cheese!
- Quinoa: quinoa is a great grain for vegans and vegetarians because it’s a complete protein. Plus, it’s easy to throw a quick meal together with quinoa and whatever veggies, nuts and seeds you’ve got kicking around.
- Canned tomatoes: tomatoes are a great source of lycopene – a powerful antioxidant that helps the body fight free radicals and promotes strong bones. They are high in vitamins C, A and K, and can help lower cholesterol. There is an endless array of dishes that call for tomatoes from chili to a veggie lasagna.
- Nutritional yeast: contains a whopping 18 essential amino acids and is another complete protein. It also packs a mean nutritional punch (as the name suggests) with vitamins B & B12, a vitamin that vegans can become deficient in on an otherwise balanced plant-strong diet. Nutritional yeast is used in place of cheese in many vegan dishes, and can be sprinkled over almost any meal for some extra kick and flavour.
- Flax seeds: flax seeds are full of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and antioxidants. Some call them one of the planet’s most powerful foods - recent studies show that they may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Flax should be ground to glean all of the nutritional benefits – you can mix it with just about anything (think sauces, cereals, yogurts, salads, smoothies, etc) to get some valuable nutrients.
- Chickpeas: chickpeas are a good source of protein and with a nutlike taste and buttery texture – a valuable addition to any vegan or vegetarian pantry. They can be soaked and blended to create hummus or falafel or cooked and added to some grains and veggies for a heart healthy lunch or dinner.
- Nut butter: besides being another great source of protein, nut butters are rich in fiber, and a good source of monounsaturated fats (one of the ‘good fats’). Nut butters can stabilize blood and sugar levels, giving you valuable energy and limiting food cravings throughout the day.
- Veggie bouillon cubes: having these small, flavourful cubes in your kitchen will ensure you’re ready to whip up a soup, stew or chili in no time. You can also kick up the flavour of your favourite grains by simmering them in veggie broth. Look for cubes that are low in sodium.
- Tamari: a soy based sauce that’s low in wheat and high in umami flavour. It’s that satisfying taste that lends a savoury quality to your favourite veggie dishes.
The Paleo Pantry
These 10 paleo pantry essentials are delicious, versatile, and high in protein and good-quality fats.
- Almond flour: it's high in protein, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats, and makes a great substitute for gluten and grain flours. Another good option is coconut flour, which is packed with dietary fiber and protein. Even if baking isn't your thing, having flour can come in handy for thickening sauces or breading meats.
- Kimchi: eating fermented foods is a great way to increase the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system, and may even help fight certain cancers. Kimchi can help with the absoroption of iron. Use it in an omelet, on rice, or eat it on its own.
- Raw honey: it's an energy booster and contains only monosaccharides (single sugars), which makes it easier for the body to absorb and process. Raw honey is full of enzymes and antioxidants and has anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties.
- Apple sweetened dried cranberries: eat a handful between meals for an energy boost or toss them in your favourite salad. Cranberries are a great source of vitamin C and fiber.
- Coconut oil: a healthy fat extracted from the ‘meat’ of the coconut. It has many beneficial properties, including (but not limited to) boosting metabolism and the immune system, improving nutrient absorption, helping protect against kidney disease and bladder infections, and improving heart health. It is heat-stable, slow to oxidize, and resistant to rancidity, making it great to cook and bake with.
- Apple cider vinegar: in addition to its great health benefits, it's useful to have some apple cider vinegar on hand to whip up a homemade salad dressing and to add flavour to many of your favourite dishes.
- Raw walnuts: a whole food righ in 'good' fats and protein, with a moderate amount of carbohydrates. Walnuts are rich in manganese, magnesium, zinc and iron. They also contain a good number of vitamins, notably B vitamins. Add them to your yogurt, cereal, salad, or eat them as a snack!
- Almond butter: do you really need to be convinced to keep some delicious and nutritious almond butter on hand? Besides being rich in taste, it's got plenty of protein, fiber, and essential fatty acids. Use it as a spread, mixed into sauces and dressings or eat it straight up!
- Sun-dried tomatoes: super rich in fiber and protein, a one-cup serving of sun-dried tomatoes has 39% of the recommended daily intake of potassium. They go great in omelets, salads, and as a snack!
- Dijon mustard: a great paleo condiment to have on hand. Use it in marinades, rubs, dressings and sauces.