Inspired living

How to create a healthy pantry

Healthy kitchen

Credit: istock

Creating a healthier lifestyle is a gradual process and one of the best places for you to start is in the pantry. Making small and consistent changes every day will lead to big changes in your life.

Stocking your pantry with nourishing staples will ensure you’re always prepared with healthy options. Go through your existing items and check use-by dates. If a product is still within its shelf life, donate it to a local charity or someone in need. As your items run out, replace them with healthier options.

When you’re in need of some cooking inspiration, keep these key go-to ingredients in your pantry. They partner especially well with vegetables and can be used to add nutrition, flavour and bulk to your dishes.

  • Quinoa is highly nutritious, gluten-free, a good source of iron and protein and contains healthy fats. It is a pure protein, which means it has all the essential amino acids your body needs to build muscle. Quinoa contains the amino acid lysine, vitamin B6, thiamine, niacin, potassium and riboflavin, as well as copper, zinc, magnesium and folate.
  • Coconut flakes boost metabolism and are a great source of fibre and healthy fats. They balance hormones, too, and contribute to a happy and healthy thyroid. Coconut is a good source of iron and zinc.
  • Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, often a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It’s a great source of B-complex vitamins and is a complete protein.
  • Buckwheat contains the eight essential amino acids and several minerals including zinc, iron, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, copper and magnesium. It is high in B vitamins, which are essential for energy production and digestive function.
  • Sunflower seeds contain bone-healthy minerals such as calcium, magnesium and copper. They’re also a good source of vitamin E, which helps ease arthritic pain.
  • Seaweed helps alkalise the body and wakame seaweed is an excellent source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, C, E, K, folate and soluble and insoluble fibre. Seaweed has a high amount of anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acid.
  • Pepitas or pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, a vital mineral for the immune system and wound healing.
  • Tamari is a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce. Tamari provides niacin vitamin B3, manganese and protein, plus the essential amino acid tryptophan, which contributes to the production of serotonin, to stabilise mood and promote healthy sleep.
  • Coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat that supports immune system function. It contains lauric acid, a proven antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal agent, and is easily digested and absorbed. Coconut oil helps the body eliminate toxins and absorb beneficial nutrients from food, and improves digestion. Buy cold- or expeller-pressed and unrefined coconut oil. It’s a safe oil for cooking as it has a high burning point.

Why not try these delicious vegetarian recipes from my book Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian?

Mint Choc Chip Smoothie

Serves: 2
Prep time: 10 mins



  • 1 banana (frozen)
  • 1 cup spinach (can be frozen)
  • ¼ cup nut butter
  • ½ avocado, peeled
  • Handful fresh mint leaves or a tsp alcohol-free peppermint essence
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • ½ cup coconut water
  • 3 tbsp cacao nibs
  • Handful ice (optional)
  1. Blend all ingredients apart from cacao nibs in a powerful blender until smooth. Add cacao nibs and blend for another 5–10 seconds. Pour into a tall glass and serve.

Amaranth & Walnut Pumpkin Porridge

Serves: 2
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 25 mins



  • ½ cup walnuts (toasted)
  • ½ cup amaranth (pre-soaked) or gluten-free oats
  • 1½ cups coconut milk or almond milk
  • ¼ pumpkin (boiled or steamed & puréed)
  • Pinch Celtic sea salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp alcohol-free vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup coconut flakes, toasted
  • 1 tbsp rice malt syrup to sweeten (optional)
  1. Dry roast walnuts in a pan and set aside. Drain and rinse amaranth really well.
  2. Combine amaranth, coconut milk, pumpkin purée, salt, spices, vanilla and lemon zest in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn temperature down to the lowest setting and simmer, stirring often for 15 minutes, keeping the lid on. If you need to add more coconut milk at this stage, do so. Let sit for 10 mins and then fluff with a fork.
  3. Spoon into two wide-mouth bowls, drizzle with coconut milk and rice malt syrup, if using, and sprinkle with walnuts and toasted coconut flakes.

Lettuce & Coconut

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins



  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 1L vegetable stock
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  1. In a heavy-based pan, heat coconut oil and add garlic and onion. Add stock, bring to the boil and reduce heat to low, simmering for about five mins. Add lettuce and simmer until soft. Season to taste.
  2. Purée soup with a hand blender then add coconut milk and stir until heated.

Caramelised Onion & Rosemary Tart

Serves: 8
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 60 mins



  • ¾ cup raw unsalted cashews
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup filtered water
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large brown onions, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp rice malt syrup
  • Freshly squeezed black pepper
  • 1½ cups spinach & kale leaves
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ cups almond meal
  • ½ tsp Celtic Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp filtered cold water
  1. Place cashews, garlic, salt, lemon juice and filtered water in a food processor and process until thick and creamy. Add more water if needed.
  2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and cook onions with salt and rice malt syrup until caramelised, about 30 mins. Add spinach and kale and cook until tender. Drain off any excess liquid and add apple cider vinegar.
  3. To make the pastry, preheat the oven to 180°C. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, salt, bicarb soda and rosemary. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and water. Stir the wet mixture into dry until combined. Spoon pastry into a lightly greased 20cm pie dish and press, removing any excess. Partially bake for 10 mins.
  4. Remove crust from oven and let cool slightly before filling. Place cashew cream on top of cooled crust, then add onion mixture. Return to the oven and bake for a further 15 mins until crust is golden.


Lee Holmes

Lee Holmes is a nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher, wholefoods chef, Lifestyle Food Channel’s Healthy Eating Expert, blogger and author of the best-selling books Supercharged Food: Eat Your Way to Health, Supercharged Food: Eat Yourself Beautiful, Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian, Heal your Gut, Eat Right for Your Shape and Supercharged Food for Kids.

Lee’s food philosophy is all about S.O.L.E. food: sustainable, organic, local and ethical. Her main goal is to alter the perception that cooking fresh, wholesome, nutrient-rich meals is difficult, complicated and time-consuming. From posting recipes, her passion to share her autoimmune disease story and help others has snowballed and the blog has recently taken home the overall prize at the Bupa Health Influencer Awards as well as the best blog in the Healthy Eating category. She also runs a four-week online Heal Your Gut program.