Five pantry staples for easy family meals

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Posted on August 02 2019

Five pantry staples for easy family meals

As a dietitian, a lot of people think my kitchen is stocked to the brim with fancy products like matcha, acai powder and coconut oil – but let me tell you, that’s certainly not the case. Instead, simple everyday staples make up the majority of my weekly grocery haul. Not only are they nutritious, but cheap, delicious and easy to use, too, which is perfect when catering for a family. Here’s what they are.

1. Microwave rice cups

When you’re short on time, why bother boiling up a whole batch of rice? With a microwave rice cup, the hard work is done for you – simply zap and add to healthy stir fries, stuffed capsicums or even a tasty soup when it’s cold outside.

I’d recommend you opt for a brown basmati variety over something like white jasmine for a couple of reasons. For one, brown rice is a ‘wholegrain’, so it’s got more fibre and micronutrients than a refined variety. And two, basmati rice is long grain (whereas jasmine is short), which makes it low GI – that means you’ll have long lasting energy and a less dramatic spike in blood sugars.

2. Tinned tomatoes

A can of chopped tomatoes is a healthy base for many different dishes. I throw them into anything and everything from pasta sauce to chilli con carne and even soup. It’s a much healthier alternative to high sodium store-bought sauces that are bad for heart health.

3. Tinned tuna


Perfect for the end of the week when your fresh supplies are running low, a handy tin of tuna can be paired with pasta, made into patties or cooked into casseroles. Hey, even a toasted tuna sambo is okay by me every once in a while!

Tuna is a great choice as it's rich in protein to support growing muscles. It’s also a good source of healthy omega-3 fats that are key for heart and brain health.

4. Canned beans

A lot of people are surprised to learn just how much I love my legumes – but they are one of the few foods I think actually deserve the title of ‘superfood’. They’re rich in fibre to support a healthy gut, as well as quality carbs for long-lasting energy and hunger-busting protein.

It’s easier than you probably think to incorporate legumes into your diet, too. Some of my top suggestions are adding lentils to bolognese, roasting chickpeas for a crunchy snack or adding beans to winners like tacos and nachos. A weekend family breakfast of homemade baked beans also gets my tick of approval. ✔︎✔︎

5. Wholemeal pasta

wholemeal pastaAnd last but not least – pasta makes the cut! Trust me when I say it’s really not the bad guy it’s made out to be. Again, I’d recommend a wholegrain option, but also suggest that you focus on sensible portions. Rather than a huge pile of penne, a healthy serve is just one cup of cooked pasta per person. That leaves plenty of room on the plate to sneak in those all-important veggies that are often missing in pasta-based dishes. 
And there you have it! My top five staples that make for nutritious and delicious meals the whole family will love.


By Melissa Meier

Melissa Meier is an online and Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.


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