The pantry can be a place for quality foods – canned wild-caught salmon, almond flour noodles, quality cooking oils and all of your favorite sauces and condiments made without sugar. The pantry can also house the usual carb suspects – chips, cookies, crackers, pasta, cereal and bread. If you’re not careful, this cool and dark space could derail your best efforts to eat foods that make you feel your best.
Follow these 8 easy steps and you’ll be well on your way to having a pantry that feeds your body in the way that your genes expect you to be fed.
1. Unload the Junk Food
The first step toward a Primal-minded pantry is purging it of the wrong foods.
Sure, the Primal lifestyle involves flexibility, but the pantry is a place to be a little more rigid so that you can leave your flexibility for situations where you may have less control (for example, traveling or engaging in a business dinner).
Toss out anything that:
You’ve decided isn’t part of your lifestyle right now
Is overly processed
Makes you feel tired, slow, or causes other physical changes
You consider your “weakness”
If you get rid of things that might cause you to stumble, it’s easier to stay on the right path in your day-to-day life. You remove the burden of foods calling out to you every time you pass the pantry. After those are out of your home, you only have to make sound decisions at the grocery store.
This doesn’t mean you have to be wasteful. Deliver your unopened items to a food bank or other charity that would appreciate a food donation.
2. Stock Up on Nuts and Seeds
After getting rid of the items that don’t work, load up on quick snacks that do work. Raw almonds, walnuts, macadamias are some fantastic options that will stay fresh for at least a couple months. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are some other great options.
As with anything, just be sure to watch the flavored varieties. Certain natural flavorings are fine, but others introduce industrial seed oils and sugar to an otherwise quality snack. Keep an eye on ingredient labels.
3. Replace Industrial Seed Oils with Better Culinary Fats
Keep your pantry well-stocked with olive oil and avocado oil. You’ll be using on a daily basis. Fat does go rancid, though, so be sure to buy only as much oil as you’ll finish in a month.
We all have a sweet tooth. Sweet stuff tastes good to us because it’s quick energy that can be stored (as body fat – evolutionarily a good thing, not so great for modern life). So it’s normal for us to want some sweets in the pantry – just don’t go crazy with it and stick to acceptable sources. Honey is good to have on hand, as is semi-sweet dark chocolate (go for a good quality, mostly-cacao, low-sugar chocolate bar).
It’s also a good idea to stock your pantry with alternative flours and sweeteners that you can use to make healthier versions of your favorite bakery items. Some recipes to try:
Tea and coffee absolutely have a place in your pantry. In the Primal community, we love our coffee in the morning. Black, green, and herbal teas are a great mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up, as long as you don’t sip so late that you mess with your sleep.
I also always have on hand chai collagen mix and matcha collagen mix to get a serving of collagen through a lightly sweet, frothy latte.
6. Flavor, Flavor, Flavor
Healthy, clean eating often gets the bad rap of being bland and tasteless. Herbs, spices, sauces, marinades, and dressings will keep you from getting tired of eating the same old thing, and will inspire you to create new dishes based off of ingredients that you already use frequently.
Keep some jerky on hand for a quick protein snack – beef, buffalo, salmon, turkey, deer, moose. Even better, make your own jerky so that you get to choose what goes into your body. If you’ve never tried pemmican, take a crack at it. It’s a fan favorite recipe.
Keep in mind that most homemade jerky (or quality jerky purchased in a store) is less processed and will therefore go rancid much faster than the stuff you get at the truck stop. I somehow doubt, however, that eating your jerky on time will be a problem.
8. Canned Goods
You’ve ditched the canned beans and cherry pie filling, but don’t eschew the can altogether. It’s a good format for vegetables, and its convenience simply cannot be ignored. Canned tomatoes are just as good as most fresh tomatoes (sadly, it’s tough to find a good tomato nowadays). Pasta sauce made without sugar or industrial seed oils help along a quick dinner when you’re in a pinch. Artichoke hearts in the jar, canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix), canned salmon or sardines, and canned coconut milk are also staples to have on hand.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.