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One of the keys to starting and sustaining a heart-healthy lifestyle is creating a healthy environment that supports your new lifestyle. Making the initial investment into stocking your pantry with heart-healthy basics is like having money in the bank. You will have the foundation of what you need for most recipes, which makes it simple and easy for meal planning and preparation. A well-stocked kitchen is a culinary toolbox from which you can pull basic ingredients in order to simply add to your weekly fresh foods plus a few additional ingredients. It will also help to add variety to your daily meals and snacks.

A well-stocked kitchen is a culinary toolbox from which you can pull basic ingredients.

Here is a broad brushstroke of ideas for your plant-based culinary toolkit. It starts off with the basic staples of stocking your pantry; however, it’s important to know that you can add and omit ingredients to match your taste, needs and budget. Over time you may want to add to it as you discover different cuisines, tastes, and recipes.

The Basics

Spices and Herbs

(See Ornish Living article, Spice it Up; It’s Good For You! for more information on spices.)

  • Sweet: Allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, apple pie spice, pumpkin pie, vanilla bean, star anise
  • Savory: Bay leaf, onion powder, caraway, celery, chive, dill, lemon pepper, sage, cumin, cloves
  • Hot/Heat: Cayenne, chipotle, red pepper flakes, chili powder, black pepper, Cajun, paprika
  • Italian: Basil, oregano, garlic, thyme, rosemary
  • Asian: Chinese five-spice
  • Mexican: Coriander, epazote
  • Indian: Turmeric, curry powders, garam marsala, ginger
  • Seasonings: Seasoning blends, taco seasoning, wasabi, nutritional yeast
  • Dried Sea Vegetables: Dulse and nori flakes, kombu
  • Extracts: Vanilla, almond, lemon

Baking Basics

  • Powders: Baking powder; baking soda
  • Baking Ingredients to Replace Fat: Applesauce, dried prunes
  • Thickeners: Kuzu; agar agar; xanthum and guar gum; cornstarch; arrowroot; sweet rice flour
  • Sweeteners: Stevia powder or liquid, agave or honey, molasses, maple syrup, date sugar (use in limited amounts, see Ornish Living article, Not All Sweeteners Are Created Equal)
  • Carob Powder or Cocoa Powder: Green & Black’s; Hershey’s Chatfield’s; Dagoba; Scharffenberger (brands low in caffeine)
  • Fruit Spreads: use those that are all fruit and have no added sugars


  • Mustards: Dijon, brown or yellow
  • Ketchup (low sodium and sugar)
  • Horseradish
  • Vinegars: Balsamic – white or red; champagne; red wine vinegar; herb-infused vinegars
  • Rice Vinegars: Mirin; sweet rice wine vinegar; seasoned rice vinegar; brown rice; apple cider; umeboshi
  • Dry Sherry
  • Nonfat Salad Dressings 


  • Soy sauce
  • Tamari
  • Teriyaki
  • Liquid aminos such as Braggs
  • Natural liquid smoke
  • Sweet chili sauce
  • BBQ (no added oils)
  • Vegan Worcestershire
  • Balsamic glaze
  • Chutney
  • Hoisin
  • Tobacco
  • Cholula
  • Sriracha
  • Salsa
  • Enchilada sauce (no added oil)
  • Tomatillo sauce

Miso Pastes

  • Soy Miso – red, barley, brown rice, white
  • Chickpea
  • Adzuki Bean Miso

Canned and Pickled

  • Canned Tomatoes: tomato paste, diced, chopped, pureed tomatoes, tomato sauce, pizza sauce
  • Chilies: diced green chilies, chilies in adobo sauce
  • Capers

Broths, Soups and Bases

  • Vegetable Broths (no added oils)
  • Vegetable Bases (no added oils)
  • Vegetarian Soups (low-sodium, low-fat variety such as lentil, black bean, or vegan chili)


Beans and lentils are essential staples to a plant-based lifestyle, providing a good source of protein. They are packed with vital nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and iron, plus heart-healthy fiber. Just toss them in a salad or soup, pack them in a tortilla for a vegan taco or burrito, puree them to make a creamy base to a spread or dip, or enjoy them as a part of a hearty and satisfying entrée. A typical one cup serving of beans ranges from about 15-17 grams of protein, with soybeans peaking at 25 grams of protein cup, which is more than a three-ounce serving of meat.

Stock your kitchen with a variety dry beans for making a weekly pot of bean in your pressure or slow cooker or stove top.

Dry Beans, Lentils and Dried Peas: Adzuki, lima, black beans, black-eyed peas, cannellini, cranberry, kidney, garbanzo, Great Northern, navy, red, pinto, soy beans, split peas, lentils – red, yellow, brown, black and green

Canned Beans: Even if you generally cook your own beans, it is helpful to keep some canned or boxed beans, such as black beans, cannellini, garbanzo, pinto and vegan baked beans, non-fat refried beans, in the pantry for convenience.

Some Easy Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Recipes with Beans


Arugula Salad with Beets & Oranges (See Sample Menu 2)


Smoky Bean Tacos with Corn



Dips and Spreads


Edamole (Edamame Guacamole)

Whole Grains

There are so many fabulous whole grains to choose from, all packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and health-promoting phytochemicals. Keep a variety on hand based on your tastes and preferences.

Grains: Quinoa, oats, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, kasha, kamut, millet, teff, farro, freekeh, cornmeal, rice: short, medium and long grain, jasmine, basmati, brown, red and black, and wild

Whole Grain Pasta: Stock a variety of shapes such as spaghetti, penne, lasagna, whole-wheat couscous. Gluten-free pasta, such as brown rice pasta or quinoa are great for a gluten-free alternative.

Whole Grain Glours: Whole wheat, barley, amaranth, buckwheat, cornmeal, kamut, oat, brown rice, rye, spelt, teff, whole-wheat pastry flour

Gluten-Free Flours: Brown rice, garbanzo flour, all-purpose gluten free, amaranth, buckwheat, cornmeal, oat, teff, quinoa, sorghum, millet

Pre-cooked Polenta: Polenta is great to have on hand for a super quick and easy meal. There are so many ways to use it. For example, for a meal in a minute, just cut a few slices off the roll and add black beans, then heat it up, top with favorite salsa or tomatillo sauce,and if you have it on hand, add lots of fresh cilantro.

Whole Grain Cereals: There are many excellent whole grain cereals to choose from; however, some of simplest cereals can be the healthiest choices such as steel cuts oats, hot breakfast quinoa, whole grain oat O’s, or whole wheat shredded biscuits. Choose whole grain cereals with minimal ingredients that are high in fiber (ideally over three grams per 100 calories), no added fats and low in sugar (ideally with no added sugars and less than 4-5 grams per serving; a little more is okay if fruit sweetened, especially if a good source of fiber).

Ornish Recipes


Whole Grain Pasta

Mushroom Stroganoff

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

Apple Spice Muffins (See Sample Menu)

Silken Soy

Soft and extra-firm silken soy (morinu)

Ornish Recipes

Chocolate Pudding (See Sample Menu)

Grain Beverages: Grain Beverages (Pero, Postum, Inka, Coffree, Kaffree, Raja, Cafix, Teeccino, Bambu) green tea, herbal teas


Corn Kernels: For air-popped corn

Crackers: Low-fat whole grain crackers; brown or wild rice cakes;

Nuts: Dry-roasted soy nuts

Dried Fruit (without added oils): Dates, raisins, apricots, dried berries

What stables do you keep in your kitchen pantry?

Contributed by

Carra Richling
Registered Dietitian

Eat well, be well!

Better Health Begins With You...

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