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Nutritionist Jessica Sepel reveals the pantry ingredients she swears by for good health

A top nutritionist has offered a look inside her pantry, and shared the nine items she always has on hand that mean she is able to whip up a quick and nutritious meal.

Jessica Sepel, from Sydney, said it’s important to have a well-stocked pantry if you’re trying to be healthy, otherwise it can become all too tempting to reach for the takeaway menu.

‘These are my nine pantry staples,’ Jessica posted on her Instagram page, alongside a grid that included staples such as brown rice, tuna, spices, pasta and good quality pasta sauce.

So what does she swear by?

The first thing Jessica said she always makes sure she has is rice cakes, which means if she needs a snack, she is always able to take a wholegrain rice cake and spread it with nut butter or some avocado from the fridge. 

‘Some of my favourite snacks include rice cakes with half an avocado or rice cakes with almond butter, sliced banana pieces and cinnamon,’ Jessica said.

She sources hers from health food stores, but you can find them at major supermarkets too.

The nutritionist also said she likes to keep a jar or two of quality pasta sauce inside her pantry – so she can use it for pasta dishes and ragus. 

Jessica explained that the good thing about having wholemeal pasta and good quality pasta sauce is that you can always make a lunch or dinner within 20 minutes.

If you want to make it healthier, you can always bulk up your dish with plenty of vegetables.

Tuna is a staple in many households, and Jessica’s is no exception. 

‘Tinned tuna is an easy and affordable protein source,’ Jessica said. 

‘When purchasing tuna look for varieties in spring water or if tinned in oil, look for brands that use extra virgin olive oil.’

The nutritionist uses the protein source to make salads, wraps and quick pasta dishes.

It also works well in warm salad or so-called ‘buddha’ bowls.

There aren’t many nutritionists who will say you shouldn’t have brown rice in your pantry.

Jessica uses hers several times each week to go alongside curries, stews and warm salads.

‘Brown rice has a nuttier flavour and is more chewy than white rice,’ she said. 

Jessica especially likes to have it with salmon, or even in a healthy fried rice with onion, garlic, kale, tamari, egg, sesame seeds and chilli flakes.

Whether it’s lentils, beans or chickpeas, an array of legumes should always have pride of place in your pantry.

‘Tinned beans and lentils are not only affordable and practical, they are also incredibly nutritious,’ she said.

‘One serving of legumes (around ½ a cup) contains a whopping 7-9 grams of dietary fibre and as much as 8 grams of protein. 

‘They also contain close to zero saturated fat and are a source of B vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese and zinc.’

Use them in soups, hummus, bolognese sauce, on toast, in a bowl or in a curry. 

Jessica also loves to have an assortment of nut butters on hand, including almond butter, peanut butter and an assorted spread.

She uses them on rice cakes, in desserts and even with carrot sticks if she needs a snack.

Spices should be a mainstay of any good pantry.

Jessica’s favourites include chilli flakes, curry powder, cinnamon and tamari.

‘A little spice makes everything nice! I love topping my meals with a pinch of chilli flakes to add an extra punch of flavour,’ Jessica said.

Alongside rice cakes, Jessica said she loves to keep seed crackers in her pantry.

These are great to snack on alone or have with hummus or nut butters. 

If she’s particularly under time pressure, the nutritionist said she uses them to make a five-minute working lunch with Yumi’s pumpkin hummus, avocado, goats cheese, tomatoes and rocket.

Finally, Jessica said you can’t go wrong with having some pasta in your kitchen cupboards. 

She goes for the wholegrain or pulse variety, as she said it’s healthier and more gentle on the stomach.

Some of Jessica’s favourite things to make with the pasta is a creamy broccoli pasta or a tomato and basil with zucchini pasta.

She said pasta doesn’t have to be unhealthy if you pack it with plenty of vegetables. 

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