These dietitian-approved staples to keep in your kitchen will help ensure you have healthy meals from breakfast to dinner, while keeping your blood sugar in check.

Victoria Seaver, M.S., R.D.
Updated March 31, 2020
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Keeping your pantry supplied with these diabetes-friendly foods can make mealtimes easier while helping to keep your blood sugars in a healthy range. These convenient ingredients follow the principles of a diabetes-friendly diet, so what you'll see are heart-healthy fats (like olive oil), high-fiber whole grains and legumes, lean protein, low-salt seasonings, healthy fruit-based sweet treats and plenty of shelf-stable fruits and veggies. This list will take the guesswork out of what to buy and with the simple recipe ideas to go with each item, it'll be easy to know what to make, too.

No-Salt Seasonings

Pictured Recipe: Crazy Herb Spice Mix

No-salt seasonings, like Mrs. Dash, homemade seasoning blends and many store-bought spices blends, are great for enhancing the flavor of a dish, without the need for too much salt. Spice mixes are convenient ingredients to have on hand as they can quickly and easily turn a bland recipe into something super flavorful with just a few shakes. You can still use salt when you cook but by adding it yourself, you have better control over how much you use . Here are a few basic spice blends to keep handy:

  • Italian seasoning
  • Curry powder
  • Taco or fajita seasoning
  • Lemon pepper

What to Make:

Bean & Beef Taco Soup (sub in spice blends for the different spices in these recipes)

Vinegars & Heart-Healthy Oils

Pictured Recipe: Citrus Vinaigrette

Some examples of heart-healthy oils include olive oil, sesame oil and canola oil. Made from plants, these oils are low in (or free of) saturated fat, which tends to harm our heart when eaten too often. Different oils impart different flavors and also have different uses in cooking. Olive oil is great in salad dressings and medium-heat cooking, where canola oil is often used for higher-heat applications, like frying. (You can read more about what oils to use when here.) Infused olive oils are also a nice option—try lemon-infused olive oil (citron oil) drizzled over fish, chicken, vegetables or salad greens for a burst of flavor without adding salt.

Vinegar is the other part of the equation—it can be used in combination with one of these oils to create yummy dressings, or can be mixed with water and herbs to make quick-pickles. Just like the oils, each oil imparts different flavors and and are used in different ways. Here are some basic oils and vinegars to keep stocked in your kitchen:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Canola oil or grapeseed oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Red-wine vinegar
  • Rice vinegar

What to Make:

Nuts & Seeds

Pictured Recipe: Curried Cashews

Nuts and seeds are great sources of heart-healthy fats and they also deliver a small dose of fiber and protein. Nuts and seeds make for a great snack or salad topper and when turned into a nut butter, it can top toast, add flavor in an energy ball (and help keep it from falling apart) and make your morning smoothie extra creamy. The combination of healthy fats, plus a little fiber and protein, will help keep you feeling fuller for longer and will help prevent your blood sugars from going too high, too quickly. Go for the unsalted versions to cut back on added sodium. Here are a few versatile staples to keep in your kitchen:

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Chia seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

What to Make:

No-Salt-Added Canned Beans and Low-Sodium Bean Soups

Pictured Recipe: Vegetarian Black-Bean Soup

No-salt-added canned beans—such as white, black, kidney, and chickpeas—are full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Canned beans are very versatile, which means you won't get bored of using the same beans over and over again. Drain and rinse the beans to get rid of the excess liquid before adding to salads, blending into a dip or mixing into soups. Or go with an even easier option and pick up a few cans of low-sodium bean soups for a ready-to-eat meal. Stir in vegetables and lean meats with your canned soup for a semi-homemade meal that delivers extra nutrients and satisfying protein. Here are some beans and soups to keep in your kitchen:

  • Black beans
  • White beans (or cannellini beans)
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Minestrone soup
  • Tuscan-style white bean soup
  • Bean and barley soup

What to Make:

Canned Tuna, Salmon & Chicken

Pictured Recipe: Easy Salmon Cakes

Canned tuna, salmon and chicken are great protein add-ons for soups, salads, casseroles and sandwiches—no cooking needed! Keeping a few cans of each of these healthy proteins on hand means you can make a delicious and nutritious meal in minutes.

  • Canned albacore tuna, packed in water
  • Skinless, boneless canned salmon
  • Canned chicken, packed in water

What to Make:

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip (sub in canned chicken)

Whole Grains

Whole grains, like whole-wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal are key components of a healthy diet for diabetes. Whereas refined grains (like white pasta and bread) are processed in a way that removes most of the fiber, whole grains deliver a hefty dose of fiber, which has so many amazing health benefits, and in particular plays a important role in blood-sugar management. Fiber slow down digestion which in turn slows down how quickly the glucose from the carbs enter your blood stream. So, by going with whole grains, your blood sugar is less likely spike too high, too quickly. Here are some healthy whole grains to keep on hand:

  • Old-fashioned oats
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Whole-wheat pastas
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Whole-wheat couscous

What to Make:

No-Salt-Added Canned Veggies & Canned Tomatoes

No-salt-added canned vegetables and canned tomatoes are high in nutrition and convenience. Keeping a few cans in your pantry (or a few bags of frozen veggies in your freezer) means you'll always be able to incorporate veggies to your meal, even when you haven't been able to get to the store. Canned tomatoes can be turned into a delicious pasta sauce, a veggie-packed soup or a flavorful curry. Canned veggies can be drained and enjoyed as a simple side or can be mixed into casseroles, stir-fry recipes, pastas and soups. If you can't find no-salt-added canned veggies, drain and rinse them well to get rid of as much sodium as possible. Here are a few cans to keep in your kitchen for easy, healthy meals:

  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Canned crushed tomatoes
  • Canned whole tomatoes
  • Canned corn
  • Canned carrots
  • Canned green beans
  • Canned peas

What to Make:

Sub in canned for fresh veggies in these recipes.

Canned Fruit in Its Own Juice

Pictured Recipe: Fresh Fruit Salad

Canned fruit in its own juice is a healthy lower-sugar option than canned fruit in the sugary syrup. If you can only find fruit packed in the sugar syrup, drain the syrup and give the fruit a good rinse under water to get rid of excess sugar. Mix canned fruit with fresh seasonal fruit for a more colorful salad. Try oatmeal or yogurt topped with diced canned peaches, apricots or pears and other pantry staples like nuts and seeds and use canned options to bake traditional fruit-forward desserts, like cobblers and crumbles. Here are some to keep on hand:

  • Canned pineapple
  • Canned peaches
  • Canned pears
  • Canned mandarin oranges
  • Canned mixed fruit

What to Make:

Sub in canned fruit for fresh or do half and half