Is there a way to maintain safe social distancing and avoid numerous trips to the supermarket while still eating heart-healthy dishes? BIDMC dietitian Elisabeth Moore, RD, says there is." I grew up in a Sicilian household and some of the typical ingredients we used came from the pantry. Lentils, olives, beans, chickpeas and dried herbs were the basis of many of our meals," she says. Here, she shares ideas for your family.

What are some time-saving tips that you recommend before going to the supermarket?

First, I always suggest that people prepare a list. This is especially important today, when you want to try to be in the store for as short a time as possible. Be very specific with the exact items and amounts that you need. Organize the list to follow the path that you'll take as you walk around the store, grouping items together (i.e., produce, canned goods, rice or pasta, etc.)

I recommend breaking food preparation into several steps.

As soon as you get home from the supermarket, wash your hands and wipe down counters, then chop any vegetables that you'll need for your recipe. (If it's more convenient, many vegetables are also available pre-cut.) Fresh vegetables can be chopped and frozen for future use.

Also, plan for at least two meals with some overlapping ingredients so that when it comes time to do the prep work, you only have to do things once.

What pantry items do you recommend keeping on hand?

There are a number of items that provide the foundation for heart-healthy dishes. A good rule of thumb to follow: Combine one type of bean, with one type of vegetable and one type of grain for a nutritious main dish.

The following choices have a long shelf life:

  • Any type of canned or dried beans
  • Brown rice (either regular or par-boiled, fast cooking rice - try to avoid pre-seasoned rice, which may be high in sodium.
  • Quinoa (either regular or fast-cooking variety)
  • Tomato puree, diced tomatoes, or stewed tomatoes, look for low-sodium varieties
  • Unsalted nuts of any kind, including almonds, pecans and walnuts
  • Low sodium/no-salt added canned vegetables (corn, green beans, mushrooms, beets)
  • Low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • Olive oil
  • Dried herbs/spices, such as rosemary, basil, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, pepper
  • Canned tuna, salmon or chicken, preferably packed in water

How can you keep down salt intake when using pantry foods?

Always read the labels! Remember to look at the amount of salt contained per serving and pay attention to how many servings you are eating. For people following a low-sodium diet, try to keep sodium intake to a total of 1,500 - 2,000 mg. per day. When possible, buy low-salt or no sodium canned goods. If those are not available, thoroughly rinse beans or vegetables before cooking to remove excess salt. Try to balance salt intake throughout the day. It's easy to forget that a single serving of a processed snack food might contain as much as 500 mg. of sodium!

How about sugar?

Again, always read labels with attention to added sugars, and be aware of portion sizes. For example, check the ingredients in cold cereals and look for choices that are higher in fiber and lower in sugar. Also be aware that many condiments and prepared pasta sauces are high in both salt and sugar.

Now that the whole family is home together, how can children get involved at meal time?

Homemade pizza is always a good option, since children can have the opportunity to add their choice of toppings. Whatever you have available in terms of leftover vegetables, fresh or frozen, as well as leftover chicken, can become creative options for kids to put atop their pizzas. Quesadillas are another good option for family meal preparation, using any leftovers for fillings.

Recipes From the Pantry

Vegetarian Chocolate Chili

Serves 4


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 28-oz. can tomato puree, no salt added
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 oz. dark chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped


  1. Brown onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Add diced tomatoes, tomato puree, black beans and cannellini beans to slow cooker. Mix all together. Stir in dark chocolate, chili powder and cumin.
  3. Cook on low for 4 hours. (Add water if you prefer chili to be thinner.) Serve garnished with fresh cilantro.

Nutrition Facts

Total calories per serving: 185; Total fat: 5g; Saturated fat: 1.5g; Total cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 20mg; Total carbohydrates: 29g; Total fiber: 10g; Sugar: 4g; Protein: 8g

Quick & Easy Bean Salad

Serves 12


  • 1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed
  • 1 15-oz can kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1 15-oz can artichoke hearts, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon


  1. Drain and rinse all beans and artichoke hearts very well.
  2. Chop artichoke hearts into pieces.
  3. In a small bowl, combine herbs, oil and lemon juice and mix together. Add to beans and artichoke hearts and toss.

Nutrition Facts

Total calories 216; Total fat 3g; Saturated fat 0g; Cholesterol 0g; Sodium 20mg; Total carbohydrates 37g; Fiber 10g; Sugar 1g; Protein 11g

Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes and Beans

Serves 5


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 ½ cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder


  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add quinoa, lower heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed.
  3. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  4. Put sweet potato in a bowl and coat with 1 tablespoon oil. Place in single layer on a cookie sheet and roast for about 15 minutes or until tender.
  5. Combine quinoa, sweet potato, beans and spices in a bowl.

Nutrition Facts

Total calories 157; Total fat 4g; Saturated fat 0g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 11mg; Total carbohydrate 25g; Dietary fiber 6.5g; Sugars 1.5g; Protein 7g


Above content provided by the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

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