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Starting a Mediterranean Pantry

Excerpted from The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd Edition: A Flavorful, Heart-Healthy Approach to Cooking (American Diabetes Association, May 2019, ISBN: 978-1-580-40702-1)

Best-selling author, chef, television personality, and educator Amy Riolo says a well-stocked pantry saves time, money, and stress when you’re ready to cook. And most importantly, it encourages you to eat healthfully. This essential checklist contains all the ingredients you’ll need to prepare delicious and nutritious Mediterranean-inspired meals.

Items to Stock in Your Pantry

The following items are categorized by where they are found in grocery stores.


  • Active dry yeast
  • Agave nectar
  • Almond extract
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • Cornmeal
  • Cornstarch
  • Flour, all-purpose, unbleached; barley; bread; chickpea; semolina; spelt; whole-wheat; whole-wheat pastry
  • Polenta
  • Salt, kosher
  • Sea salt, unrefined
  • Sugar, natural
  • Vanilla extract

Beans and Legumes

“I prefer using dried beans and legumes, but if you are not used to using them, or might need them to be ready to use in a pinch, I recommend keeping canned varieties on hand as well,” says Riolo.

  • Black beans, canned, reduced-sodium
  • Cannellini beans, canned, reduced-sodium
  • Chickpeas, canned, low-sodium
  • Lentils (brown), canned or dried, no-salt-added

Herbes de Provence (Dried)

  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

Italian Specialty

  • Anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil
  • Artichoke hearts, canned
  • Bread crumbs, plain
  • Capers, packed in water
  • Espresso coffee
  • Ladyfingers
  • Olives, green, black, Kalamata, Niçoise, and Gaeta
  • Roasted red peppers, jar
  • Tomato paste
  • Tomato purée
  • Tomatoes, canned, low-sodium (diced and fire-roasted)
  • Tuna, canned, packed in water


  • Dijon mustard
  • Garlic
  • Granola, low-fat, almond
  • Honey

Nuts and Dried Fruit

  • Almonds, blanched
  • Chestnuts, jar, whole, roasted or steamed
  • Dates
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios, shelled
  • Raisins
  • Walnuts

Oils and Vinegars

  • Corn or vegetable oil, expeller-pressed
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Olive oil, extra-virgin
  • Vinegar, apple cider, balsamic, white, distilled
  • Pasta and Grains

    • Bulgur wheat
    • Couscous
    • Orzo
    • Quinoa
    • Rice, arborio, basmati, medium-grain, wild
    • Whole-wheat pasta, spaghetti, penne rigate

    Spices and Seeds

    • Allspice
    • Anise seeds
    • Caraway seeds
    • Cayenne pepper
    • Chili powder
    • Cinnamon and cinnamon sticks
    • Cloves, whole and ground
    • Coriander, ground
    • Crushed red pepper
    • Cumin
    • Fennel seeds
    • Flaxseeds
    • Ginger, ground
    • Green cardamom, ground and pods
    • Juniper berries
    • Mint
    • Nutmeg
    • Paprika
    • Peppercorns
    • Saffron
    • Seafood seasoning
    • Sesame seeds
    • Sumac
    • Turmeric
    • Za’atar


    “I prefer making homemade stocks and freezing them for future use,” says Riolo. “However, it’s also good to keep a few boxes on hand in a pinch.”

    • Chicken stock, reduced-sodium
    • Vegetable stock, reduced-sodium

    Items for the Fridge

    (Use local and organic if possible)

    • Carrots
    • Celery
    • Cheese, Parmesan, Romano, mozzarella, feta, and goat
    • Eggs

    Fresh Seasonal Produce

    • Herbs, fresh
    • Lemons
    • Lettuces, assorted
    • Milk, skim
    • Onions
    • Potatoes
    • Shallots
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Yogurt, plain, fat-free

    Items for the Freezer

    “While I prefer fresh food whenever possible, a well-stocked freezer can help when you are short on time,” says Riolo. “In terms of nutrition, frozen items (without high-fat ingredients or excess sodium) are often a better option than takeout and delivery items, which can sabotage a healthy lifestyle plan.”

    • Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
    • Fish fillets
    • Phyllo dough
    • Vegetables, frozen
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