What healthy meals can you make with what’s in your cupboard?

When you open your cupboard and see your staples lining the shelves, do you ever wonder how you might make a healthy meal out of them? Is there even room for these foods in your healthy lifestyle?

At ZOE, we firmly believe that no food should be off-limits. Rethinking your approach to food should be about adding, rather than taking away.

There are plenty of ways to use your regular ingredients in healthy dishes. So, we’ll give you some new ideas and inspiration to take these foods to the next level.

With that said, you might want to swap some cupboard staples for healthier alternatives. We’ll let you know what to look for when you’re restocking your shelves.

The following recipes score highly on the ZOE app, on average. If you’re a member, we’ve included links so you can see how the recipes score for you.

And if you’d like this personalized insight, you can take our free quiz and learn more about our nutrition program.


Pasta is a flexible favorite that all ages can enjoy. While pasta on its own can lead to pronounced blood sugar responses for some people, adding plants and protein is an easy way to make nicely rounded meals.

What you can make

What to buy

Whole grain pasta contains more fiber and protein than other types.

If you’re looking to up your protein intake, you can get even more from red lentil pasta. It’s also gluten-free, so it’s a good option if you have an intolerance or celiac disease. Another choice is edamame spaghetti.


Oats are a popular choice for breakfasts and baking. On their own, they can lead to pronounced blood sugar responses for some people. To manage these responses, be sure to combine them with other ingredients.

What you can make

What to buy

Look to cut back on heavily processed instant oats. Instead, choose oat bran or whole rolled oats, which contain more fiber.

If you eat oats regularly, consider spending a bit more to get organic oats, if you can, as these will contain fewer traces of pesticides than other types.


Rice is the base of dishes across the globe. While it's versatile, it can have a strong effect on some people’s blood sugar levels.

Keep an eye on the amount you’re using, and make sure lots of tasty plants are joining it on the plate.

What you can make

What to buy

Your body breaks down the carbs in rice quickly, which can lead your blood sugar levels to rise faster than usual. Instead, try whole grains, like bulgur wheat or quinoa.

If you do need to use rice, opt for brown rice instead of the more refined white rice. You can also try using a smaller amount of rice and making up the rest with beans or a whole grain.

Canned tomatoes

Tomatoes are a starting point for many healthy dishes. And canned tomatoes often have more nutrients than other varieties at the supermarket.

What you can make

What to buy

Tomatoes are great to have at the ready, and canned tomatoes have more of a polyphenol called lycopene than fresh ones. Polyphenols may support your gut health and improve your blood sugar control.

Whole plum tomatoes tend to be less processed than chopped tomatoes, and they can provide a richer flavor.

Canned lentils

Lentils are a super staple to have in your cupboard. They’re packed with fiber, protein, and polyphenols, and they make for a handy swap if you’re cutting back on meat.

What you can make

What to buy

Canned lentils are a great addition to your cupboard. You can also buy packets of dried lentils, which require cooking before use. These take longer to prep, but you can sometimes get a bit more for your money.

Microwavable pouches of lentils are a convenient option, though they’re more expensive than the cans.


Have you ever bought a bag of flour for a baking project, then left the rest unused for months? These healthy recipes will hopefully provide enough inspiration to see those bags of flour through to a delicious end.

What you can make

What to buy

Plain flour is versatile, but other flours have more fiber. Great alternatives include wheat germ, rye, chickpea, almond, and spelt flours.


Onions are a reliable mainstay, with many a healthy dish starting life as diced onion sizzling away in a pan. Raw onion can lend a plant-based punch to salads, too. 

What you can make

What to buy

Onions are great to have in your cupboard as a source of prebiotic fiber and polyphenols.

Red onions contain more polyphenols than yellow onions and shallots, but try all three, to add extra plants to your diet.


Potatoes are hearty and homely, but they can also raise your blood sugar levels quickly. This is another cupboard staple that you’ll likely need to combine with other ingredients to reduce your blood sugar response. 

What you can make

What to buy

As with rice, it’s easy for your body to break down the carbs in potatoes quickly. As a result, it may be better to look for alternatives to regular potatoes.

You could use sweet potatoes instead — these contain slightly more fiber and nutrients.

Even better alternatives could be cauliflower and rutabaga (also known as swede). You can swap half a portion of potato for one of these. 


Eggs are full of nutrients, while their shelf life and price make them a handy addition to many cupboards. They’re also versatile, and they work well on their own or as a way to bind other ingredients together.

If you’re reading this in the United States, always store your eggs in the fridge.

What you can make

What to buy

Opt for free-range eggs, as the hens laying these have better living conditions.

For a plant-based alternative, try tofu. And a great egg white alternative is aquafaba, the water that canned chickpeas are in.


Bread has been a staple for thousands of years. But many types today are heavily processed and low in fiber and nutrients. Still, there are plenty of healthy ways to enjoy bread with the right accompaniments.

What you can make

What to buy

When shopping for bread, try for types with a low carb-to-fiber ratio. In Food For Life, Tim Spector writes that a ratio under 5:1 is a good target. So for every 5 grams of carbs, there’s more than 1 g of fiber in your loaf.

Rye breads may provide more benefits for your gut microbiome than others.

And authentic sourdough could help control your blood sugar levels and may be easier to digest for people with irritable bowel syndrome.

If you can, choose bread from a bakery. The claims on the packaging of supermarket breads can be misleading.


Hopefully, this list has provided new ideas and inspiration when it comes to meal planning.

And remember — these recipes are just a starting point. You can always adjust them by adding extra foods or making healthy swaps to take them further.

It’s worth noting that we all respond to different foods in unique ways. That’s where taking a personalized approach to nutrition can help with your health goals.

If you’re not a ZOE member and want to learn more about how it works, take our free quiz.


Impact of rye kernel-based evening meal on microbiota composition of young healthy lean volunteers with an emphasis on their hormonal and appetite regulations, and blood levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Frontiers in Nutrition. (2018). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5986961/ 

Spector, Tim. (2022). Food For Life: The New Science of Eating Well.