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Are pantry meals healthy? The surprising amount of nutrients in rice and beans (+ 5 pantry items we always have on hand)

Quick Take

Eating lots of pantry meals, like rice and beans, and worried you're not getting the nutrients you need? Fear not! The nutritional profile of rice and beans is pretty impressive. Keep reading to get the scoop, plus the 5 healthy plant-based pantry items our team always has on hand. (We're also sharing our favorite pantry recipes using those ingredients!)

But First! A Gift For You

On this page

History of rice and beans

A staple all over the world

The surprising health benefits of rice and beans

How to batch cook perfect rice every time

How to cook dried beans 

Don't get bored! 6 ways to spice up your rice and beans

5 other healthy pantry staples we always have on hand + easy pantry recipes you can make at home 

Key takeaways

History of rice and beans

Rice and beans is a humble dish that's packed with nutrition. A staple in many countries, and not just during a pandemic. And there's good reason: rice and beans store without refrigeration for long periods of time, grow all over the world, and are relatively inexpensive -- not to mention this dish also offers plenty of nutrients and health benefits. 

It’s difficult to name a culture that doesn’t eat rice and beans. Rice was domesticated about 14,000 years ago from the wild grass Oryza rufipogon. It later became a major crop in Sri Lanka back in 1000 B.C. Then, it was domesticated in West Africa shortly after it was cultivated in China. Greece and other Mediterranean countries first took on rice as a staple around 330 B.C, supposedly after Alexander the Great's expedition to India. Clearly, the staple combo spread quickly, all over the world...and for good reason. 

A staple all over the world

For Japanese culture, Kuromame Gohan Black Soy Bean Rice is a common side dish, or base. Latin America is famously known for incorporating the two pantry staples into many classic dishes. In the farm lands of Southern Italy, rice and beans are a common main dish. North Americans have been eating the two together in many forms, including New Orleans Rice and Red Beans. Because both rice and beans come in endless varieties, there are countless combinations of flavor that can be altered with just a little bit of spice.  

One of the best things about this dish? It's an accessible and inexpensive way to eat healthy.

The surprising health benefits of rice and beans

Although rice and beans are well known as being a complete protein, it turns out that the whole “complete” protein thing is a myth! Regardless, the combo makes a powerful "supermeal" (you’ve heard of “superfoods,” right?). With a high fiber content (97% of Americans don’t get enough fiber by the way), along with a handful of other essential nutrients, there are so many nutritional benefits to eating these pantry staples. 

The health benefits of beans

Beans are a true superfood. They are loaded with iron, antioxidants, protein, and fiber. These important nutrients help increase your regularity, slow the aging process, rebuild muscle, keep nerve function working properly, and help with oxygen distribution. So eat up! The quantity of beans you consume can affect your longevity. In other words: the more beans you eat, the longer you will live, statistically speaking! 

The health benefits of brown rice

Brown rice is incredible for your skin! It’s loaded with fiber and other key nutrients like plant-based protein. And eating brown rice can reduce your risk of chronic disease! 

Brown rice vs. white rice: which is better?

Brown rice is rice in its original form. Once the bran and gram are removed, it becomes white rice. White rice is stripped of its fiber and the bulk of its nutrients. It’s better to consume grains in their whole form so your body can process the glucose properly. 

When you consume carbohydrates that have been refined and stripped of their fiber (found in the bran), the glucose enters your bloodstream quickly which then spikes your energy and glucose levels. When you consume whole grains with their natural fibers (most commonly found in the husk), glucose is steadily released into your bloodstream, giving you a nice steady stream of energy without shocking your body with glucose. So reach for brown rice over white if you can!

How to batch cook perfect rice every time

  1. Boil water (add veggie broth for extra flavor) 
  2. Preheat oven to 350
  3. Pour the desired amount of rice in the bottom of a small baking dish or pan (no need to measure). Make sure you have a layer of uncooked rice that is at least 1’’ thick.
  4. Pour boiling water over rice. If rice is about 1’’ thick, make sure water is about 1 finger width above the rice. If you are using more rice, make sure water is about 2 fingers above the rice.
  5. Cover pan or dish with a sealed top or tight tinfoil.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes.
  7. Remove pan, uncover and fluff.
  8. If there is still some water in the pan, or rice needs to cook longer, cover dish and let sit for 10-15 minutes. 
For yield: Rice will double in size once cooked 

    How to cooked dried beans

    1. Use 10 cups of water per 2 cups of dried beans. 

    2. Boil water

    3. Add beans and boil for 3 minutes

    4. Remove from heat, cover, and let soak for 1-4 hours, or until beans are soft

      Note: you don't have to use dried beans to get the nutritious benefits of eating beans! Canned beans are just fine (though dried beans are cheaper). If using canned beans, look for no or reduce sodium and rinse before eating! 

    Don't get bored! 6 ways to spice up your rice and beans

    Cooking from your pantry doesn't mean eating the same old boring rice and beans every night. Spice things up with these 6 vegan variations of the classic pantry meal

    BONUS: How to eat rice and beans if you don't want to cook

    The MamaSezz Breakfast Protein Bowl is our version of rice and beans and it's loaded with nutrients and flavor. Pro tip: top with a generous dollop of MamaSezz Mama's Mac Sauce. You won't regret it. 

    These are the 5 healthy pantry staples we always have on hand

    Ok, but you CAN venture outside of rice and beans. There are plenty of healthy foods to keep in your pantry. Here are 5 of our essential plant-based pantry items that pack a nutritional punch.

    1. Oatmeal

    When it comes to healthy breakfast choices, oatmeal takes the cake. It’s high in heart-healthy fiber — keeping your digestion regular, your weight down, your belly full, and your budget in fact. 

    3 plant-based oatmeal recipes:

    1. Oatmeal breakfast muffins

    2. 4-ingredient no-bake vegan oatmeal cookies

    3. Chewy banana pancakes 

    BONUS: How to eat oats if you don't want to cook

     

    MamaSezz Breakfast Sausages are protein-packed vegan breakfast patties with the traditional seasonings you love but none of the cholesterol. And oats are the first ingredient! No cooking required - just heat and eat. Order your MamaSezz Breakfast Sausages here

    2. Quinoa

    Sick of rice? Switch up your grains and try your beans with quinoa instead! Ok, technically quinoa is a seed - not a grain - but semantics, right? Like brown rice, quinoa is high in fiber and plant-based protein. It's also low on the glycemic index, which can be good for blood sugar control. Quinoa is also loaded with antioxidants, iron, and magnesium. 

    3 plant-based quinoa recipes: 

    1. Protein packed cinnamon quinoa breakfast bowl

    2. Creamy mushroom quinoa with vegan Alfredo

    3. Quinoa flax gluten-free breakfast cookies

    BONUS: How to eat quinoa if you don't want to cook

    MamaSezz Quinoa Stack has enough protein and nutrients to power your play all day long and it tastes great. Feel free to dress it up with Mama’s Mac Sauce or round it out with a side of MamaSezz Mashed Sweet Potato

    3. Lentils

    Dried lentils have a much shorter cook time than dried beans and they've got a similar nutritional profile - lots of plant-based protein, fiber, iron, and magnesium. 

    3 plant-based lentil recipes: 

    1. Lentil Salad

    2. Anti-Inflammatory Lemon Lentil Soup

    3. Vegan Sloppy Joe's

    BONUS: How to eat lentils if you don't want to cook

    With 17 grams of plant-based protein per serving, tons of dietary fiber, loads of iron, and zero cholesterol - it's safe to say MamaSezz Lentil Dhal is nutrient-dense. Plus it tastes great, so eat up! Pair with a bowl of MamaSezz Creamy Broccoli Soup for a perfect healthy lunch or dinner.

    4. Nutritional yeast

    Is any vegan pantry complete without nutritional yeast? This pantry staple is straw colored and flakey, with an umami taste that’s both nutty and cheesy. It makes an awesome cheese substitute in vegan dishes. Nutritional yeast is packed with B vitamins (linked with lower stroke risk and boosted brain health), selenium (great for healthy hair and skin), zinc (boosts immunity and libido), folate, and plant-based protein.

    3 plant-based nutritional yeast recipes:

    1. Plant-based pesto stuffed mushrooms  

    2. Dairy-free potato leek soup

    3. No-cook vegan lemon cheesecake

    BONUS: How to eat nutritional yeast if you don't want to cook

     

    We're not supposed to pick favorites, but our Mama's Mac Sauce really does make everything taste better. The perfect vegan substitute for Alfredo or cheese sauce on pasta, burgers, baked potatoes, or toast. Also tastes amazing mixed with MamaSezz Marinara Sauce or drizzled on top of MamaSezz Millie's Chili.

    5. Sweet potatoes

    An immunity-boosting food if there ever was one, sweet potatoes are a MUST have pantry staple. They're high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C - both of which are antioxidants, which protect your cells from premature aging and disease. and can reduce inflammation and subsequently your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and more. 

    3 plant-based sweet potato recipes:

    1. Sweet potato toast (3 ways)

    2. Vegan peanut butter cream sweet potato brownies

    3. Tamari mushroom stuffed sweet potato

    BONUS: How to eat sweet potatoes if you don't want to cook

    With its velvety texture and natural sweetness, MamaSezz Mashed Sweet Potatoes is a vegan side dish that certainly doesn't need any butter. Serve it up with Mama’s Veggie Loaf (with extra MamaSezz Real Ketchup of course!).

    Need more plant-based pantry stocking tips?

    Here are our go-to plant-based pantry staples

    Key Takeaways

    You can get plenty of nutrients from pantry meals! 

    • Rice and beans is a humble dish filled with protein, fiber, and iron - among other important vitamins and nutrients. 
    • Rice and beans can be jazzed up a million different ways, but here are 6 of our favorite recipes
    • 5 plant-based healthy pantry staples we always have on hand: oatmeal, quinoa, lentils, nutritional yeast, sweet potatoes.

    Don't Forget Your Gift 

       

      By Caroline DiNicola Fawley

      Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

      What you should do now

      1. We have been where you are and we’ve helped thousands of people (just like you) transition to eating a plant based diet. If you are looking for a guide that can help you with some of the big questions, and dramatically reduce your stress, this FREE Ultimate Little Guide to Plant-Based Eating is a great place to start.
      2. If you're interested in Weight Loss, Download this fantastic FREE guide Ultimate (little) Guide to weight loss
      3. If you’d like to learn about plant-based living go to our MamaSezz Blog where you can read hundreds of “How To” articles. If you’d like to learn about plant-based cooking go to our Recipes Section for easy step by step favorites.
      4. If you enjoyed this article, then so will your friends, so why not share it on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Email




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