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Pantry Essentials from A Fitness Instructor

As a part-time fitness instructor (I usually teach anywhere from 5-10 classes a week) with a full-time “desk” job, I always have certain items in my pantry to help keep my energy up and to easily make quick and healthy meals.

by: Nancy Chen




I am a marketing manager, freelancer, fitness instructor, and wellness blogger currently living in sunny Santa Monica.

I have a passion for real food and a passion for making an impact. Those two passions have led me to share my lifestyle on my quest to help people find their own form of optimal health.




1. Ashwagandha

I started using this adaptogen when I was feeling symptoms of adrenal fatigue and otherwise feeling extremely physically, mentally, and emotionally stressed. It helps relieve stress, and I like adding it to golden milk (blend warm nut milk, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, and high-quality honey together) at night.

2. Avocados

Avocados on everything — toast, salads, even pancakes… It’s a great source of healthy fat and also contains a good amount of fiber. The easiest breakfast/snack ever is to take 2 hard boiled eggs and half an avocado, and add salt and pepper on top. That’s it!

3. Chia Seeds

One of the recipes that I make weekly is homemade chia pudding. If you buy chia pudding at your local juice shop, it can cost up to $10 (!!!). But all you need to make a basic chia pudding by yourself is some chia seeds and nut milk/coconut milk (the creamier, the better). It’s filling and easily portable (I make mine in a jar and then bring it with me wherever I go!).

4. Cinnamon

Spices are essential – you can take a simple dish like cauli (or regular) oatmeal from normal to whoa with a variety of spices. Cinnamon is one of my favorites — I sprinkle it liberally on toast, in drinks, in oats/yogurt, on eggs, in curry...the possibilities are endless. There’s been research done on the health benefits as well — it suggests that cinnamon can help control your blood sugar, preventing energy spikes and crashes in the day.

5. Coffee

5am wakeup calls are real. Or getting your energy up before getting in front of a large class in the afternoon/evening. A good cup of coffee does wonders, whether it’s cold brew (you can make it in your french press) or a hot cup (I also make this in my french press).

6. Collagen Peptides

Confession: I haven’t bought normal protein powder in a long time, because I just use collagen peptides. I’ve been using it ever since I started teaching – it helps with skin, join, bone, and hair health, and is a great source of protein.

7. Gluten Free / Grain Free Bread

Easy to digest carbs are a must, but the real reason is that it makes for an easy breakfast / snack anytime — avocado toast, anyone? You can either make your own with cassava flour, tapioca flour, coconut flour, or any other combo, or just buy a loaf from your local grocery store.

8. Maca Powder

I used maca during my senior year of college to help with my anxiety, and quickly fell in love with the adaptogen. There’s also research that supports maca as an energy-boosting supplement, which is great because I don’t want to rely on caffeine all the time.

9. Nut Butter / Coconut Butter

A spoonful by itself or on top of almost anything can satiate your hunger pretty quickly, and makes for a great snack when you don’t have time for an actual snack. Enough said.

10. Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

One thing to watch when you workout (and subsequently, sweat) a lot is your electrolyte levels. Drinking too much water without any electrolyte supplementation when you’re constantly depleting your electrolytes by sweating can cause light-headedness, so I like to add pink Himalayan salt liberally to all my food (even the sweet food). Some people add it to their normal water; I instead add a little to my lemon/cayenne/honey water every morning.

11. Pink Dragonfruit Powder (or anything to boost your smoothies)

Smoothies are the ultimate on-the-go meal. Stock up on fun add ins, like pink dragonfruit powder, to vary your nutrient intake and to make your smoothies more interesting (like this pink nectarine smoothie recipe).

12. Red Pepper Flakes

Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows how much I love red pepper flakes — I essentially pour it onto anything savory. It gives your meal a nice kick.

13. Quality Honey

Honey is my sweetener of choice. It has natural antibacterial properties, and I honestly just think it tastes better than any other sweetener. Since sugars = carbs, drizzle it onto your food if you need a quick energy boost or eat a spoonful before a workout or race in place of a snack.

14. Turmeric

Turmeric has great anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s also one of those spices that help boost the flavor of everything. You can go sweet (add it to pancakes, golden milk, oatmeal) or savory (add it to curry, eggs, stews). Combine it with black pepper to help increase the absorption.

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