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5 Pantry and Freezer “Must-Have” Foods for People with Autoimmunity

By Thea Banjac January 17, 2023 Health and Fitness

As many women with autoimmunity and other chronic diseases have discovered, food is much more than just calories for the body! Food provides vital information to the immune system, the nervous system, and every other bodily system that regulates our physiology.

Eating a food that doesn’t “agree” with our body can result in joint pain, digestive issues, low energy levels, mood imbalances, skin issues, and so much more.

While some people can deviate from a healthy diet and feel little to no ill effects, those with autoimmunity or other chronic conditions are more likely to experience symptoms when they deviate from a more regimented diet.

If that sounds familiar, consider keeping some “backup” foods on hand at all times that you can rely on when you’re in a hurry. Sure, planning and prepping meals ahead of time is a great way to ensure healthy food all week long… but let’s face it, that’s just not always possible for us busy women!

For those times when you run out of groceries and need to grab something quick and easy, these foods can act as a “backup” option instead of relying on a quick, processed food option or the nearest fast-food joint! These are the top 5 foods that people with autoimmunity should always keep on hand for quick, tasty, and balanced meals in an emergency:

Frozen Organic Berries

Dark berries like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cherries are high in antioxidants and polyphenols that reduce free radicals and decrease inflammation. Berries can be used to make nutritious smoothies, added to Greek yogurt or steel cuts oats for a high fiber, nutritious breakfast, or simply eaten on their own.

Berries are also a great option for a healthy dessert alternative (try sprinkling them with some cacao nibs or eating them with a piece of dark chocolate!). Purchase organic berries, when possible, as conventionally grown berries tend to be sprayed heavily with pesticides. Frozen berries are easiest and they last longest, so you can use them as needed without worrying they will go bad.

Salmon, Mackerel, or Sardines (Frozen or Canned)

Fish is a terrific source of protein that can easily be added to any meal. Protein should be prioritized at every meal to help support muscle function and promote balanced blood sugar. Salmon, mackerel, and sardines also stand out for their high levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of mercury compared to other fish.

These are important factors for people with autoimmunity to consider. Canned mackerel or sardines require no preparation, so they are a terrific protein option when in a pinch. Frozen salmon thaws quickly and can be cooked in a frying pan in under 10 minutes for a delicious addition to any meal.

Bone Broth

Consider replacing the broth or stock in your pantry with nutrient rich bone broth! Bone broth contains the amino acid glutamine, so it’s great for digestion and for the health of the gut lining, which is vital for optimal immune system function.

Bone broth also contains collagen and is an easy way to add extra protein to your meals. You can use bone broth in place of regular broth/stock or water in things like soup or when making anything like rice or quinoa. You can even heat it up and sip on it between meals like you would tea!


Greens like kale, spinach, swiss chard, broccoli, and collards are chock-full of fiber and health promoting phytonutrients. They’re also high in vitamin D, which is vital for balanced immune system function, and a good source of the minerals potassium and magnesium, which most people don’t get enough of through their diets.

On top of that, greens are great for boosting detoxification to help rid our bodies of toxins. Greens truly are a superfood, especially for those with chronic health issues!! You can add a handful into smoothies or you can chop them up and add some to nearly any recipe.

Or, you can simply steam them, drizzle with olive oil, and serve as a delicious side with any meal. Heartier greens like kale and swiss chard tend to last longer in the fridge, but it’s always great to have a bag of frozen spinach in the freezer for backup!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil should be a staple in your kitchen (and in every meal for that matter!). Extra virgin olive oil is anti-inflammatory, full of antioxidants, supports hormones, and it even boasts antimicrobial properties.

Adding a tablespoon or two of this healthy fat to your meals will help keep you full and satiated between meals. You can cook with it at lower temperatures or drizzle it on top of just about anything! Opt for an organic, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil in a dark bottle and store it in a cool, dark spot in your kitchen or pantry.

For a quick and easy meal, simply steam a bunch of greens for about 5 minutes, then serve with canned mackerel (no prep required!). Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. You can add a serving of berries before or after the meal, and sip on bone broth if you’d like!

By keeping these 5 foods stocked, you’ll never find yourself in a “food emergency!” Instead, you will have everything you need available for a quick meal or snack, and you won’t be forced to grab the nearest junk food that will inevitably leave you feeling BLAH! Be sure to stock up on each of these foods the next time you hit the grocery store!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Which foods do you keep in your freezer or pantry as a staple? What is your go to meal or snack when you’re in a hurry? What is your favorite meal that you can make in less than 10 minutes?

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I am unable to eat every single “must-have” food you mention. Berries give me migraines and stomach pain, I’m intolerant of brassicas like kale etc, I’m allergic to beef and broth/gelatine because of tick bites, and I am slighly allergic to fish. I can eat olive oil in small quantities only or I get GERD.

So I don’t eat these foods, and I am quite healthy otherwise.

Thea Banjac

Hi Gerry! It’s interesting that you mention that, because when I originally wrote this article I had included a paragraph that mentioned how nutrition must be individualized. While these foods may be tolerated by most people, it doesn’t mean that EVERYONE will be able to tolerate them (like you for example!). If you are interested in exploring possible underlying imbalances that could cause sensitivities to those foods, I would love to provide you with a free consultation – you can book one on my website or email me at .


I keep frozen berries, chicken and beef broth, olive oil and canned chicken and salmon in my pantry at all times. Also diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. In my frig I keep a box of fresh spinach so I’m in sync with the author of this article. For a quick meal I love salmon Pattie’s-just add egg, bread crumbs, chopped onion or onion flakes and mayo to a can of salmon and brown in a fry pan. Mmmmmm

Thea Banjac

Thanks for sharing, Kathy! Diced tomatoes are also a staple in my pantry!

Susan Kilb

Thanks for the reminder, Thea. As someone with autoimmune issues, I’ve found that eating these foods puts me back on track when things get wonky. Boiling chicken breasts in bone broth, then shredding the chicken and adding the greens creates a soup that soothes my gut and calms everything down.

Thea Banjac

You’re welcome, Susan! I’m glad you have found that these foods help you. It’s nice to have something you can rely on that gets you back on track.

B L Wenger

My cardiologist recommended to me to sprinkle ground flax seed over my food every day. It not only adds vital nutrients, it keeps cholesterol down.


What does it taste like?

Thea Banjac

That’s great! You’re absolutely right – ground flax seed is a great source of fiber and healthy fats!


I have recently learned that our protein needs increase as we get older. In response to this, I often will have a smoothie in the evening that contains frozen organic berries, two scopes of organic whey protein powder (28 grams of protein!) a scoop of collegian powder, and a cup of unsweetened almond milk. I also add a few drops of sweetener. It is very filling and only slightly more than 200 calories.


Thank you for sharing this smoothie. Eager to try.

Wen clark

Hi- please read Dr. Gundry‘s plant book as way is not a good protein for the body. There are so many other better more fully utilized by the body, pro Tien powder and also almond milk. These almonds have the brown coating still on them, which are lectins and they will disturb your digestive system. Coming down the line, a whole dairy milk is still better for your body. My daughter has lupus, and we have been told that these two things I mentioned are to be avoided just passing along things that we have learned. Have a great day.

Thea Banjac

Thanks for sharing Wen! You’re right that whey CAN be problematic for some people, especially for those with autoimmunity. I do have most of my clients with autoimmunity eliminate dairy at least for a period of time. However, different things work well for different people, and whey does not cause issues for everyone! So, it can be a good way to get in extra protein for those who can handle it.

Thea Banjac

Great job implementing what you have learned, Linda! That is a terrific way to get in additional protein, and delicious too!! I also enjoy smoothies and I find they keep me full as well. Plus they help keep you hydrated too!


I enjoy my breakfast smoothie.1 cup unsweetened almond milk w vanilla 1 banana 1 Greek yogurt scoup of golden flax seed 1 scoup chia seeds 1scoup callegian powder blend in blender ;I have used other fruits or add some blueberries w banana..

The Author

Thea Banjac helps women with chronic conditions lose weight, rebalance their bodies, and regain control of their health. She combines functional medicine lab testing with personalized wellness protocols to target root cause contributors of each client’s unique condition. Schedule a free consultation at or join her 12 Weeks to Well program to begin taking back control of your health today.

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