Parkinson’s Cooking with Pantry Staples

Parkinson's Cooking with Pantry Staples - Davis Phinney Foundation

Written by Martha Henze, MPH, MS, RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist)

Do you have staples, such as pasta, rice, and canned tuna just waiting to be used but you're not sure what to cook with them? You'd be surprised how you can transform just a few simple ingredients into a quick and delicious meal. Eating healthy is especially vital during COVID-19. Not only do you want to keep your energy level up, but you also want to eat foods that support your immune system. Enjoy these easy and nutritious recipes using foods you probably already have in your pantry.

Note: If you want some ideas on how to stock your pantry with staples, check out this post.

Oven Spaghetti


  • 1 pound of ground beef browned on the stove and drained of fat (If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you can substitute more veggies or a plant-based option for the ground beef.)
  • 1 cup uncooked spaghetti
  • 2 cups of a combination of fresh diced vegetables
    • Options:
      • Onions, diced
      • Celery, diced
      • Mushrooms, diced
      • Zucchini, diced
      • Any vegetables you have on hand
  • 32 oz. of chunky garden spaghetti sauce (If you only have a 24 oz jar of sauce, rinse the jar with one cup of water to equal 32 oz)


  1. Grease your casserole dish with canola oil on the bottom and ½ way up to prevent sticking.
  2. Place the uncooked spaghetti on the bottom of the greased casserole dish.
  3. Spread pre-cooked ground beef on top.
  4. Distribute 2 cups of diced vegetables on top of that.
  5. Pour 32 oz. of spaghetti sauce over it all. Make sure there is not a piece of hard spaghetti peeking out the top.
  6. Put a lid on it and bake in a 350° Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes.
  7. Look at it. If it's soupy, then uncover and let cook for another 10 minutes.
  8. Before serving, mix all together. Maybe sprinkle lightly with cheese, or nutritional yeast if you don't eat animal products, and add apple slices on the side.

Tuna Broccoli Rice Casserole

Not only is tuna an excellent protein source, but it also contains key nutrients of iron, zinc, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) recommend eating seafood and/or fish twice a week; so, you can check one of those off your list.


  • 1 Tablespoon of canola oil
  • 10 oz. package of chopped frozen broccoli
  • 6 oz. can of tuna, drained (Maybe substitute tofu if you don't eat tuna.)
  • ½ cup of dry rice (white, brown, arborio – whatever you have)
  • 10 oz. can of cream of mushroom soup
  • ½ cup of low-fat milk, you can rinse a soup can with milk to save cleaning a cup


  1. Grease a casserole dish with 1 Tablespoon of canola oil on the bottom and ½ way of the sides so it doesn't stick.
  2. Place all ingredients in a casserole dish in the order listed:
    Broccoli – gently spread so it covers the bottom
    Tuna – gently spread so it covers the broccoli
    Rice – distribute evenly
    Mushroom soup – spread soup with a spoon so that all rice is covered.
    Milk (You can use soy or other plant-based or oak milk if you prefer.)
  3. Cover.
  4. Bake in a preheated 350° Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes to one hour until rice is tender.
  5. Stir once before serving.

Apple Peanut Salad

Both peanuts and apples are good sources of fiber. An apple with the peel contains four grams of fiber, and ¼ cup of peanuts contain three grams of fiber. By eating the recipe below with a total of seven grams of fiber, you are well on your way to consuming the recommended 25-38 grams of fiber per day.  

Because Parkinson's affects not only your motor symptoms but also non-motor symptoms, you may notice changes in your bowel habits, particularly with constipation. As Dr. Cherian Karunapuzha, a Movement Disorder Specialist states, "your gut is no longer your friend." You may experience good and bad days, depending on if you have a bowel movement because that determines how well your medication is absorbed. It's important to eat foods high in fiber and drink water to move food along the gastrointestinal tract and reduce constipation. Eating foods with fiber and drinking plenty of water are two ways to help alleviate constipation. Apples and peanuts are excellent sources of fiber; so, enjoy this recipe today.


  • Apple, medium, diced, with the peel on
  • ¼ cup peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon honey


  1. Wash apple well. Keep the peel on and dice.
  2. Mix with peanuts.
  3. Drizzle honey on top.
  4. Enjoy as a healthy snack or as a side dish for a meal.

Using staples in your pantry is not only better on your budget, but it also decreases the number of trips you need to take to the grocery store. Enjoy these three recipes using pantry staples, which can boost your immune system and prevent fatigue.

If you have some favorite recipes using pantry staples, please share them in the comment section.

Want More Practical Articles Like This?

Much more can be found in our Every Victory Counts® manual. It’s packed with up-to-date information about everything Parkinson’s, plus an expanded worksheets and resources section to help you put what you’ve learned into action. Request your free copy of the Every Victory Counts manual by clicking the button below.

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Thank you to our 2020 Peak Partners, Amneal and Kyowa Kirin, with special support from Adamas, for helping us make printing, distributing, and shipping the Every Victory Counts manual possible. 

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