With the nation (and the world) on high-alert during this unprecedented time, many have changed their routines to accommodate safer practices. We are told to avoid touching our eyes, nose, and mouth (something you do about 16 times an hour without even realizing), and avoid distance between ourselves and other people. Basically, you’ve heard this a million times: Stay home and do your part to flatten the curve.
With that in mind, if you haven’t already stocked up on food essentials, now is the time to do so. Since you want to reduce the number of times you leave the house (to zero, if possible), putting together a smart shopping list of shelf-stable foods is important, especially since fresh fruits and vegetables (sadly) don’t last as long as we’d like them to. Now, it’s smart to stock up on the frozen kind, which can easily be defrosted when you need them.
So while Spicy Nacho Doritos is a great comfort food purchase, we're thinking long-term here—i.e. healthier shelf-stable alternatives for preparing, serving, and snacking. Below, find our favorites, as recommended by experts.
Instead of wheat pasta, choose a healthier alternative, like chickpea. “Chickpeas contain immune-boosting zinc and de-stressors like magnesium,” says nutritionist Tracy Lockwood Beckerman. “Chickpea-based pasta is filled with plant-based protein, fiber, and is even gluten free.” The Banza brand was highly recommended by many, and offers Banza Pasta available in 15+ shapes, Banza Rice (cooks in five minutes), and a plant-based, vegan mac and cheese.
Cheese fanatics unite! Whisps are crunchy, flavorful, and made with 100% real cheese that are baked and not fried. They taste like a party every time you bite down and are a fantastic replacement for oily potato chips. Flavors include Regular and new Tangy Ranch and Nacho. Another brand, AvoCrazy, makes Avocado Puffs. Think cheese puffs but healthy. They’re vegan, gluten-free, have no sugar, and are full of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, folate, and potassium, all found in avocados.
Cleaner Nut Butters
Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, and every nut better in between is a great pantry staple. Not only are they rich in omega-3s, they’re also a good source of magnesium, which is a mineral that may naturally lower anxiety and stress. Brigitte Zeitlin, a registered dietitian based in New York City, also says to make sure to buy ones that do not have added salt or sugar. “The ingredients should only say the name of the nut without anything additional.” Split Nutrition offers a dual packet of both clean nut butter and jam spread—all in one pack.
Lee Cotton, RND, LDN, suggests swapping any canned meat for canned salmon. “Salmon is a great source of B vitamins, protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and Vitamin D,” she says. “If you’re able to purchase the wild-caught salmon in a can, that’s your best choice. Believe it or not, the soft bones inside are an excellent source of calcium."
Green Lentil Pasta
“The refining process removes most nutrients from wheat, making regular pasta a poor source of vitamins and minerals,” says Dr. Sarah Neidler, a molecular biologist with a Ph.D. in cancer research. Instead, as another alternative to wheat pasta, she recommends green lentil pasta. “Lentils are one of the most protein-rich plant foods with a low glycemic index, which keeps you full for a long time.” Ancient Harvest offers green lentil penne and spaghetti.
Naturally Sweet Treats
Baresnacks offers vegan, shelf-stable chips are made solely from real apples that are baked, not fried. Fuji and Reds Apple Chips have no added sugar or preservatives, so they’re the perfect snack to have for yourself or give to the family. The only ingredient is apples. Another really delicious, shelf-stable sweet treat are dates. Joolies are certified organic dates that are high in natural plant fiber and have a low glycemic index. They’re packed with magnesium, B vitamins and potassium.
Cereals can be jam-packed with lots of added sugar, but little whole grains, fiber, protein or healthy fats. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS suggests making your own granola instead. “Pantry staples like dried coconut, nuts, seeds, rolled oats, dried fruit, and honey or maple syrup are all the ingredients you need.” If you don’t have these ingredients on hand, healthier cereal alternatives like Kashi GO Cereals offer good, nutritious ingredients with protein and fiber. Switch it up with oatmeal from Nature Path. Their Qi’a Superseeds & Grains Oatmeal packs a nutritional punch with oats, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and buckwheat and no added sugar.
Canned or boxed bone broths can be the base for a ton of nourishing soups. Nutritionist Shannon Doleac recommends these instead of the high-sodium, processed canned varieties. Parks & Nash created bone broth soups that are already cooked and ready to heat up. These protein-packed soups are meant to help decrease inflammation, immunity, and improve gut health, sleep, and energy.
Sprouted Gluten-Free Bread
White breads can leave you foggy and lethargic. Instead of regular white or whole wheat bread, consider sprouted whole grain bread like Little Northern Bakehouse’s Sprouted 7 Grain Bread. “Sprouting makes nutrients easier for our bodies to absorb while retaining all their nutrition and fiber,” says Holistic Nutritionist Joy McCarthy. “Plus, essential nutrients, like B vitamins and vitamin C, are made more available to give you a boost of focus and mental awareness.”
This nutrient-dense, shelf-stable food is a powerhouse of versatility. “Quinoa contains a good percentage of all nine essential amino acids that our body cannot create on its own,” says Jayne Williams, Certified Integrative Health and Nutrition Expert. “Quinoa can be used in everything from breakfast options, plant-based burgers, side dishes, and healthier desserts.”
Healthier Pancake Mix
Opt for the healthier pancake mixes, like the recently-launched line from Purely Elizabeth. These mixes, which normally have refined sugar as a second ingredient, are made with a blend of chia, hemp, and almond flour, sweetened with coconut sugar. They even have a pancake mix that contains grass-fed collagen, a super ingredient for the health-conscious foodies.
Craving the salty crunch? Seaweed is highly nutritious and the perfect topping for a lunch bowl, salads, morning scramble, or even as a replacement for chips. DJ Blatner, RD loves seaweed snacks for their immunity-boosting vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids. Try gimMe Organic Seaweed Snacks, which come in all different flavors including sea salt, sesame, and olive oil. If you'd rather try another salty treat, Goodfish offers a really delicious crispy salmon skin chip. Yep. It’s packed with clean protein, healthy fats, marine collagen, and comes in a variety of flavors.
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