In the context of the global pandemic, the way we have been eating is still a little different. More takeout, less grocery store trips, buying in bulk, increased produce prices, and altered food supply chains. A lot of these factors have made many of us really take a look at our usual pantry items and find some intuitive ways to use typical staple foods. Many shelf-stable foods are given a bad name due to many items having added sugars, sodium, and fats; fortunately there are several pantry items that are full of nutrients and can be a component of a delicious and healthy meal. Here’s just a few options that you should consider keeping on hand that offer a variety of benefits in your overall diet.
Quinoa, brown rice, oats, barley, and bulgur wheat (just to name a few) are all whole grains that can be stored in a pantry for months. Many whole grains offer a variety of vitamins and minerals, but most importantly, they are full of fiber. This is a vital component of a healthy diet, especially with fresh produce becoming less available and more costly during the fall and winter months. All of these grains can be made on the stovetop or with a simple rice-cooker. Some simple and quick recipes include oatmeal, grain pilafs, stir-fry, burrito bowls, and cold grain salads.
Tuna, salmon, sardines, anchovies, and some shellfish can all be found in canned varieties. Although some of these can be an acquired taste, they contain plenty of nutrients and are shelf stable sometimes for years. Most canned fish is a great source of lean protein, and all contain a healthy serving of omega-3 fatty acids which help promote heart and brain health. Use these fish as a sandwich filler, or add them to a grain and vegetable stir-fry; you can even have them for breakfast along with eggs and toast.
Nuts and seeds
Peanuts, almonds, cashews, papitas, sunflower, walnuts, pecans, and sesame are just a few examples of nuts and seeds that are available at any typical grocery store. All of these products will store for several months and are a great source of unsaturated fats (the healthy fats) and plant based protein. Add chopped nuts or seeds as a topping to any meal, or just use them as a snack.
Sweet potatoes and winter squash
These products are starting to be fully in season this month. Although these foods are typically served as a starch or carb servings they are packed with enough nutrients to count as a vegetable serving too. Sweet potatoes can store in a dry dark space for a couple months, and whole winter squash like butternut, acorn, or pumpkin can hold in a fridge for up to 6 months! These are great items for soups or stews, but also can be simply cut up and roast for a great side dish
Apples and pears
So these are obviously not a pantry item. However, apples and pears are in season locally for the next few months. This means that they can last for a couple weeks on the counter or even 1-2 months in the fridge. This allows you to still have some fresh items without having to worry too much about their shelf life.