To stay healthy, it’s important to stock up on foods that pack a nutritional punch. Here’s what to add to your shopping list.
By Samantha Cassetty, RD
Grains and grain alternatives, like bean-based pastas, provide fiber and other nutrients to keep you healthy during your at-home stay.Maskot / Getty ImagesMarch 12, 2020, 3:57 PM CDTBy Samantha Cassetty, RD
The latest CDC recommendations call for people at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) to take action, including stocking up on groceries and any medications they may need. If you’re preparing to stay home more than usual, it’s important to have healthful foods on hand. That means selecting foods that pack a nutritional punch in order to ensure you’re getting the fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other health- and immune-supporting compounds you need. It also means shopping for food that will last for an extended period of time — about two weeks’ worth for those who are quarantined. We hope you won’t be holed up for too long, but just in case, here’s a list of foods to buy.
It’s a good idea to keep both your freezer and pantry loaded up with fruits and veggies. These foods supply the same nutrients as fresh produce but last a lot longer. Pick up unsweetened fruits, and unseasoned or low- or no-added-sodium veggies. You’ll also want to load up on some hardier perishables, which you can eat before going for your longer-lasting stash. Here are some fruits and veggies to add to your shopping list.
- Long-lasting fruits: Think bananas, apples, grapefruit, oranges and clementines. Unripe bananas will ripen over the course of several days, so you can enjoy them as you go. You can also slice and freeze them for snacking or to toss in smoothies down the line. Citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C, which is crucial for keeping your immune system strong.
- Frozen fruit: Load up on frozen berries, pineapple, mangoes and peaches which are perfect for making smoothies or topping yogurt and oatmeal. In addition to fiber, these gems contain phytonutrients, which play a key role in gut and immune health.
- Freeze dried fruit: Crispy, freeze dried fruit supplies vitamins and minerals and is perfect for snacking and adding to trail mixes. You can find freeze dried blueberries, mangoes, and others at Trader Joe’s as well as all the mainstream markets.
- Dried fruit: Shop for dried raisins, mango (which is a year-round nutritionist favorite), dates, figs, apricots, prunes, and whichever dried fruits you fancy. Just watch for dried fruits coated in added sugars (such as cranberries).
- Canned and jarred fruits: No-added-sugar canned and jarred fruit are good, shelf-stable options. Shop for applesauce, pineapple, pears and peaches that are canned in 100 percent juice.
- Long-lasting veggies: Start your at-home stay with hardy veggies, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers and cauliflower, which, when unwashed and uncut, stay fresh for several days. Carrots (in the refrigerator) and potatoes (on the counter) last even longer.
- Frozen veggies: Pick from any you like! Try frozen spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, riced cauliflower, butternut squash and green beans. Stock up on these since they should form the foundation of the majority of your meals.
- Dried veggies: For more variety and fun, try dried veggies, like, beets, carrots and kale. It’s another way to get ample nutrition.
- Canned veggies: Dietitians keep these canned foods on hand for everyday eats. Canned pumpkin, canned tomatoes and canned olives are some top picks.
You want to make sure you’re getting sufficient protein throughout the day since your immune system cells rely on it. Without enough, you may start to feel weak and tired. In addition to chicken, shrimp and fish (which all freeze well for long-term use), Here are some solid sources:
- Canned beans: Look for no-added-salt varieties, but if you can’t find them, rinse your beans under running water. It removes a good portion of the sodium. Stock up on chickpeas, lentils, black beans and others, and don’t overlook other bean-based canned foods, like canned, lower-sodium lentil and split pea soup, such as those from Amy’s Kitchen. These foods supply protein and fiber, along with health-supporting minerals, like magnesium and potassium. Research suggests that people who consistently eat these foods tend to outlive those who don’t.
- Canned fish: Tuna, salmon and sardines are all great options. Our dietary guidelines call for two servings of seafood each week and canned fish is a convenient way to meet the mark. Try canned fish on top of salads or crackers, mixed with pasta, or get cooking and make fish cakes.
- Chickpea and lentil pasta: These shelf-stable foods pack way more protein and fiber than ordinary noodles. Look for brands that feature one ingredient, such as Barilla Red Lentil Pasta.
- Seeds: Seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds, supply some protein as well as fiber. Add them to your breakfast cereal (hot or cold) or use them to top salads, sautéed veggies or avocado toast.
- Nuts: Pick up a variety of nuts, such as pistachios, pecans, walnuts, peanuts and almonds. You can use them to boost the nutrition and tastiness of a range of meals and snacks.
- Dried, roasted beans: Along with plant-based protein, these foods supply fiber, vitamins and minerals. Look for dry roasted chickpeas, broad beans and edamame. If you like flavored versions, make sure to read labels and consider limiting those with added sugars, artificial sweeteners and excess sodium.
- Cheese: Some hard cheeses, like Cheddar, can last more than two weeks as long as you make sure to store them properly. Shredded cheese can last even longer when frozen. You can also grab some dried cheese crisps (like Whisps and Just the Cheese). Cheese crisps stand in well for crackers and croutons, whether over salads or in a bowl of soup.
- Eggs: Store eggs in their carton on a fridge shelf (rather than the door), where they’ll last for about three weeks. Boiled eggs will stay good in their shell for a week. They’re a convenient way to get a protein fix and they pair well with fresh or frozen veggies.
- Milk: A cup of dairy milk provides 8 grams of protein — more than an egg. Unflavored, shelf-stable varieties sold in aseptic packaging are a great choice for emergency situations. You might want to load up on milk made for lunch boxes, like Horizon Organic low-fat milk, to get through your at-home stay. If you’re choosing plant-based options, only pea- and soy-based versions come close or match the protein content in dairy milk. Choose no-added-sugar versions of these dairy alternatives.
Grains and grain alternatives, like bean-based pastas, provide fiber and other nutrients to keep you healthy during your at-home stay. Plus, they’re great as stand-alone side dishes or mixed in with other on-hand ingredients. You’ll definitely want to shop for these items.
- Single ingredient grains: Shop for whole grains, such as steel cut oats, quinoa and brown rice. These make tasty and nutritious side dishes, and they’ll keep in your pantry the entire time you’re holed up — and beyond.
- Pasta: Though whole grain options don’t contain the fiber and protein that chickpea and lentil versions supply, they’re still a worthwhile side dish and can serve as a good delivery vehicle for veggies and protein (such as sautéed shrimp or canned tuna).
- Flours: Stock up on an assortment of flours, such as chickpea flour, almond flour and whole-grain flour. You might as well bake if you’re staying home! These flours provide more nutrition than processed, white flour.
- Breads: It won’t stay fresh on the counter, but sliced, frozen bread will last for months. Make sure to buy 100 percent whole grain varieties or gluten free versions if needed.
- Crackers: Whole grain (like Triscuits), seed (try Mary’s Gone Crackers) or nut-based (such as those from Simple Mills) varieties are delicious on snack plates. Serve them with cheese and fruit for a satiating and fun way to refuel. Swap the cheese for nuts if you want to keep it dairy free.
- Cereal: Whole grain, low-added sugar and fiber-full cereals cover off on a lot of nutrients when fortified. Shop for varieties with at least three grams of fiber and less than 6 grams of added sugar (though no added sugar is ideal). Add fruit, nuts or seeds, and milk and breakfast is served.
- Popcorn: You might be surprised to learn that this whole grain is loaded with antioxidants and fiber. You’ll appreciate having some of this on hand since you’ll no doubt have some extra time to watch Netflix. You can buy the kernels and pop them on your stove, or opt for a microwavable option, such as Quinn Snacks Microwave Popcorn.
Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you want to cook everything from scratch. Make sure to buy some healthier convenience options, like veggie burgers, frozen entrees and even some dark chocolate. After all, it will be a long two weeks if you don’t have a treat handy!