Having shelf-stable food stocked in your pantry is vital for anyone preparing for or facing an extended period of quarantine.
Foods such as rice, beans, soups, and canned meat offer excellent shelf life and provide plenty of the vitamins, carbohydrates, protein, and nutrition you need to support your health.
We spoke to the New York City-based nutritionists, Samantha Cassetty and Erika Villalobos-Morsink, for their input on the best shelf-stable foods to stock up on.
In the wake of the spread of the novel coronavirus, people around the world are dealing with the possibility they could face time under quarantine. Whether they’re displaying symptoms themselves or have been exposed to someone who is, millions of individuals are being asked to stay at home, remain inside, and limit their interactions with others.
In order to comfortably do that however, it’s important to be prepared. This means stocking up on enough supplies to last whatever the duration of the quarantine needs to be. Picking up enough household items to last for two weeks to a month generally isn’t a problem, as items like toilet paper, trash bags, toothpaste, laundry detergent, and hand sanitizer don’t have an expiration date and can often last a long time.
It’s picking the right foods to stock your fridge and pantry that can be more challenging. Since so many of the food items we buy tend to spoil over time, eating properly while isolated is difficult, especially as heading out to your local grocery store becomes less of a viable option.
Because of this, stocking up on shelf-stable foods is vitally important. Whether it’s canned soup or bags of rice, it’s smart to have food on-hand capable of lasting a long time. To help figure out which shelf-stable foods are best, we consulted with Samantha Cassetty, an MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.
“Ideally, you’re looking for shelf-stable foods that pack a nutritional punch,” she told Business Insider. “That means opting for mostly plant-based foods that contain fiber along with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other health- and immune-supporting compounds.”
Cassetty recommends a variety of items that aren’t just tasty and nutritional, but food that allows you to survive on for an extended period of time. Things like rice, quinoa, dried or canned fruits and vegetables, a variety of nuts, and canned soups that are low in sodium. She also says that canned tuna, salmon, and sardines help maintain a protein intake for your quarantine diet as well.
“Red flags for shelf-stable foods include excessive amounts of sugar, sodium, or other unwanted ingredients, like artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives,” Cassetty said. “These ingredients are indicative that your pick is less healthful.”
With those guidelines in mind, we set out to find suitable options for foods capable of keeping you well-fed while also staying fresh for long periods of time.
Here are some of the best shelf-stable food items to stock in your pantry:
Best staple: Lotus Foods Gourmet Organic Brown Rice
Best canned soup: Health Valley Organic Tomato Soup
Best canned vegetables: Progresso Black Beans
Best canned fruits: Dole Cherry Mixed Fruit Cups
Best pasta: Barilla Whole Grain Spaghetti
Best canned meats: Bumble Bee Canned Tuna
Editor’s note: Erika Villalobos-Morsink, an MS, RD, and nutritionist based in New York City, also contributed to the content in this guide with input on what to look for when picking out the best shelf-stable food.
The best staple
Rice is a common ingredient used around the world, with hundreds of millions of people incorporating it into their diets on a daily basis. It also happens to be relatively inexpensive, simple to prepare, and can sit on your shelf for months at a time without going bad. Best of all, rice is extremely versatile, mixing nicely with meat and vegetables, or as a simple meal all on its own.
Cassetty explained that since brown rice is a whole grain, it contains higher levels of vitamins and minerals. It also has more fiber and antioxidants, making it a much better choice than white rice, which mostly consists of carbs and very few nutrients. Both can obviously be used to fill your stomach but brown rice is the healthier choice.
If you’re looking to stock up on brown rice, we recommend Lotus Foods Gourmet Organic Brown Rice, which is available in packages of up to 25 pounds, or Lundberg Country Wild Rice, which ships in packs of six. Both are affordable, tasty, and can be used in a wide variety of ways. Cassetty also recommends quinoa and steel cut oats as alternatives to brown rice. Good options for these two staples are available from Viva Naturals and Bob’s Red Mill, respectively.
Product Embed: Product Name: Lotus Foods Organic Brown Jasmine Rice (6-pack) Card Type: small https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5e6bd6ba54f25c4c772c6995&type=small&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150%Product Embed: Product Name: Lundberg Country Wild Rice (6-pack) Card Type: small https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5e6bd73684159f6aea205b86&type=small&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150%Product Embed: Product Name: Viva Naturals Organic Quinoa Card Type: small https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5e6bd7e354f25c4e7f28ec92&type=small&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150%Product Embed: Product Name: Bob’s Red Mill Organic Steel Cut Oats (4-pack) Card Type: small https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5e6bd85584159f6cee1a7484&type=small&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150%
The best canned soup
Canned soup is another healthy item that’s easy to prepare, tastes good, and stays on your shelf indefinitely. There are a wide variety of flavors and brands to choose from in this category, of course, but Cassetty tells us to use caution.
“Look for soups that are low in sodium,” she said. “Especially bean-based varieties like lentil and split pea.”
Amy’s Organic Lentil Soup meets that criteria with 630mg of sodium per cup. Better yet, Amy’s Organic Split Pea has less than half of that, coming in at just 310mg instead. Those who are especially conscious of the amount of salt they take into their diet should consider Health Valley Organic Tomato Soup, which has just 60mg of sodium per cup, making it one of the healthiest canned soups on the market.
Product Embed: Product Name: Health Valley Organic Organic Tomato Soup (8-pack) Card Type: small https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5e6bdd3e54f25c5577259704&type=small&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150%Product Embed: Product Name: Amy’s Organic Lentil Soup Card Type: small https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5e6bde5784159f74a4563da4&type=small&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150%Product Embed: Product Name: Amy’s Light In Sodium Split Pea Soup (12-pack) Card Type: small https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5e6bdfb2e4f9fe6df2448902&type=small&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150%
The best canned vegetables
Canned black beans are a staple that can be eaten on their own or mixed with other foods to create delicious combinations. They also happen to provide plenty of protein, fiber, and an array of vitamins and minerals, making them a nutritious choice for surviving a long quarantine.
Perfect for making soups, salads, tacos, and a variety of other dishes, Progresso Black Beans are low on fat and sugars. They’re also a good source of carbs, which are necessary for a balanced diet, even while staying indoors for any period of time.
Other excellent options for canned vegetables include Del Monte Whole Kernel Corn and Whole Food’s 365 Everyday Value Organic Diced Tomatoes (can’t find this in stock anywhere).
Product Embed: Product Name: Progresso Black Beans (24-pack) Card Type: small https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5e6be08484159f77a15bcd62&type=small&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150%Product Embed: Product Name: Del Monte Whole Kernel Golden Sweet Corn Card Type: small https://produktor.businessinsider.com/productCardService?id=5e6be173e4f9fe70015c6459&type=small&live=true Width: 100% Height: 150%
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