- Pulses, such as canned chickpeas and black beans, provide a slew of key nutrients, like iron, magnesium and fiber. Studies show that people who eat a half cup of these foods each day have more nutritious diets with higher levels of these and other nutrients. Make a bean chili, add black beans to tacos or roast chickpeas to eat as a crunchy snack.
- Pasta, first choice should be chickpea or lentil versions because they have far more protein than regular pasta, which means you can pare down your meal prep by skipping the protein portion (like meat in your sauce). These varieties also have more fiber, which improves your gut health.
- Nuts and seeds (and their butters) each have unique superpowers. Walnuts, for instance, are highest in anti-inflammatory omega-3s and polyphenol antioxidants, making them a good choice for gut health. Good gut health is linked to better immune health. Plus, these foods add interest to meals. Crush them to use as a coating for fish or chicken or use them to garnish canned soup. Add nut butters to smoothies, drizzle them over pancakes or add savory seasonings, like cumin or chili powder, to make a marinade, dressing or dip for veggies.
- Dried fruits, like mango, prunes and figs, have important nutrients, including fiber and antioxidants. Pick up some freeze-dried fruits and veggies (think: kale, carrot and beet chips) for healthful additions to your snacking repertoire.
- Whole grains, like quinoa, oats and whole wheat, include all parts of the grain, and therefore, all of the grain’s natural nutrition. Benefits of eating these foods instead of their refined counterparts include a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. You’ll want to keep several around to eat as side dishes. Be sure to buy whole grain breads, cereals and crackers, too.
- Lower-sodium, healthy canned soups will surely come in handy. Seek out ones with veggies and pulses for extra nutritional perks.
- Canned seafood, like tuna and salmon, are great pantry staples. Seafood is a good source of selenium and zinc, which are minerals necessary for your immune system. Seafood is also rich in omega 3s. Try canned seafood in pasta salads or made into burgers.
- Condiments are a must-have at home, so take a quick inventory and buy what you need. Some ideas: Unsweetened jarred marinara, salad dressing, Dijon mustard and hot sauce.
For the Freezer
The frozen section has many wholesome options that will keep you nourished as you run low on perishable items. Here are some to keep at home.
- Frozen and canned fruits (ideally in 100% juice) are healthy options that can brighten cold, dark days — and they provide the same nutrients as fresh versions. You can also trade perishable fresh berries for their frozen counterparts. Just use frozen fruits as you would fresh ones.
- Frozen veggies are also just as nutritious as fresh ones and they help reduce meal prep fatigue. Keep a few varieties in the freezer to ensure you don’t run out of produce. You can always saute them in extra-virgin olive oil for an easy side.
- Frozen meals — when made with whole food ingredients, such as whole grains, pulses and vegetables — can be healthy and easy options for Zoom-school-day lunches. Look for varieties with less than 600 milligrams of sodium (lower is better).
- The healthiest frozen pizzas have a cauliflower or whole grain crust (even if not 100%) and veggie toppings. We have a long road ahead of us. You’ll be grateful to have a respite from cooking from time to time.