May 23

Staples To Keep On Hand for Healthy Meals


by Rob Baker

The best way to avoid the draw to fast food and prepackaged meals is to have a healthily stocked kitchen. Unfortunately, many fresh, healthy foods do not have a long shelf life, which can mean burning through your stores rather quickly. Thankfully, there are many long-lasting staples that are healthy and are great go-to, nutrient-dense foods for snacks and meals.

Canned and Dried Lentils and Beans

If you are looking for one of the healthiest and most shelf-stable foods you can eat, look no further than lentils and beans. Canned beans can be in the pantry for up to five years, and if you have dried options, you can keep them for 10 years. The extended shelf-life of dried beans is due to the lack of moisture — dried items do not promote bacterial growth.

Beans and lentils have an abundance of nutrients, including B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and fiber. They are also a versatile food source, capable of being thrown into chili, stew, soups, and salads.


Grains are another great source of essential nutrients, including magnesium, manganese, B vitamins, and fiber. Additionally, Grains like brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, amaranth, and oats can help protect against heart disease and some types of cancer.

It is beneficial to buy grains in bulk because of their long shelf life. Most grains can be stores at room temperature for months or even years.

Nuts, Nut Butters, and Seeds

Nuts and seeds provide healthy fats, fiber, protein, and numerous vitamins and minerals. Many seeds and nuts remain shelf-stable at room temperature for up to four months. Fresh nut butter is healthier than many commercial counterparts because they do not contain added oils and sugars.

Adding nuts and seeds to meals, such as oatmeal or salads, can help provide feelings of fullness because of the additional proteins and fats. No pantry is complete until it has a healthy variety of nuts and seeds.

Frozen Vegetables and Fruit

Purchasing fresh produce is something most people love doing, but with life’s busy and unpredictable schedules, much of this fresh food goes to waste. Instead of purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, buy frozen produce.

Look for items that are flash-frozen to preserve nutrients. According to several studies, there is a minimal nutritional difference between fresh and frozen produce.

Like grains, nuts, and beans, frozen fruits and vegetables are versatile foods that can add flavor to all sorts of dishes. You can use berries to add a bit of sweetness to smoothies or add frozen vegetables to round out a soup.

Frozen Poultry, Fish, and Meat

While fresh proteins, such as fish, poultry, and red meat, are perishable when put in the refrigerator,  putting the items in the freezer significantly extends their usefulness. Frozen chicken, for instance, can remain safe for up to one year if kept at 0°F, and fish can last up to five months in the freezer.

Fish and lean poultry are some of the healthiest sources of protein. Additionally, fatty fish like salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial to a healthy diet.

Fermented Foods

You have heard of the gut microbiome, right? Fermented foods are excellent sources of probiotics for keeping your gut flora balanced. Fermented foods include:

  • Kimchi
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut

Several studies prove the connection between fermented food and digestive health. Some research even points to these foods as anti-inflammatory.

When stored properly, fermented items can lasts months. For instance, sauerkraut and pickles can last for 18 months when stored at room temperature.

The above foods are excellent options for healthy, shelf-stable pantry staples. Do you have any other suggestions?


Food, Health, Healthy Meals, Staples

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