20 Nutrient Dense Pantry Staples to Stock During Social Distancing
When stocking your pantry for the next few weeks of social distancing, be sure that you have plenty of nutrient-dense foods on hand that will fuel your health rather than fuel stress and inflammation. Now that you have fewer distractions, less travel and no work events, this is the perfect time to invest in your health.
Use this downtime as an opportunity to invest in new behaviors and fuel with foods that will make you feel the best. That means skip the pasta and cookies and load up on foods that fuel your cells with anti-inflammatory messages. Skip laying on the couch for hours watching Netflix and prioritize an immune-supporting workout. Pass on going to bed late at night and wind down earlier so that you can prioritize rest.
In order to prioritize your health, you will need foods that allow you to do that. Read below to find my top 20 non-perishable food recommendations.
Stock Up On The Following:
1: Canned or Pouched Wild Salmon
Wild salmon is a nutritional powerhouse, high in B vitamins and two immune supporting essentials: omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, yet many Americans are under-consuming this essential fatty acid and over consuming its counterpart, omega-6 fatty acids. One serving of wild canned salmon also contains about 500 IUs of vitamin D, another nutrients that plays a role in supporting robust immune health that most Americans, especially elderly are deficient in.
When shopping, try to choose wild salmon over farm raised whenever possible. Farm raised salmon is higher in PCPs and other toxins and lower in omega 3s. Look for BPA-free cans or pouches. My favorite brands are Vital Choice and Wild Planet.
To incorporate wild salmon into your diet in a delicious way, try adding it to salad or making my Salmon Salad Wraps.
2: Canned Oysters
If you like salmon in a can, wait until you try oysters! Canned oysters are a delicious way to optimize your nutritional intake. A single serving of canned oysters has more than your daily needs of zinc and B12, and is also high in selenium, vitamin D, and iron. Zinc—the nutrient commonly found in cold medicine and lozenges—may be associated with a reduced duration and severity of the common cold, if consumed in adequate amounts before the cold begins. This protein-rich shellfish also has high amounts of antioxidants, perfect for helping your body beat the oxidative stress of illness.
My favorite canned oysters company is Crown Prince. They sell a Natural Smoked Oyster in Olive Oil. When purchasing canned oysters, make sure they are BPA-Free. Avoid canned oysters that are made with vegetable oils like soybean oil or cottonseed oil.
Add canned oysters as an easy protein source on salads. You can also make my Shrimp Friend Cauliflower Rice and replace the shrimp with oysters. Or lastly, you can eat the oysters as an afternoon snack.
3: Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are rich in alpha linolenic acid, a plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, in addition to protein and fiber. The fiber found in chia seeds can help fuel beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome, which play a key role in modulating immune response. Chia seeds also have a rich micronutrient profile, containing zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron to name a few.
Because of all of the nutrients packed into chia seeds, they are powerful agents against inflammation. In a randomized control trial of adult males and females, ingestion of chia seeds reduced CRP levels in the blood—a common marker for inflammation.
When purchasing chia seeds, choose a brand that is organic. Often chia seeds come in black and white varieties. Both are equally nutritious, the color just changes some of the seed’s polyphenol activity. I recommend purchasing whole seeds unless they cause digestive issues. In that case, you could purchase ground.
Try adding two tablespoons of chia seeds to your morning smoothie. You can also try making my simple Chocolate Cashew Chia Pudding recipe and keep it stocked in your refrigerator for an easy snack throughout the week.
4: Ground Flaxseeds
Like chia seeds, ground flaxseeds are rich in alpha linolenic acid, a building block of omega 3s. They are also rich in phytoestrogenic compounds called lignans. Lignans have been shown to have both antibacterial and antiviral properties and have been recommended for cold and cough treatments. These compounds have synergistic effects on other areas of the body and may also exert therapeutic benefits related to postmenopausal symptoms, aid in the reduction of cholesterol and blood pressure and be used as a therapeutic tool for the prevention of breast cancer.
You can either purchase whole flaxseeds and grind them at home in a coffee grinder or you can purchase ground flaxseeds. Grinding the flaxseeds aid in nutrient absorption. If you purchase ground flaxseeds instead of whole then technically you will want to store in the refrigerator or freezer in a tightly sealed container to prevent the fats from going rancid.
Like chia seeds, ground flaxseeds can easily be added to any smoothie. Flaxseeds also work well in baked goods like my Keto Macadamia Bread recipe. They also serve as a great binding agent in recipes like these Turkey Meatballs.
5: Nut Butter or Tahini
Nut and seed butters like almond butter, cashew butter, peanut butter or pecan butter make a great addition to your pantry, since they are rich in plant-based proteins and monounsaturated fats. They also last for months in the pantry, unless eaten! Almonds, cashews and pecans are all tree nuts; peanuts are a legume; and tahini is made from sesame seeds which are seeds. Each of these nut butters contain different benefits but across the board, they are a great source of healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E and iron.
It is best to purchase nut butter or tahini raw and organic. You’ll find in the links that one of my go to brands is Artisana. If these nut butters do not fit in your budget right now, dry roasted and non-organic is fine. Look for no more than nuts + salt in the ingredient list. No other oils, sugars or fillers are necessary.
Nut and seed butters can be used in almost any meal—added to smoothies, blended into dressings, and used in stir-fry sauces to give you just a few ideas. If you are feeling particularly adventurous and have extra time, try going homemade and making your own nut butter or almond milk!
6: Brami Lupini Beans
These beans have moved to the top of my snack essentials list, and for good reason! Lupini beans are one of the few beans that are high in both protein and fiber but have 0g of net carbohydrates. That means it’s a great source of plant-based protein without the carbohydrate load. This makes them perfect for vegetarians, ketogenic diets and gluten free diets. They are also rich in micronutrients like manganese, iron, and folate for a true nutritional powerhouse.
Purchase Brami Lupini Beans on Amazon or at some Whole Foods locations. They are not yet accessible at all grocery store so it may be easiest to purchase online. I recommend stocking up on several orders of the variety pack so that you have a full supply in your pantry.
Simply open the bag and eat! These lupini beans are an ideal snack. One serving is 1/3 of the bag. You can also add the whole bag to a salad for the primary protein source of your meal, which provides 21g of protein and 15g fiber!
7: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Approximately 70% of olive oil is made up of a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Monounsaturated fats like olive oil and avocado oil are typically liquid at room temperature.
Not only is olive oil made of monounsaturated fats, but it also has plenty of polyphenols—important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. Studies have shown that these polyphenols may help modulate the immune system by affecting white blood cell proliferation and the production of cytokines and other important agents of your immune system. The FDA recommends consuming 1 1/2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil per day, as it may be associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
High quality olive oil should be extra virgin, first cold pressed, unrefined, unfiltered and organic. It’s also best to purchase olive oil in a dark bottle that protects the oil from oxidation. Look for third party certification to ensure that the olive oil is 100% olive oil. Reports show that close to 70% of olive oil purchased in the US was of poor quality and/or adulterated with cheaper refined oils.
Disclosure: The olive oil linked above is made by Bragg Live Food Products LLC and I serve as the company’s Nutrition Advisor. While I am financially compensated for the work that I do for the company, I am not compensated for promoting their products on my own website. I simply believe that they have a high quality olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is the perfect oil to drizzle on top of salads like my Kale Pear & Lemon Chicken Salad. You can also add to food after it has been cooked, like in my Arugula Lentil Pasta Salad. Olive oil is in fact safe to cook with at medium temperature around 350-400 F.
8: Avocado Oil Dressings
Avocado oil has a similar nutritional composition to olive oil but unlike olive oil, there is not as much research on this avocado-derived oil given it’s more recent emergence on the market. From a high level, avocado oil appears to be similar to olive oil in that they both are primarily monounsaturated fats that are liquid at room temperature and are rich in polyphenols. On a more microscopic level, avocado oil may have a higher omega 6:3 ratio than olive oil and may contain less vitamin E. But overall avocado oil is much preferred for its ability to lower inflammation and promote heart health, especially when replacing vegetable oils like soybean oil, safflower oil and canola oil.
Stock up on Avocado oil dressing like Primal Kitchen to replace dressings that contain sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil and canola oil. Primal Kitchen has a variety of amazing flavors, including Lemon Turmeric Vinaigrette and Green Goddess Dressing.
These avocado oil dressings make it easy to add flavor to food. Use them on salads or as marinades to poultry or seafood dishes.
9: Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a nutrient-dense seed that provide fiber and vitamin D, in addition to a variety of micronutrients. They are rich in electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Pumpkin seeds are also an exceptional source of zinc, a mineral that supports overall immune health and may help fight infection. Just one serving has about 15% of your daily needs.
I highly recommend SuperSeedz pumpkin seeds that come in different pumpkin seed flavors.
Try grinding these seeds into a delicious nut butter, use them as a crunchy salad topper, or eat them straight from the bag for a nutritious snack.
10: Organic Turkey Sticks
The majority of snacks in the snack aisle are loaded with carbohydrates and sugar. Often times this also includes “protein” bars that could easily be called candy bars because they are a concentrated source of sugar and dried fruit. Rather than spike your blood sugars, try loading up on an organic turkey stick. Protein is not only the most satiating macronutrient, it is also essential for building lean body mass (hello, metabolism), serving as a building block to the immune system, and aiding in recovery and healing. These protein-packed bites can satisfy you until your next meal, especially when you are at home and just feel like snacking all day long.
Pass on the traditionally raised, factory farmed meat steaks and go out of your way to get organic turkey sticks with free range poultry or grass-fed beef, whenever possible.
Enjoy an organic turkey stick with a side of veggies (carrots, celery, cauliflower florets) or an apple.
11: Apple Cider Vinegar
The primary benefits of apple cider vinegar reported in the research are associated with weight maintenance and healthy blood sugar levels. In addition to potentially aiding in weight loss, adding apple cider vinegar with meals has actually been shown to decrease postprandial glucose levels (blood sugar after meals). Now is a very important time to be mindful of blood sugar levels since being at home may create more sedentariness and easy access to small treats and snacks.
Additionally, apple cider vinegar provides gut-friendly prebiotics that help support a healthy gut microbiome. Since the gut microbiome contains the largest collection of immune cells than anywhere else in the body, it also provides a great insurance policy for enhancing your overall health!
When purchasing apple cider vinegar, look for raw, organic, unpasteurized, and ‘with the mother’. You can find that from a company like Bragg Live Food Products.
Avoid drinking apple cider vinegar as a straight shot! Always dilute it with water. Simply add 1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar to 6-8 fluid ounces of filtered water. You can also try mixing it in a salad dressing or adding a splash to herbal teas.
Disclosure: The same disclosure from the extra virgin olive oil section and my work with Bragg applies here.
12: Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast seasoning is a pantry essential because it provides a convenient, shelf-stable source of plant-based protein and fiber. When looking for shelf stable sources of protein, it can be difficult to find a variety of options that are low in the glycemic index and do not pack in the carbohydrates (think beans, lentils, quinoa). There is nothing inherently wrong with these foods, in fact they can be nutritious but nutritional yeast is a great alternative source of protein because it contains 5g of protein with 2g of fiber and only 1g of net carbohydrates per 2 Tbsp. As an added bonus, nutritional yeast is also rich in B vitamins that are important for supporting energy.
Purchase nutritional yeast that is non-gmo and certified gluten-free.
From a flavor standpoint, nutritional yeast has the ability to enhance any dish with it’s nutty/cheesy flavor profile, making it the perfect dairy-free alternative to cheese. Try it on salad, popcorn, eggs, and in other nourishing bowls.
Disclosure: The same disclosure from the extra virgin olive oil + apple cider vinegar sections and my work with Bragg applies here.
13: Dark Chocolate (>70% Cacao)
Dark chocolate is known as a superfood for a few reasons. It is rich in flavanols that have been shown to have cardiac benefits and may be associated with lower blood pressure. It also contains a variety of micronutrients such as iron, magnesium, and zinc that are necessary for your body to function optimally. In terms of immune and anti-inflammatory benefits, cocoa has been associated with modified T cell and antibody function, helping to strengthen the adaptive immune response. It has also demonstrated anti-inflammatory potential.
Incase you’re wondering: Cacao is the raw form of the bean and cocoa is the roasted form of the bean.
Just make sure you are purchasing 70% cacao or higher dark chocolate to get the polyphenol benefits from the cacao and keep the sugar lower. If you are dairy-free, be sure that you are choosing a bar without milk.
Enjoy 1-2 squares of dark chocolate by itself, add a splash of nut butter to the dark chocolate or add the chocolate to berries. You can also use raw cacao powder in my Cherry Chocolate Energy Bars or my Cacao Coconut Bliss Balls.
14: Protein Powder
Protein powder is a great pantry staple to have on hand since it is an easy, shelf-stable source of protein. There are three things that determine the effectiveness of protein powder: the amino acid content, digestibility and bioavailability. See below for three different type of powder:
Grass-fed Whey: Research has shown whey is a complete source of protein and it has an exceptionally high amino acid content (specifically the branch chain amino acids isoleucine, leucine and valine), a rapid digestibility and high bioavailability. Always choose grass-fed and pasture-raised whey protein when purchasing.
Plant-based Protein If you have a severe dairy allergy or sensitivity or avoid animal products, plant-based protein powders are great options.
Collagen is sourced from animal bones, skin and connective tissue. It is an important and abundant protein found in the body, playing a role in skin health, connective tissue + joint health, gut health and more. While there are gut healthy benefits and it is easy to use in different dishes, collagen does lack the essential amino acid called tryptophan and is also low in methionine. Your body likely makes up for that with your overall protein throughout the day but you will want to consider using whey, beef or vegan protein powder post-workout.
I recommend looking for organic protein powders that have few ingredients; and no added sugars, artificial sweeteners, preservatives or fillers. It’s also best to find products that are from reputable companies and are third party tested with a label like NSF certified.
Try incorporating protein powder into smoothies or simply mixing it to a shaker bottle with your favorite dairy-free milk like unsweetened almond or cashew milk.
15: Citrus Powder
Feel like you’re struggling to get enough water? These citrus powders can help! Even better, while spicing up the taste of your beverages, you’ll also get some vitamin C. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that plays an important role in enhancing your immune system. Hospitals in New York City recently reported that they are giving patients with Coronavirus high dose intravenous vitamin C.
And as an added bonus, vitamin C may help curb the stress response because it supports your adrenal glands, which are responsible for the production of cortisol, your body’s primary stress hormone!
The True Lemon Energy powders have 90mg of vitamin C in one serving. The ingredients are: Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Stevia Leaf Extract, Beet Juice (For Color), Malic Acid, Caffeine, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Lemon Juice Solids. As you can see, each packet also has 120mg of caffeine and are sweetened with stevia.
For a non-sweetened variety, you can also try their citrus powders (True Lemon, True Lime or True Orange) although these do not contain vitamin C. Of course, you can also always purchase whole lemons and limes to keep in the refrigerator.
Add these packets to your hot or cold beverages in the morning or throughout the day.
Walnuts are one of the most nutrient-dense nuts that exist. They contain phytonutrients and omega-3s that can help reduce risk for cardiovascular disease. They have been associated with reduced triglyceride levels, LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, and improvements in blood flow. A randomized controlled trial conducted on healthy adults also found that walnut consumption may benefit the gut microbiome. Half of the participants started off on the nut-free diet for 8 weeks while the other half were assigned to the walnut diet, and both groups swapped at 8 weeks. The study found that, while on the walnut diet, participants had a higher production of beneficial bacteria, as compared to the group that avoided nuts.
When purchasing walnuts, look for raw and unsalted.
Add walnuts to your favorite baked goods—like these muffins—or simply snack on a small handout throughout the day.
17: Green Tea
Active components of green tea include epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), theanine, and caffeine. The polyphenol content found in green tea is particularly high in the catechin epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Animal studies have shown that EGCG may support immunological health by inhibiting cytokine production and T cell proliferation. In other studies, green tea has been associated with lower cholesterol and blood pressure, in addition to protection against cancer cells. In one randomized trial, green tea blended with pomegranate, broccoli and turmeric demonstrated improved outcomes for PSA levels in men under active surveillance. These same antioxidants + polyphenols likely strengthen the immune system by reducing oxidative damage.
Try to select brands of green tea that are organic.
Use filtered water to brew the tea. Bring tea close to a boil and steep for 1-3 minutes.
18: Nut Pods
Nut Pods are an amazing way to enjoy coffee creamer without relying on low quality traditional cream options. This creamer alternative is dairy-free and shelf-stable, making it perfect for those with dairy sensitivities, allergies, or lactose intolerance. They also come in delicious flavors to make you feel like you are visiting your favorite coffee shop, even when you are stuck at home.
Stock up on Nut Pods if you enjoy them. You can purchase the smaller 11.2 fl oz containers that are shelf-stable.
Add to coffee, green tea, black tea, herbal tea, and even as a cream substitute in your favorite recipes.
Who knew that the key to improving your health could be simply spicing up your dishes! Spices have long been used for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In fact, turmeric has been used for centuries as a treatment for many ailments due to the fact that it can modulate the activity of different immune cells. Cinnamon is another spice that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and blood sugar lowering properties. Finally, onion powder has many electrolytes you need such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, adding micronutrients to your dishes in addition to plenty of flavor.
Stock up on various anti-inflammatory seasonings, preferably organic varieties.
Try these turmeric shots to for some extra spice or simply make sure to add spices to the dishes already in your rotation.
20: Dried Sprouted Lentils
Lentils are a great option because they provide such a wide variety of nutrients: iron, folate, protein, and fiber. Their polyphenol and phytonutrient content have been shown to be protective against a number of chronic diseases, even showing antiviral properties. Choosing the sprouted variety lowers their anti-nutrient content which can interfere with absorption of certain micronutrients. Decreasing anti-nutrients may also be an important consideration if you experience joint pain or inflammation.
Purchase dried sprouted lentils and stock up in your pantry.
Make a large batch of lentils on the stove over the weekend. Use them throughout the week in your favorite salad, a warm lentil soup, mixed with quinoa or stirred into vegetable dishes like cauliflower rice.
Food is our most powerful form of medicine! Do your best to stock up on these nutrient-dense foods to keep you nourished during your weeks at home.
Jamie Foti Contributed to this Article.