Novella Lui, RD, MHSc
Registered Dietitian & Nutrition Consultant
Our registered dietitian, Novella Lui (@livetonourishrd) wants to share with you that panic buying and stockpiling foods are unnecessary during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As you engage in isolation and social distancing amid the Covid-19 pandemic, more meals are prepared and enjoyed at home. Since frequent trips to the grocery store are off-limits for the time being, it is best that you have foods on hand that are not only nutrient-dense but also have a long shelf life.
Read on to discover our top 10 must-have foods in the pantry and fridge during the pandemic.
Onions add flavour to everything. Depending on the variety, their flavours range from mild to pungent. Because they are so versatile, they go well with stir fry and pasta, especially with savoury dishes that need longer cooking times, such as soups. Nutritionally speaking, they are a source of dietary fibre, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6.
Onions have a shelf life ranging from 30 to 180 days, depending on the variety. They are best stored at room temperature in a place that is well ventilated.
Meal idea: Sugar pumpkin soup
Known for being bright orange in colour, carrots contain beta-carotene, a red-orange pigment that is converted to vitamin A in the body which supports healthy eyes and skin. Beta-carotene is also an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of some chronic diseases.
Like onions, carrots have a long shelf-life which can last up to three weeks if they are kept in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They can be added to anything, but pair particularly well with curry, ginger, thyme and parsley.
Meal idea: Red curry coconut lentil chicken soup
3. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes contain ten times the amount of vitamin A found in white potatoes. They are a healthier alternative to regular potatoes for their lower glycemic index, which does not cause a sudden increase in blood sugar levels. With 4 grams of fibre per serving, they also help to promote fullness.
Sweet potatoes are not only ideal for substituting potatoes in shepherd’s pie, but they also make a delicious side dish and go well with stews, soups, and stir fry.
Sweet potatoes are best used within one week while being kept in a dry, dark and cool place.
Meal idea: Roasted sweet potatoes with cranberries from Foodland Ontario
4. Frozen Vegetables
Frozen vegetables have similar nutritional value as their fresh counterparts but offer a longer shelf life. Simply steam them or add them to stir fry and soups. For healthier options, choose plain frozen vegetables over flavoured varieties that have added fat, salt and sauces.
Meal idea: Curry okra cauliflower tofu stir fry
5. Frozen Fruit
Like frozen vegetables, frozen fruit is convenient and last longer than fresh fruit. They can be added to a variety of dishes, including breakfast cereals, oatmeal, muesli, smoothies, waffles, pancakes and French toast.
Because frozen fruit is naturally sweet, purchasing varieties that have added syrup or sugar is not necessary.
Meal idea: Blueberry coconut orange smoothie
6. Dried and canned legumes
From red kidney beans to chickpeas and lentils, these nutritious plant-based proteins are rich in iron, vitamin B6, folate and fibre. Inexpensive and versatile, legumes are perfect for an array of dishes, including salads, rice, hearty soups, chilis, tacos, quesadillas and dips.
There are more than twenty different types of legumes available, so having a few types of dried and canned varieties stocked in your pantry would be ideal for enjoying them in an assortment of dishes. For example, chickpeas could be used for making hummus dip while red kidney beans could be added to soups and chilis, and lentils could be used to make split pea and lentil soup.
If you buy canned legumes, make sure you remove the liquid from the can and rinse the legumes before use to remove any excess sodium.
Eggs are one of the most versatile foods and utilized in many ways. As a food, eggs could be eaten as hard-boiled, scrambled, omelettes, quiches and more. As an ingredient, they are essential for enhancing the appearance and texture for baked items, such as pies and pastries; for binding ingredients together, such as glueing ground meat together to make meatloaf; and for sealing folded edges, such as empanadas, to keep the content intact.
Eggs are a nutrient powerhouse where they provide a number of vital nutrients, including protein, fat, selenium, vitamins A, D, E, B12, riboflavin and folate.
To store eggs, keep them in the carton in the refrigerator. Their shelf life can be extended up to four months in the freezer if they are shelled and beaten together. Make sure you date the container with the number of eggs included.
Pasta is an inexpensive staple that comes in different varieties and shapes, including spaghetti, linguini, macaroni and more.
When purchasing healthier options, choose the ones that list a whole grain as the first ingredient, and offer at least 4 grams of fibre per serving and less than 360mg of sodium per serving. You can also consider buying pasta that is made with chickpeas or beans for additional protein.
Dried pasta has a much longer shelf life than fresh pasta, which only lasts for two to three days in the refrigerator. To extend the shelf life of the latter, store them in the freezer for up to two months.
Meal idea: Flaxseed oil linguine
Like pasta, grains come in an array of varieties. In comparison to refined grains, whole grains are more nutritious because they have undergone the least amount of processing, where the bran and the germ of the grain are still intact.
Brown rice and quinoa are readily available in grocery stores, but if you would like to enjoy other types, you can also consider barley, buckwheat and millet, which are as equally versatile as brown rice and quinoa that can be added to salads and eaten as a side dish.
Meal idea: Warm quinoa apple bean salad
10. Popcorn kernels
Since you will be homebound for some time, having some healthy snacks on hand is also key to prevent energy slumps and to tide you over to your next meal. One healthy snack that you should have available is popcorn. Specifically, plain and air-popped popcorn is a low-calorie, low fat and high fibre snack.
Instead of microwavable popcorn, choose popcorn kernels in a bag. You can pop them on your stovetop or in an air-popper so that you can control the amount of flavouring and seasonings added.
Meal idea: Use two tablespoons of Alligga flaxseed cooking oil for every half cup of popcorn kernels.
For more meal ideas and how you can incorporate our signature flaxseed cooking oil and our other flax and hemp products in your meals, click here.