Having a well-stocked pantry has long been proclaimed as a great way to save time and money, since you always have food available, presumably eliminating the need for spontaneous trips to Taco Bell. The trouble is, this usually means stockpiling foods that can last a long time without refrigeration, and many foods of this caliber — think Doritos or Chef Boyardee — are extremely unhealthy due to the presence of dangerous preservatives and heart-busting mountains of sodium.
There are at least some healthy foods that last a long time, though. In an attempt to help everyone (including myself) avoid those expensive late-night fast-food binges, I asked nutritionist David Friedman, author of Food Sanity: How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction, how he stocks his pantry with healthy eats. Here’s what he said…
Friedman says raw nuts last a long time and most notably provide omega-3 fatty acids, “which helps lower cholesterol, reduces food cravings and prevents diseases.” Yeah, we’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: Nuts are healthy as hell.
Dried fruits can also last for months and months in the pantry. “In addition to offering many health-enhancing vitamins and minerals, they satisfy your sweet tooth and can help tide you over with filling fiber,” Friedman explains. He specifically recommends stocking dried apricots or dates, both of which are nutritional powerhouses, since they pair well with mixed nuts that provide extra protein.
Almond, cashew and peanut butter are great sources of protein, and Friedman says unopened jars can last for a year past the best-by date, while opened jars can last for up to four months in the pantry and six in the fridge. “Put some on whole-wheat crackers or apple slices,” he recommends.
Some pouched tuna can last for three years, and Friedman mentions that they provide vitamins, minerals, protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. He also explains that the pouches are preferable to cans, which “contain aluminum and BPA, which have been linked to many diseases.” Finally, he recommends sticking to low-sodium water-packed versions, rather than oil-packed versions, which contains more calories.
Dark chocolate can last for about two years, and Friedman explains that it contains cacao, which is a good source of the stress-relieving mineral magnesium. He also mentions that it contains theobromine, “which has appetite-regulating and weight loss properties.” He does recommend, however, only investing in dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cacao. Otherwise, those health benefits start going down the drain.
This stuff lasts for up to two years, and Friedman says, “While drinking V8 isn’t as good as freshly-made vegetable juice, it’s certainly better than soft drinks, sugary fruit juices, sports drinks and energy drinks.” That’s because it contains a spattering of vitamins and minerals, to which Friedman says, “This drink packs a lot of nutrition in a small space.”
For even more options, I asked certified personal trainer Landon Brown. He first mentioned canned beans and veggies (beans provide prebiotic fiber, which is good for your gut, and while canned veggies generally boast more sodium than their fresh counterparts, they’re still super healthy). He also mentions that whole-wheat bread and brown rice pasta are healthy choices, since they contain a host of vitamins and minerals.
As for more snack-like pantry options, Brown points to Magic Spoon, which is a cereal subscription service that apparently sells healthy cereals, and Shirataki noodles, which are cheap, healthy and “super low in calories.”
All of which is to say, I’m headed to Taco Bell. Later, nerds.