As a general rule, healthy, nutritional foods and foods with a long shelf-life do not typically go hand-in-hand. I like to think of it as “alive vs dead” foods…we want alive! Dead foods, or long shelf-life foods, are usually packed with preservatives and depleted of vitamins and antioxidants. They are often highly processed and spike the blood sugar levels once consumed.
But don’t lose hope! I did a little research on the topic from reputable sources (ACEFitness.org, Run Fast. Eat Slow., Runner’s World, and the FDA) and have composed a list of healthy foods with a long shelf-life, plus a list of fresh fruits and vegetables that last longer than most. Enjoy!
1. BEANS: Beans are packed with protein and healthy fiber that aids digestion and makes us feel full longer. They have antioxidants and some studies have linked the consumption of beans to cancer prevention and heart health. Lima beans, in particular, are also packed with potassium (1000mg per serving!). Meal suggestion: Red beans and rice with a side salad
2. OLIVE OIL: Studies show that 2 tbsp of olive oil can combat inflammation better than a dose of ibuprofen. Olive oil is rich in healthy fats (monounsaturated) and antioxidants, but it’s also important to purchase high quality olive oil for the nutritional punch it can provide. Go with extra-virgin olive oil and avoid using olive oil in high heat cooking (high heat can reduce the nutritional value of olive oil). Meal suggestion: Fresh kale tossed in olive oil, sesame seeds, and sea salt.
3. HEALTHY CRACKERS: Crackers can be tricky because of hidden preservatives or unhealthy oils. Be sure to read the labels and avoid crackers that contain ingredients you have difficulty pronouncing (avoid RITZ and Cheez-It). My favorites are Nut Thins, Trader Joe’s Savory thin crackers, Simple Mills Fine Ground Sea Salt crackers, Mary’s Gone Crackers Super Seed Everything, and Saffron Road Lentil crackers. Snack suggestion: Crackers with camembert cheese and red bell pepper.
4. SARDINES (canned): If you can accustom yourself to sardines, you’ll discover unbelievable health benefits. They have surprisingly high levels of calcium and B-12. They are a good source of protein and healthy fats (omega-3’s) and contain essential minerals and antioxidants. Meal suggestion: Sardines with swiss cheese on Simple Mills Fine Ground Sea Salt crackers
5. HEALTHY GRAINS (WILD RICE, BROWN RICE, QUINOA): Technically, quinoa isn’t a grain, but because it cooks like a grain and has a long self-life, it’s included here. Healthy grains are rich in the B vitamins and offer a healthy source of protein. Meal suggestion: cooked salmon with wild rice and asparagus
6. OATMEAL: Pre-ride, I love a good bowl of oatmeal; plus, there are so many other delicious recipes that require oatmeal (try this homemade granola recipe!). Oatmeal is inexpensive, has a long shelf-life, and is filled with essential minerals, antioxidants, and good fiber. Meal suggestion: cooked oatmeal with blueberries and a dash of coconut milk
7. CANNED COCONUT MILK: Be sure to check the ingredients – you want the canned coconut milk in its purest form. Diluted coconut milk is sold either in the milk cold section or near the non-refrigerated soy milk options. Some diluted coconut milks are not bad for you, but they do not pack the same nutritional punch as canned coconut milk. If you’re worried about the high fat content, you can purchase lowfat canned coconut milk (water is the only added ingredient) and still receive some of the powers of coconut milk. Coconut milk has been shown to enhance our ability to absorb nutrients, stimulate metabolism, and boost immunity – and because it comes in a can, it has a long shelf-life. Meal suggestion: Coconut milk smoothie with peaches, banana, and yogurt
8. CANNED PUMPKIN: Some Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores have continued to sell pumpkin all year long…whoohoo! Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A and antioxidants. Unless you purchase a large pumpkin, it comes in a can which means a long shelf-life. In addition to pumpkin muffins, you can add pumpkin to smoothies, pancakes, or even chili to replace the canned tomatoes! Meal suggestion: Try replacing canned tomatoes with canned pumpkin in your favorite chili recipe…you might be surprised at the taste!
9. BONE BROTH: The tastiest and most nutritional bone broth is the homemade kind. But for a good source of protein for something with a long shelf-life, bone broth in a container is not a bad option. Bone broth from a container won’t have the rich collagen-packed gelatin, but it’s a good source of protein with a long shelf-life. With broth on hand, you can make a delicious stew of whatever vegetables and legumes you happen to have around. Meal suggestion: minestrone soup
10. SEEDS, NUTS: Nuts and seeds can be used for so many things (healthy snack, on top of salads, ground into nut/seed butters or nut milk, added to smoothies). They are a great source of healthy fat, contain amino acids and essential minerals. To extend shelf-life even longer, store them in air-tight glass jars. Snack suggestion: cashew milk (1 cup of cashews blended with 3 cups of water until blended)
11. DRIED FRUITS: While they don’t contain quite the nutritional punch of fresh fruit, dried fruit still has a good source of antioxidants and vitamins. They make a great pre-workout snack, just be sure to check the ingredients for added sugars (fruit should be the sole ingredient). Snack suggestion: date energy bars.
12. FRUITS WITH LONGER SHELF-LIFE: apples, oranges; frozen fruits
13. VEGGIES WITH LONGER SHELF-LIFE: butternut squash, green beans, corn, okra, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, red onions, celery, carrots; packaged cooked beets; frozen veggies
In conclusion, you can’t beat fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, meat, and fresh bread. But in a pandemic, you’ll want to limit your trips to the grocery store! And to do so? Utilize foods with long shelf-life. Just be sure to read the labels on processed foods and stay away from foods with added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, anhydrous dextrose, artificial colors, aspartame, hydrolyzed protein, monosodium glutamate, potassium bromate, trans fats, BHA or BHT, autolyzed yeast, and really, any ingredient you can’t pronounce.
Enjoy! Let me know if you have an item to add to the list!