- Some of the best canned food options are beans, tuna, salmon, vegetables, and fruits.
- In order to include carbohydrates and fiber in your diet, be sure to stock up on some non-canned items like oats, rice, quinoa, barley, or pasta.
- When you are building a meal out of non-perishable items be sure to include a protein, a whole grain or starch, a vegetable or a fruit, a nutritious fat, and a flavor.
- This article was reviewed by Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD, CDN, owner of Melissa Rifkin Nutrition LLC.
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Fresh foods are generally the healthiest option when you’re preparing a meal, but in times of emergency, fresh food is not always available. Stocking up on non-perishable foods is an important step to prepare for a situation where your access to a grocery store may be limited.
Here’s what you need to know about how to eat healthy in an emergency while relying on canned, frozen, and dried foods.
Best canned foods for a healthy diet
When preparing for an emergency situation, canned foods are an important part of your pantry, as they last a long time and offer a wide variety of options.
Canned foods with a higher acid content, like tomatoes or fruit, are best for 12 to 18 months on the shelf, while other foods should do well for 2 to 5 years. After this time, the foods shouldn’t spoil, as they are sealed in sanitary containers, but the quality of taste and texture may go down.
According to Kelly Jones, MS, RD, a board-certified sports dietitian, some of the most important canned foods to keep on your shelf include:
- Canned beans and legumes – These are especially helpful when you need a source of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans are all good options, but navy beans offer the most protein.
- Canned tuna and salmon – Canned salmon is especially high in protein, with 24 grams per can, while tuna has around 19 grams. These fish also provide essential omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Canned vegetables – Vegetables provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, even when coming from a can. Canned green beans are a good source of the essential vitamins folate, iron, and vitamin C, while canned corn provides starch and potassium.
- Canned fruits – Jones says that the healthiest option is to get fruits canned in their own juices, but if you can only find fruit canned in syrup, just rinse it before eating. Canned peaches are a great source of vitamins like beta-carotene and vitamin A, while canned pineapple offers vitamin C and potassium and enzymes.
In addition to canned foods, having dry goods like nuts and grains is essential to building a healthy, non-perishable diet.
Whole grains are a vital source of carbohydrates and fiber in your diet and most come in a dried, non-perishable form. Oats and rice are often the go-to options for grains, but Jones recommends branching out to try other grains as well, like quinoa, faro, bulgur, or barley. Jones also always recommends having pasta available.
Nuts and seeds are great sources of protein and healthy fats, as well as minerals like iron and magnesium. “Stock up on a variety of nuts and nut butters for varied nutrition and to avoid food boredom,” Jones says.
Eating frozen foods is a vital way to get nutrition from fruits and vegetables. Frozen berries are a great option to to get vitamin C and potassium, while frozen spinach offers iron, calcium, and vitamin A.
For more information on canned food options, check out: Is canned food bad for your health? These are the healthiest canned options.
A day eating healthy on only stored food
By combining canned foods, frozen foods, and dry goods, you can create a well-balanced meal plan in an emergency situation. Here is a sample meal plan of eating only non-perishable foods for a day:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with canned peaches and pecans
Lunch: Pasta with tomato sauce, canned kidney beans, frozen spinach
Dinner: Canned salmon, brown rice, and canned green beans
Jones says that when you are stocking your pantry or building a meal, you should keep a checklist in mind of the main components of a balanced diet: protein, a whole grain or starch, a vegetable or a fruit, a nutritious fat and a flavor. Dried herbs and powders work well when adding spice to your meals.
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