With a large number of people returning to hoarding large volumes of packaged foods like rice and flour at present — thanks to Sydney’s latest lockdown — the question remains, ‘what on earth are they going to do with it all?’
Indeed having a supply of packaged foods at home is a good idea right now, but it is also important to really consider which of these packaged foods is best nutritionally, and if we are really honest with ourselves, what you will actually use at home.
So as a nutritionist who also likes to have plenty of food on hand, here are my top picks when it comes to packaged foods to keep handy whilst we are living in isolation.
Unlike bread and wraps, which have a relatively limited shelf life, a range of wholegrain crackers including rye, corn and multigrain options will keep well when stored correctly for an extended period of time. Crackers are also relatively cheap and can be a source of good fat when you seek out seed and grain varieties.
As a light lunch option or filling snack when teamed with protein rich fillings such as tuna, salmon, egg, nut spread or cheese, once you find your favourite crunchy cracker biscuit you won’t look back.
One of the most versatile, nutritionally dense and cheap protein rich foods you can find in supermarkets, legumes are so much more than your memories of 4 Bean Mix when you were growing up. Rather kidney beans for Mexican feasts, soups with Borlotti beans, lentil and chickpea patties and delicious butter beans in salads just some of the ways you can use beans to bulk up your meals whilst boosting your protein and fibre intake.
Specifically the fibres found in legumes act as prebiotics which means they help to feed the good bacteria in the gut, ultimately supporting good gut health so adding more of these superfoods into your diet is a no brainer.
We often hear that ‘fresh is always best’ but when it comes to tinned fish, salmon, sardines, mussels and oysters in particular you would be hard pressed to find a more nutrient dense food at such a low price point than tinned fish. Salmon and sardines are especially high in omega 3 fat, and a single serve offers your entire daily recommended intake of these special fats.
While mussels and oysters are packed with zinc, a nutrient we get from few other foods. So if you are looking for a toast or cracker topper, or a light protein to include at dinner, or a nutrient rich snack to enjoy with a glass of wine, don’t forget the wide range of tinned options you can find at supermarkets.
While many of us have stocked up on the pasta, the truth is we are a lot better nutritionally to seek out wholemeal pasta — not only are wholemeal varieties of pasta extremely filling so you tend to need a whole lot less of them but wholemeal pasta is also a good source of dietary fibre and protein.
So next time you are making a pasta bake or lasagna, try mixing regular pasta with wholemeal or make a complete shift to high fibre wholemeal pasta, it will change the way you eat and enjoy pasta forever.
Good quality stock
Whilst 100 per cent stocks that contain minimal additives can be relatively expensive compare to stock cubes and standard stocks, from a quality perspective rather than paying for plenty of salt and flavours you will instead be paying for a more nutrient dense product that is significantly lower in sodium so much better for us.
Keeping plenty of stock at home means that you always have flavour on hand to prepare a quick soup, risotto, pasta, casserole, pie or sauce with minimal other ingredients.
Long life milk
Whilst fresh milk has slightly higher amounts of vitamin B than long life milk, the protein and calcium content remains similar and as a typically fresh food in a version that will last for long period’s unrefrigerated, it makes perfect sense to keep a supply of milk on hand as a backup.
Long life milk is also relatively inexpensive, can be used to make creamy sauces and desserts and there is some comfort in knowing that you always have an option for your much loved cup of tea — even when someone else thoughtlessly uses the last of the milk.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, co-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.