Preparedness is something on the minds of many people recently. Indeed, preparing is a skill that many people with diabetes are already very familiar with because of the steps necessary to manage the condition. This column explores how to keep your kitchen stocked so you can be ready to put together last-minute meals or nourish yourself back to health during a time of illness.
To get cutting-edge diabetes news, strategies for blood glucose management, nutrition tips, healthy recipes, and more delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletter!
I want to be better prepared for dealing with potential sickness as we move into the fall and winter seasons. Do you have any suggestions for keeping a pantry well stocked for the cooler months?
Recent events with the coronavirus have prompted people to not only start cooking at home more but also to consider how to keep their pantry stocked. As we move into the fall and winter seasons, it is a good idea to be prepared at all times so you can provide nourishment for yourself or a family member during times of illness or when you just need to pull together a last-minute meal without running to the grocery store.
When it comes to preparing your pantry, here are a few items that I always suggest adding to the grocery list.
Beans (canned and/or dried)
A versatile source of plant-based protein that can be added to many kinds of soups, stews and dishes.
A cross between a stock and broth. Check the Nutrition Facts label and choose an option that contains some protein.
Ideal for topping casseroles, coating fish or meats, and using as a binder in recipes.
Shelf-stable canned fruits packed in juice
Great for smoothies, snacks and baking
Canned fish/meats (for example, tuna, sardines, salmon and chicken)
Fantastic for using in salads or casseroles or for forming into patties for baking or pan-frying.
Focus on no- or low-sodium options. These are wonderful for using in a quick soup or simple side dish.
Dry nonfat milk
Perfect for baking and an always-ready option to avoid last-minute grocery shopping.
A great nutrition booster for oatmeal, smoothies and baked dishes. This can also be utilized to create a vegan “egg” option for baking.
100% fruit juice
Use juice to create homemade popsicles for soothing a sore throat or getting a little bit of carbohydrate when you’re not feeling well and it’s difficult to eat.
Keep one or two boxes of regular JELL-O for times of illness when it’s difficult to eat but a little carbohydrate is needed to help keep blood glucose levels stable.
Low-sodium chicken stock
A simple solution for pulling together a soup in less than 30 minutes.
Great for snacking and making a delicious sandwich.
Non-dairy shelf-stable milk
Nut-based milk options are perfect for baking, drinking or using in tea or coffee.
Not just for breakfast! Try making your own oat flour for recipes or adding to turkey burgers or meatloaf.
My favorite condiment to add flavor to vegetable and pasta dishes.
A simple whole-grain snack option.
The perfect standby for pairing with soups, creating simple snacks, and nibbling on when your appetite takes a nose-dive during times of illness.
Low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
A useful ingredient for creating a simple stir-fry sauce or marinade for fish or poultry.
A good-quality whole-grain pasta can be incorporated into side dishes or used as part of the entrée when paired with protein and lots of vegetables.
Perfect for adding to smoothies, yogurt and oatmeal and useful for baking.
My top pick for super-simple side dishes and putting together a hearty soup in less than 30 minutes.
Preferably whole-grain or low-carbohydrate versions. These freeze well and can be used to create simple breakfast tacos as well as sweet and savory quesadillas for snacking and meals.
Do you have suggestions for putting together simple meals and snacks from pantry and freezer staples?
Creativity is the key to reducing food waste and making the most of what you already have in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. The first step is to consider what ingredients are on hand and how you can enhance your dishes with fresh foods you may have purchased earlier in the week. If you are trying to stretch groceries and avoid running to the store, focus on creating meals based on the Plate Method principle of pairing a protein with low-starch vegetables and a carbohydrate choice. Here are my go-to meal and snack ideas using many of the food items recommended earlier to keep your pantry and freezer stocked.
Tuna pasta salad
Pair with three-bean salad and fruit salad for a balanced meal.
Use beans, corn and a mixture of frozen peppers and onions or any favorite vegetable. Pair with fruit for dessert.
Reduce cooking time by using low-sodium broth and frozen and canned vegetables.
Try pairing with a simple whole-grain pesto pasta salad and cooking frozen broccoli or green beans to create a balanced meal.
Sweet or savory oatmeal
Not just a breakfast option! Add flaxseed, nut butter and frozen fruit for a satisfying sweet meal, or try adding spices, cooked spinach and topping with a fried egg for something savory.
Nut and berry quesadilla
Use frozen fruit or 100% fruit spread and nut butter in a tortilla. Fresh banana slices are also delicious if those are available.
Blend frozen fruit with frozen kale or spinach for a flavorful snack. Try freezing the smoothie mixture in popsicle molds for a quick dessert.
Chicken salad on top of five crackers
Protein-based snacks are the best option for satisfying hunger. Top crackers with chicken salad or swap chicken for tuna or salmon salad.
Try seasoning popcorn with your favorite herb or spice blend or a sprinkle of Parmesan or sharp cheddar cheese.
JELLO-O fruit and nut salad
Swap regular JELL-O for sugar-free and incorporate fruit and nuts for a satisfying sweet snack.