Delicious and healthy meals from non-perishable foods
Author: Kate Cross
Wondering if you can make a healthy meal entirely from freezer and non-perishable pantry items? “Absolutely,” says Accredited Practising Dietitian Nicole Dynan.
“Frozen foods can be just as nutritious and sometimes more nutritious as fresh foods as they are often snap frozen at the time of picking.”
“Similarly, canned foods retain most of their nutrients [such as] protein, carbs, fat, minerals and fat-soluble vitamins during the heating process,” says Ms Dynan, adding this doesn’t necessarily apply to water soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and B-vitamins, “which can be damaged during heating”.
Ultimately, Ms Dynan says that when cooking with non-perishable foods, it’s important to have a range on hand (where possible) to achieve “dietary variety and avoid food fatigue”.
Balance is also key, she says: “Ensuring a quarter of a plate at mealtimes comes from a carbohydrate source … a quarter from a protein source … and half from vegetables … is a foolproof way to stay healthy and maintain your weight.”
To get started with your non-perishable food menu, Ms Dynan recommends two steps:
Step 1: Do a stocktake
“Look at what you have already in your pantry and freezer. Arrange foods by their use-by dates, with those soon-to-expire at the front to be used first.”
Step 2: Get what you need (and want)
“Buy what you will eat … This will help prevent food wastage … Also, double-check you have a working can opener, or buy cans with ring pulls.”
Non-perishable and freezer favourites
Here’s a list of items Ms Dynan says to consider having in your kitchen, where available. Some aren’t technically ‘non-perishable’, but they do have extended shelf lives.
Fruit: Frozen fruits; canned varieties; and fresh fruits with a longer shelf life (e.g. apples, bananas and citrus fruits).
Vegetables: Frozen vegetables; canned vegetables (tinned tomatoes and corn “have higher antioxidant levels during processing when heated”); and fresh produce with a longer shelf life (e.g. potatoes, onions, carrots, pumpkin and cabbage).
Pre-made soups: “Look for reduced-salt or no added salt options, preferably BPA free”.
Protein sources: Canned fish (e.g. salmon, tuna, sardines or mackerel); no added salt canned or dried legumes; nuts and seeds, including nut butters; long life milk (e.g. UHT or powdered milk).
Grains: “The greater the variety the better.” Think brown, red or black rice; pasta; quinoa; millet; barley; rolled oats; and cereals. “Freezing a loaf of bread or wraps can also help to extend its freshness and shelf life.”
Dried herbs and spices: Some non-perishable foods can increase the sodium in our diets. “Having a range of herbs and spices on hand can help boost the flavour of foods without adding to the salt content.”
You can thank Ms Dynan for these delicious meal ideas:
Lentil bolognaise: “Lentils are high in nutrients and resistant starch, a type of fibre that feeds the good bacteria in our gut and helps to keep us fuller for longer. Throw in extra veggies or have them steamed on the side for additional nutrients.”
Tuna bake with pasta: “A favourite for the kids and easy to make. Use pulse pasta for extra fibre and nutrients and frozen grated cheese on top for additional protein. The tuna is an oily fish and the dish is adaptable to cope with any veggies you have on hand to throw in.”
Minestrone or vegetable soup: “Blend with a stick blender if you prefer a smoother texture or are trying to hide veggies from the kids. This can also be made in advance and can be frozen and reheats well. Serve with a slice of wholegrain toast.”