Shelf-Stable Pantry Staples Patients and Survivors Can Rely On During a Pandemic

For patients with cancer and survivors getting out to get the groceries becomes a tougher chore during a pandemic, but according to this oncology dietician you can find certain foods that will last on your shelf and keep you healthy.

With stay-at-home orders currently stretching through multiple months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, patients with cancer and survivors may find themselves searching for food options that can stay on shelves longer to help reduce the number of trips to the grocery store.

In a recent interview with CURE, Rachel Wong, RD, CSO, LD., an oncology dietician from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, shared her tips on what shelf-stable pantry staples that patients and survivors can turn to for versatile options that can help break up the food routine and provide some health benefits as well.

CURE: What are some of your favorite versatile like pantry staples that people can stock up on and not really have to worry about expiration dates?

Wong: I love dried legumes, but they can come in canned products can as well. Legumes like split peas, garbanzo beans, black eyed peas and even kidney beans are very durable. They last for a long time on the shelf and can be used in so many different applications. You can make stews; you can make salads with them. And they're just really good, nutritious food because they have high protein, they're high in fiber and have plenty of vitamins and minerals to help keep you strong. Especially for our cancer patients, legumes are really high in phytochemicals that help protect yourself, so they're really good to have. I think one thing, just a side comment is, it's great to be able to wash or rinse your legumes if they're canned, to remove the extra sodium.

Other foods that would be good are some vegetables that come canned, like tomatoes, for example. Diced tomatoes and tomato paste are really good pantry staples because you can use them to make soups and stews or make salads. There are lots of different things you can do with tomatoes.

Some other protein-rich foods include tuna fish, or canned salmon and sardines. You can even buy dried fruits, but with dried fruits I look for ‘no sugar added’ dried fruits if you can, which are usually easy to find in the health section.

And then, grains, of course. Grains are really important to have in your diet: brown rice, wild rice, or oats so you can make your breakfast oatmeal. Flour can be actually harder to find these days because everybody's trying to bake, but (it does) come in stock. They're still prepared and making flour so you can just kind of monitor your shelves (and find them in stock).

(Other grains include) barley, farro, quinoa and even breakfast cereals. Also, peanut butter, jelly, and also, people don't think about this, but shelf-stable milk, because it’s ultra-pasteurized and safe, and it doesn't need to be refrigerated until it's opened. It can be a great way to get the calcium that you need, especially if your store doesn't have fresh milk or if you're trying to really lengthen the time between grocery store visits, shelf-stable milk is something that's really good to have on hand.