12 Nutrient Dense, Shelf-Stable Foods
International Food Information Council (IFIC)
January 29, 2024
It’s helpful to have a mix of fresh, frozen, canned and packaged foods in your kitchen for all of your cooking and eating needs. Our partners at the International Food Information Council (IFIC) spotlighting twelve nutrient-dense, shelf-stable foods to include on your shopping list. These foods in particular can help reduce the frequency of your grocery trips and can decrease food waste. Read on to see the list of foods that will keep you stocked and ready for several weeks to months (or more!).
Article written by Alyssa Pike, RD, with the International Food Information Council (IFIC)
Potatoes contain vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin B6 and come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Choose from red, white, fingerling, sweet potatoes and more. Depending on the type, potatoes should last 2–5 weeks if stored in a cool, dry, dark place, such as a pantry cabinet, or several months if stored 43-60°F.
Like potatoes, onions contain vitamin C, potassium and vitamin B and come in a few different varieties. Onions will last 1–2 months if stored properly in a cool, dark, place. But don’t store them in the same place you store your potatoes; the gases these foods give off can cause one another to spoil more quickly.
Apples contain vitamin C and potassium, offer a wide variety of flavor profiles and can be used in all kinds of dishes—from breakfasts to lunches, dinners and snacks. Fresh apples will keep well at room temperature on the counter for 5–7 days or will last up to six months if stored at 30–40°F.
Oats are a whole grain, a source of (soluble and insoluble) fiber and contain many vitamins and minerals, including manganese, phosphorus, copper, vitamin B1, iron, selenium and magnesium. This heart-healthy option will last in your pantry for up to two years. Of course, always be mindful for any signs of spoilage (e.g. mold or a foul smell).
Jerky is usually lean meat that has been trimmed, marinated and then dried to prevent spoilage. Jerky is high in protein and contains zinc, vitamin B12, phosphorus, folate and other minerals in lesser amounts. With portability and a shelf-life of 1–2 years, jerky is in it for the long haul. To credit jerky in the CACFP, you must have a CN label or product formulation statement (PFS).
Canned fruits and vegetables
Canned fruits and vegetables will last 1–3 years in your pantry and contain a mix of vitamins and minerals. These options can come in handy if you’re looking for a wallet-friendly option. Be mindful of the added sugar content and opt for fruits canned in 100% juice and vegetables canned in water if you’re looking to lower your added sugar intake.
There are many different cooking oils, and each has a slightly different shelf life. Rest assured, almost all cooking oils will last you at least 4–6 months, so you won’t be running to the grocery store every week.
Rice is another great option when it comes to shelf-stable foods. Brown rice is a whole grain and thus contains more fiber than white rice. Additionally, brown rice is higher in manganese, magnesium, and selenium, while white rice is often enriched with folate. Although white rice will last longer than brown, brown rice will still last you about six months if stored in an airtight container.
Pasta (both whole wheat and enriched) will last you 1–3 years. Whole wheat pasta contains more fiber, manganese, copper, phosphorus and magnesium than enriched pasta, while enriched pasta contains more thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and folate. Both contain similar amounts of selenium, protein and iron.
Easily portable, tasty and shelf-stable, nut butter is a great option. With all the different varieties, you’ll likely be able to find one you like. Most nut butters last about one year and contain a mix of dietary fats.
Dried beans are the hidden gem of shelf-stable foods. Despite the different types of beans, most contain a rich array of nutrients, including fiber and protein. If beans are dried, they’ll last almost indefinitely. Be careful to store them in a dry place, as moisture or condensation can lead to spoilage.
We hope this list is helpful as you grocery shop with longevity in mind. And remember: While many consumers may have heard that “healthy” foods are only found along the perimeter of the grocery store, this list shows that nutrient-dense foods are found all throughout the store.
For more information, read IFIC’s blog 12 Nutrient-Dense, Shelf-Stable Foods to Include in Your Shopping Cart.