Stocking your work-from-home fridge and pantry

April 15, 2020 Paige Crawford

When you’re working at home and blending your professional and living environments, nutrition can get swept to the side, especially during stressful times.

The good news: With a few simple tweaks to your grocery shopping routine, you can stock your fridge and pantry with foods that keep you and your family healthy.

When it comes to getting your groceries during shelter-in-place or social distancing situations, the Washington Post recommends not going to the store if you feel sick, or if you’re high risk. In those cases, you should have someone shop for you or get your food delivered. They also advise getting enough shelf-stable foods to last three weeks so you can limit shopping trips and only get the essentials as needed. And of course, make sure you wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and stay at least six feet away from store employees and other shoppers.

Now that you have some safety guidelines, use the tips below to stock your fridge and pantry.

Choosing the right staples

Grains, canned foods, and prepackaged options are typically the first thing to come to mind when people think about nonperishables. This may not be a bad place to start but bringing a little intention to your list can maximize the nutritional value and balance what you bring home. Here’s a quick guide.

Build cells and tissues with protein

Stock up on canned tuna, frozen fish, frozen chicken breast, whey or plant protein powder, and canned or dried beans. Look for items with little to no additives. Grab some protein bars with 10 or more grams of protein, less than 45 grams of carbohydrate, minimal added sugar, and five to 15 grams of fat to snack on, like these from Onnit. And when possible, choose products with the fewest ingredients (i.e., frozen chicken with only chicken, not one that has chicken plus a solution made with water, salt, and sodium phosphates).

Can’t find a frozen option that looks good? Grab fresh protein and freeze it by the sell-by date. Check out this chart to see how long you can freeze meat before you need to cook and eat it. During mealtimes, portion a quarter of your plate for protein, or about 30-40 grams. Your protein needs are higher the more muscle mass you carry.

Fuel your body with carbohydrates

Shop for brown rice, quinoa, canned or frozen corn, whole-wheat pasta or couscous, oats, whole-grain cereal or granola, frozen potatoes, barley, and farro. Buying a variety of carb sources (now’s a great time to try something new) helps you get the nutritional benefits while avoiding flavor fatigue from eating the same thing multiple times a week. In the freezer section, seek out whole-grain waffles with protein. And if you’re stuck on which items to try, select items with the higher amount of fiber per serving.

Your carbohydrate needs scale up based on how active you are. If your activity level is low or you’re trying to lose weight, keep your carb servings to about a quarter of your plate or less. If you’re more active, you don’t need more than half of your plate coming from carbs unless you’re a competitive athlete or are looking to gain weight.

Protect your brain and cells with fats

Use quality oils and sprays for cooking (olive, coconut, avocado), nut butters, oil-based salad dressings, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios), and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chia). And stick to the simple, straightforward fats. Nuts and seeds without extra flavors and seasonings have the most nutrition and are the most versatile. Not sure what fits your cooking style best? Check out this guide.

When you’re planning ahead, always aim to include a healthy fat source with each meal. One thumb is about a serving. Most people need one to two servings, while others can use three to four based on individual needs. Be sure to consider fats that are part of the prep process, like cooking a dish in olive oil, or added later like a salad dressing.

Reduce your risk of illness with color

This category isn’t often top of mind when it comes to staples, but there are plenty of canned and frozen choices that can satisfy the benefits of colorful foods and be stored for longer periods of time. Choose items without juice, sugar, or sauces, if available. We recommend tomato sauce, canned salsa, dried fruit without added sugar, and herbs and spices. Going with sauce-free options can still be palatable — maximize the nutrition by adding your own fats, herbs, and spices for flavor.

A good goal for meals is to fill half of your plate with foods from this category. And you can maximize these benefits by flavoring your protein and carbs with herbs and spices. Color from fruit can be included in the carbohydrate category and vary based on your activity needs.

And if you’re able to snag fresh foods, even better. The same guidelines apply, just be sure to have a plan so you don’t let food go to waste. For example, add extra veggies to a pasta dish by chopping them up and putting them in the sauce. Or if the food on your list is sold out, use it as an opportunity to try something new or put a new spin on the meal you planned.

Be strategic with what you have

You may already have some useful ingredients being neglected in your freezer, refrigerator, or pantry. Make an inventory list and separate by perishable items and shelf-stable items. Then prioritize your perishable foods by expiration date. Before you use any fresh meat, dairy, or produce, check what you already have and make a plan to use up older foods first.

You can even be strategic about avoiding waste while shopping by checking the dates on meat, seafood, dairy, or prepared vegetables. Only add it to your basket if you can find an option that won’t expire before you can use it, unless it’s a meat product you plan to freeze.

Be reasonable with fun foods

Everyone wants to have a treat handy, especially when they’re working from home. Indulging isn’t off limits, but be reasonable. When you’re shopping, buy a quantity that you can make last, but not so much that you feel like you can always indulge.

And instead of buying pre-packaged treats, consider stocking up on ingredients to make your favorite fun foods as a family activity. You may even slow down and savor these foods a bit more if you were the one who spent time making them.

Interested in more ways to stay strong and healthy at home? Visit exosathome.com for live daily workouts, mindset practices, and more. 

EXOS believes in using safe, high-quality supplements. That's why we recommend Onnit foods and supplements. Save 15% on Onnit foods and supplements.

About the Author

Paige Crawford

Paige Crawford, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., is a senior project coordinator and performance dietitian at EXOS. She develops nutrition content and manages projects on the performance innovation team.

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