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Stock your pantry and fridge with these nutritious staples. 

By Betty Gold and Grace Elkus
Updated March 27, 2020
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While it's true that many shelf-stable foods are often loaded with preservatives (think condiments, lunch meats, and bags of chips), there are a number of good-for-you foods thatlast for a long time, too—au naturel.

"In general, the more processed a food, the higher its content of fat, salt, sugar, calories, and/or cholesterol and the lower its content of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber," says Elizabeth Somer, M.A., RD, and medical advisory board member for Persona Nutrition. "When shopping for healthier shelf-stable foods, try to choose minimally-processed products that contain whole grains, plain fruits and vegetables or frozen/canned versions packaged in their own juice, nuts, legumes, or frozen chicken or fish. Ignore the label claims and go straight to the nutrition information on the back."

We recommend stocking up on these long-lasting staples whenever it's convenient so they'll be on hand when you're ready to get cooking. Curious about the shelf life of more foods in your kitchen? Consult our comprehensive food storage guide.

mixed grains
Credit: zouxunka/Getty Images

1
Almonds

Almonds are filled with monosaturated fatty acids, and they're a great source of vitamin E and fiber—and they can last for up to one year when stored in the refrigerator. Pack them for an afternoon snack or use them to make your own almond milk.

RELATED: 10 Healthy Pantry Essentials You Should Always Have on Hand, According to RDs

2
Brown Rice

Packed with fiber, vitamin E, and a variety of antioxidants, (unopened) brown rice can last for one year at room temperature. After its been opened (to make, for example, this brown rice bowl with egg and avocado), it should stay good for about six months.

3
Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are packed with fiber and calcium, and have been linked to lower blood pressure. When stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, they can stay fresh for up to one year. Try them in one of these deliciously hearty breakfasts.

4
Dates

The only naturally "dehydrated" fruit, fiber-rich dates are a nutritious way to enhance a savory recipe or sweeten up a smoothie. They can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for several months, or refrigerated for up to one year.

5
Dried Beans

Unlike canned beans, which are often stored in sodium, dried beans are free of additives and preservatives. They're also an excellent, cholesterol-free source of protein, and can last for up to two years in the pantry. Try adding them to one of these slow-cooker stews.

RELATED: 5 Delicious Recipes That Start With a Can of Beans

6
Nut Butters

Filled with protein and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, nut butters can last at room temperature for nine months unopened (once opened, they'll stay good for three months). Look for jars with short ingredient lists and zero added trans fats.

7
Oats

Oats are an excellent source of fiber, help to keep cholesterol in check, and contain vitamins, minerals, and even some protein. Unopened containers can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to four months, according to the Whole Grains Council. Give them a try in our fruit-and-nut filled baked oatmeal.

RELATED: Oats May Be the Most Underrated Ingredient in Your Pantry—Here’s Why

8
Olive Oil

An excellent source of monounsaturated fats, olive oil is great drizzled onto toast, or used when roasting veggies. An unopened bottle will keep at room temperature for one year, and once it's been opened it will keep for six months.

9
Quinoa

Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, meaning it's a "complete protein," and it will keep for up to four months in the pantry. Pack the fiber-rich grain into a burrito or mix it into a salad.

10
Winter Squash

From acorn to butternut to delicata, winter squash (and pumpkins!) can stay fresh for up to three months when stored in a cool, dry area away from sunlight. A good source of vitamin C, try roasting wedges of squash or blending it into a soup.