As a registered dietitian I find that I do my food storage just a little differently than what I usually see floating around on the internet or in books. I wanted to let you in on the nutrients that I take into account when I'm planning what I am going to store for my family.
First a note on nutrition in general. Time and time again studies have shown us that eating lots of plants, and especially a wide variety of plants, is a hallmark of a healthy diet. We also know that cutting back on animal products and sweets is associated with health benefits. In our family we focus on eating mostly whole plant foods but enjoy all foods in moderation. For our daily life and food storage we obviously try and have a balanced diet with enough carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. However, that is not where I focus my mental energy when planning because I know that as long as I plan balanced meals we'll have those bases covered. Here are the things that you might be overlooking when planning your food storage. Download our free PDF list to make it easy to remember what foods to add to your food storage. Don't miss our other free PDF down at the end of the article. If you find these printables helpful please share this article with someone who you think would also find them helpful.
In the past fiber was an overlooked part of nutrition, almost an after though. With our increased interest in our microbiome fiber has started to take a front seat. Our microbiome is the bacteria that live on (and in) our body. These bacteria actually outnumber the human cells in our body and play a crucial roll in our health. They interact with our body and can impact all areas of health from diabetes to heart disease to weight gain to mental health. We want to take care of these microorganisms that cohabitate our bodies because if they are thriving it usually sets us up to thrive as well.
A large number of these bacteria live in our intestines and survive by eating fiber from the foods we eat. Current recommendations are that we eat 23-35 grams of fiber per day. However, I've seen some research suggesting that we need more. In fact, studies on native tribes in Africa and the Amazon Rainforest show that they get around 100-150 grams/day and that this may be associated with better health outcomes in some areas. Sadly, most American's only get about 14 grams of fiber each day. This is starving beneficial bacteria which negatively impacts health.
Getting fiber from foods is an absolute must. I can not stress enough how crucial it is (hence the mini nutrition lecture). A fiber supplement is just not going to cut it. It doesn't have the diversity or phytonutrients and other components that make whole food so healthy for you. To get fiber in my food storage I try and get a wide variety of different foods in these categories
Beans (canned and dried)
Whole grains (oatmeal, whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, spelt)
Freeze dried and canned fruits and vegetables
Nuts and seeds
Magnesium is another important nutrient that gets overlooked and one many American's maybe lacking. It is absolutely crucial though as it is part of every day functions like muscle contraction and your heart's rhythm. It is also used in over 300 enzymes that help with things like protein production, blood sugar and blood pressure control, bone health, making DNA and creating energy.
Some of the foods richest in magnesium are
Amaranth, buckwheat, teff and quinoa are some of the highest in magnesium
Mashed potatoes, tomatoes, spinach (freeze dried), avocado (freeze dried)
Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cashews, sunflower seeds
Soybeans, lima beans, pink beans, navy beans
Figs, apricots, prunes, peaches, raspberries
What I personally try and add to my food storage to help increase magnesium are
Freeze dried produce, focusing on variety
Hemp seeds and chia seeds
Buckwheat, quinoa, oats
Almonds (1 oz has 20% of your daily needs)
Pumpkin seeds (1 oz has 37% of your daily needs)
Omega 3s are so important for brain health and hearth and beneficial because of their anti-inflammatory properties. They are often associated with fish and fish oils but you can add omega 3s to your food storage without having to go the pickled herring route.
Some foods rich in omega 3s are
Canola and soybean oil
I add all of these foods to my food storage. I like to vacuum seal the nuts and seeds in mason jars using our Harvest Right freeze dryer or I just keep them in the freezer if I don't want to take the time to vacuum seal them in jars. We use these foods almost every day often as toppings for oatmeal for breakfast.
Iron is a nutrient that is especially relevant for women of child bearing age. It is often associated with red meat and spinach but there are actually a wide variety of ways
to add iron to your diet. Here are some of of the iron rich foods that are easy to keep in long-term storage
Soybeans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, pink beans, white beans, pink and red lentils
Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, coconut milk
Teff, amaranth, enriched flours, whole wheat, quinoa, spelt, oats
I personally try and add lots of different beans and lentils. My favorites are kidney beans, black-eyed peas, brown and red lentils. I also have pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds on hand to add to bread or oatmeal. I recently started trying to incorporate more millet into our diet after reading a study in Frontiers in Nutrition that found that regular consumption of millet raised hemoglobin levels by 13.2% and serum ferritin by 54.7%. In other words eating millet increases the amount of iron in your blood.
Plant protein is often thought of as an incomplete or inferior protein. However, because it comes packaged with fiber, phytonutrients, and lots of vitamins and minerals, plant protein is something I seek out when planning my food storage. It is often easier to store and much more cost effective.
Some plant foods with the highest amount of protein are
Soybeans, mung beans, lentils, kidney beans, navy beans
Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios
Hard red wheat, kamut, oats, amaranth, teff, spelt
I just focus on adding lots of beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains to our diet. I aim to get in a variety of different plant foods everyday and having variety ensures that I'm getting in all the different essential amino acids aka proteins that your body doesn't make and needs to get from food.
Sweets and Spices
I often hear people give the advice, "Get rice, beans and wheat for food storage." Could anything sound more bland and depressing? For sure I have many pounds of each of those but don't let that be the end of your food storage. Make sure you have things on hand to make eating an enjoyable experience for both sweet and savory occasions.
I like to have things are
Cocoa powder in 2 gallon buckets (no-bake cookies anyone?)
Chocolate bars (one guess on my favorite treat)
Different types of sweeteners including honey, molasses and maple syrup
Artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and pimientos
A wide variety of spices.
We have a whole section in our food storage room dedicated to those little extras that make
food taste amazing. Don't over look this in your food storage. To help get you started we've included a free printable check list of spices to have on hand. We like to buy in bulk from WinCo or the San Fransisco Herb Co and store them in vacuumed sealed mason jars.
If you want to look up foods to find their nutrient content or better yet have a database that will rank foods based on the amount of a specific nutrient they have check out My Food Data.