When you donate food to your local food bank like HACAP, make sure you're stocking their shelves with what they really need and avoiding what they don't. Next time you're headed to the grocery store, bulk up your shopping list with a few non-perishable and quality items. They're the things food pantries like us love and your neighbors can really put to good use.
1. PEANUT BUTTER
There really is nothing quite like creamy peanut butter. It's a popular pantry staple no matter how old you are, as it's nutrient-dense, affordable, and convenient. It can also be a fantastic addition to recipes like energy bites, fruit, and sandwiches, adding high protein, vitamins, and healthy fats to their diet. Tip: When shopping, look for varieties that are lower in sugar and have low levels or no added oils!
2. REDUCED/LOW SODIUM CANNED CHICKEN
Canned chicken is a healthy and fast choice for families on the go. It is widely available, affordable, and offers the same nutritional benefits as fresh chicken. Canned chicken can also be used just as you would for tuna, making it into sandwiches, tossed on a delicious salad, or turned into savory fajitas for taco night. It can also substitute for cooked chicken in your everyday recipes, such as a chicken stir-fry over rice, casseroles, or a pasta dish.
3. NO SALT ADDED CANNED VEGETABLES
Vegetables used for canning are picked at peak freshness, ensuring the most flavor and nutrient quality. While canned foods can often have a bad rap, they are just as nutritious as fresh and frozen foods because the canning process preserves many nutrients, including minerals, fat-soluble vitamins, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Tip: Choose canned vegetables without added salts, labeled "no salt added" or "low sodium." Be mindful that cans marked "reduced sodium" are not necessarily sodium-free
4. CANNED FRUIT IN JUICE
According to the USDA's Dietary Guidelines, adults should eat at least two servings of fruit each day, yet fresh fruit may be unattainable for some families due to cost. Canned fruits are also just as healthy (if not more) than their new counterparts. Tip: When purchasing canned fruit, pick varieties in water, 100% juice, or its own natural juices. Many types of canned fruits come packed in light or heavy syrup, equating to added sugars.
5. WHOLE WHEAT PASTA
Pasta made from 100% whole-wheat flour maintains the three essential parts of the whole grain kernel: the bran, germ, and endosperm. These real-deal whole grains make the pasta rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. For example, a 1-cup serving of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti has about 23% of your daily fiber 16% of your protein. Tip: Don't let labels fool you; choose options that are labeled 100% Whole Wheat, and avoid labels stating whole grain or multigrain.
6. CANNED TUNA
There are many varieties of delicious and heart-healthy seafood throughout the world, but tuna fish is one of the most popular, and rightfully so. Tuna fish is not only abundant and delicious but is also highly nutritious. In addition to being jam-packed with nutrients, this popular fish may even reduce some health risks from its high omega-3s content. Bonus: who doesn't love a delicious tuna noodle casserole?
7. NO SALT ADDED DICED TOMATOES
Canned tomatoes are pantry all-stars for versatility, convenience, inexpensiveness, and value, especially when tomatoes aren't in season in Iowa over winter. Nutrition-wise, canned tomatoes are similar to fresh ones and are high in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that might help protect cells from damage). Tip: choose brands with the fewest ingredients possible and avoid cans with ingredients you cannot pronounce, including high fructose corn syrup.
8. PASTA SAUCE
Tomatoes are an incredible little fruit with significant health benefits that your body craves so; naturally, pasta sauce is a go-to for many households, offering a balance of comfort and nutritional benefits. Marinara or pasta sauces are typically low in calories and have a good source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, and potassium source. Tip: Choose a simple marinara sauce consisting of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs and low in added sugars.
9. REDUCED/LOW SODIUM SOUP
Good soup has been the perfect remedy when you're feeling under the weather for ages. These canned or packaged soups are warm and filling for lunch or dinner and often come complete with protein, veggies, and healthy carbohydrates. Tip: Choose a quality soup with minimal preservatives and a shortlist of real ingredients.
10. MACARONI & CHEESE
Love macaroni and cheese? Us too! When you crave a comforting and warm meal after a long day or because you're suffering from the cold winter blues. Few things hit the spot more than diving into a bowl of creamy and flavorful macaroni and cheese; bonus, it's easy to make and a kid's staple! Tip: Choose a box of mac and cheese made with 100% whole wheat.
Foods to avoid:
- Glass containers, dented cans, expired foods
- Junk food, candy, baked goods, cookies
- Homemade items
All that's left to do now is shop, donate and feel good knowing you've helped stock homes in our community with nutritious and filling groceries. Way to go!
Thanks to donations like yours, food banks like the HACAP Food Reservoir grow and serve more families. Looking for more ways to give back? Consider making a monetary donation.