If you have diabetes, you may be concerned about eating well while keeping physical distance, also known as social distancing, or self-quarantining.
Keeping non-perishable foods on hand can be a great way to minimize your trips to the store and ensure that you have all the ingredients you need to make nutritious meals.
Notably, numerous frozen or shelf-stable foods have a minimal effect on your blood sugar levels. You may even already have some in your pantry or freezer.
Here are 18 of the best non-perishables for people with diabetes.
1. Dried or canned chickpeas
Chickpeas are popular in numerous dishes. While they contain carbs, they’re also rich in fiber, protein, and fat — all of which help minimize their overall effect on your blood sugar levels (
You can use these tasty legumes to make hummus or falafels. What’s more, they make a filling meat alternative and can be added to soups, salads, and stir-fries.
If stored in a cool, dark pantry, dried chickpeas keep for up to 3 years.
2. Canned tomatoes
Canned tomatoes can flavor numerous dishes, including soups and stews.
These savory, red fruits are also rich in antioxidants, such as lycopene, which may promote heart health. Plus, they’re fairly low in carbs, so they only affect your blood sugar levels minimally (2,
Canned tomatoes can be used in cooking or to make sauces. Canned veggies typically don’t expire for several years after purchase.
3. Peanut butter
Peanut butter is an inexpensive source of healthy protein, fat, and fiber — and it has few carbs (
It’s a great way to make a snack more filling. You can add it to toast or crackers, blend it into a smoothie, or use it as a dip for apples or baby carrots. It’s likewise great in savory dishes like Thai-inspired stir-fry.
Just be sure to choose natural peanut butter brands that don’t contain added sugar, as sugary foods negatively affect blood sugar control.
After opening, peanut butter lasts for about 1 year.
Pistachios are a tree nut that packs healthy protein and fat. They’re also rich in fiber, making them a great snack for people with diabetes (
They serve as a crunchy addition to salads and can be crushed to make breading for fish or chicken.
Pistachios last for about 6 months in your pantry, although refrigeration greatly extends their shelf life.
5. Canned salmon
Moreover, this fish is packed with protein and has no carbs. Canned salmon also contains some bones, which are safe and edible — and provide a calcium boost (
You can use canned salmon on salads or in salmon patties. It typically doesn’t expire until 2 years after purchase.
6. Seed crackers
Seed crackers are crackers made from a variety of seeds, such as sesame, flax, and chia seeds.
They can be paired with peanut butter or cheese as a snack, or included in a light meal like chicken salad or soup.
If kept tightly sealed and stored in a pantry or fridge, seed crackers should last for about 1 month.
7. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are tiny black or white seeds. They boost digestive health because they’re rich in soluble fiber and form a gel in your gut. This helps slow digestion and prevent rapid blood sugar spikes (
Chia seeds add crunch to salads and smoothies. You can also use them to make chia pudding, a delectable treat that’s delicious with fresh fruit.
These seeds last up to 4 years in your pantry.
8. Frozen berries
Additionally, berries are packed with health-boosting nutrients and antioxidants (
Frozen berries can be used in smoothies, cooking, and baking, and they last up to 1 year in the freezer — although you’ll want to check them on occasion for freezer burn.
9. Frozen cauliflower
Cauliflower is a versatile ingredient that can replace mashed potatoes, rice, and even certain pastas like macaroni. Its mild flavor makes it a great substitute for these starchy carbs.
Plus, it boasts a very low carb count (
Frozen cauliflower can last for up to 1 year in the freezer but should be checked for freezer burn often.
Quinoa is a chewy whole grain with a taste and texture similar to that of brown rice. However, it has more protein and fiber — and fewer total carbs — than brown rice, making it ideal for people with diabetes (
Quinoa lasts for about 6 months to 1 year if properly stored in a sealed container in your pantry.
11. Canned mushrooms
Canned mushrooms, which taste milder than fresh varieties, give a nutrient boost to endless dishes. They’re particularly popular in soups and stir-fries.
Mushrooms are fiber-rich and low in carbs, so they affect your blood sugar negligibly. Some varieties, including white button, contain ergothioneine, an amino acid that has antioxidant properties and may aid blood sugar management (
Canned mushrooms usually don’t expire until 2 years after purchase.
12. Canned or frozen spinach
Given that spinach contains very few carbs and calories, you can eat a large quantity with a minimal effect on your blood sugar levels (
You can cook it as a side or add it to soups, stir-fries, and many other dishes to increase your intake of fiber, antioxidants, and provitamins A and K.
Canned spinach lasts up to 4 years, while frozen spinach keeps for up to 1 year.
13. Canned chicken
You can use it in soups, salads, and casseroles in the same way as you would use cooked chicken that’s shredded or cubed. It also makes for easy chicken salad.
Canned chicken lasts up to 4 years.
14. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is a great treat for people with diabetes — and the darker the better, as chocolate with a higher cocoa content tends to pack less added sugar. Cocoa is also rich in fiber and healthy fats.
You can eat it on its own or include it in numerous desserts. A dark chocolate bar keeps for up to 4 months in your pantry, but freezing it extends its shelf life.
15. High protein pasta
High protein pastas are usually made from legumes, such as black beans or chickpeas, instead of wheat.
You can replace regular pasta with a high protein variety in any recipe. It lasts dry for up to 6 months.
16. Protein powder
Most protein powders are low in carbs and added sugars while providing hefty doses of protein. They’re also quick and convenient.
Whey protein is derived from cow’s milk, so if you prefer a plant-based option, you can use soy or pea protein powder.
Protein powder is a great addition to smoothies, protein shakes, and desserts. It typically lasts for up to 1 year if sealed and stored in a cool, dry place.
17. Shelf-stable milk
Shelf-stable milk, whether dairy or plant-based, is always good to have on hand.
Although cow’s milk is slightly higher in carbs than some nondairy alternatives, it has protein and fat — unless it’s skim — that reduce its effects on your blood sugar. Alternatively, some plant-based milks like unsweetened almond milk contain few carbs to begin with (
If you opt for plant milk, make sure to buy varieties without added sugar.
Both shelf-stable and plant-based milks can be used in various recipes, such as protein-rich smoothies, soups, and baked goods. They last unopened for several months but should be refrigerated after opening.
18. Olive oil
It’s a popular cooking oil and ideal for vinaigrettes, dressings, and dips.
Meal planning tips
Keeping blood sugar levels consistent is an important consideration for people with diabetes.
Since carbs affect your blood sugar levels more than protein and fats, your meals and snacks should all contain roughly the same number of carbs.
The number of carbs that you need or can tolerate depends on many factors, including your body size, activity level, insulin sensitivity, and calorie needs.
While the best way to determine the right amount for your needs is to consult a knowledgable healthcare provider, here are some examples of a single serving of some carb-rich foods (
- 1/3 cup (about 50 grams) of rice or pasta
- 1/2 cup (117 grams) of oatmeal or grits
- 1 slice of bread
- 1 small tortilla or dinner roll
- 6 crackers
- 1/2 cup (80 grams) of potatoes or sweet potatoes, cooked
- 1 piece of fruit or 1 cup (144 grams) of berries
- 1 cup (240 mL) of milk
Try to include protein and fat in each meal or snack to help keep you full and prevent your blood sugar levels from rising quickly (
Before making any large changes to your diet, consult your healthcare provider so that they can properly adjust your medications and insulin dosages if needed.
If you have diabetes, you should try to keep your carb intake consistent across all your meals and snacks.
Here is a sample 3-day meal plan using the non-perishable foods featured in this article.
- Breakfast: morning quinoa with chia seeds and frozen berries
- Lunch: soup with chickpeas and canned tomatoes
- Snack: dark chocolate and pistachios
- Dinner: high protein pasta with chicken, plus sauce made from canned tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms
- Breakfast: protein shake with whey powder, shelf-stable milk, and peanut butter
- Lunch: chicken salad with seed crackers
- Snack: roasted chickpeas
- Dinner: salmon patties, quinoa, and green beans
- Breakfast: savory cauliflower “oatmeal” with spinach and mushrooms, plus 1 cup (240 mL) of milk
- Lunch: high protein pasta tossed with olive oil, chickpeas, and spinach
- Snack: smoothie with berries, shelf-stable milk, and peanut butter
- Dinner: falafel and sautéed spinach
This 3-day sample meal plan can serve as a starting point for your own meal planning using these non-perishable and frozen foods.
The bottom line
Several non-perishable or frozen foods are great to have on hand if you have diabetes.
These foods not only minimally affect your blood sugar levels but can also be combined in numerous ways to make scrumptious meals and snacks.