By Cathy Cassata
While you plan to stock up on groceries during the pandemic, you may be wondering which items with a longer shelf life are the healthier choices to add to your cart, and which are the unhealthy ones to stay away from.
Though some items may seem obvious, it isn't always easy to tell the difference — or make the healthier choice.
"It is important to keep in mind both shelf life and the nutritional value. It can be tempting to pack your cart with cookies and sweet treats to get your mind off the stressors we all face, but these foods won't support your immune system or keep you feeling your best," Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, and author of "Belly Fat Diet for Dummies," told Healthline.
Instead, she said look for foods rich in antioxidants, fiber, protein, and healthy fats to support your energy needs and keep you at your best.
Here are 9 healthier choices you may want to consider, and 6 items you should consider limiting or avoid altogether.
With a shelf life of a year, prunes make a great option for increasing your produce intake even when you can't get to the store.
"This no sugar added dried fruit not only provides a good source of fiber to promote digestive health, [but] prunes are also incredibly versatile. Enjoy them alone as a sweet treat, add into homemade trail mix, or purée and use as a substitute for added sugar in any baked good," said Palinski-Wade.
Eating 5 to 6 prunes per day can prevent bone loss, she added.
Canned and frozen fruits and veggies are also go-to shelf stable options, said Alyssa Pike, RD, manager of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation.
"There are tons of options depending on your needs and preferences, and they can be cooked to add extra nutrients to a meal or easily thrown into a smoothie," Pike told Healthline.
Pulses, including lentils, chickpeas, beans, and dry peas, have an average of 8 grams of protein per half cup serving, which is more than double the protein of quinoa, said Palinski-Wade. This makes them one of the best sources of plant-based protein.
"Eating just a half cup three times per week can help you to increase your healthy protein intake while adding fiber and nutrients to your diet. Both canned and dried options have a shelf life of one year and can be added into a variety of recipes such as salads, soups, and even baked goods," she said.
Visit pulses.org for a variety of recipe ideas and information on how to best prepare them.
3. Winter squash and cabbage
When looking for vegetables that have a long shelf life, those that have a thick peel or rind are best, said Amanda Frederickson, cook and author of Simple Beautiful Food.
"Winter squash has a thick peel that can last for at least a couple of months on your counter. Winter squash includes everything from butternut squash to spaghetti squash to pumpkins," she said.
Cabbage can last for at least a month in your refrigerator, she added.
"It is a hearty vegetable that can be used in everything from salads to stir frys, or even braised on its own," said Frederickson.
4. Riced/spiralized vegetables pasta
It can be tempting to stock up on boxes of white rice and refined flour pasta, but eating too many of these foods can lead to unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels, said Palinski-Wade.
"Instead, head over to the frozen food section to stock up on rice vegetables, such as riced cauliflower along with precut spiralized vegetables. Not only do these options save time with food preparation, but they have a much longer shelf life than their fresh alternatives," she said.
She recommends the Green Giant brand, which has a variety of options offered nationwide.
Frederickson said whole grain oats can last a year or two in your cabinet and longer if the container isn't opened.
"You can obviously use them in oatmeal, but they also work in cookies, bread, or even as the base for oat milk," Frederickson told Healthline.
Pike agreed, noting their biggest health benefit is fiber.
"Enjoy rolled or steel cut varieties for breakfast or add to baked goods to increase the nutrient-density of your creations," Pike said.
6. Canned salmon and tuna
Because salmon and tuna are packed with protein and will last a long time in the pantry, Pike said she advises adding them to your grocery list.
She also suggested buying lean meats, poultry, and seafood and storing them in the freezer to extend their shelf life.
7. Coconut milk
Frederickson said she always has canned coconut milk in her pantry because it will last at least a year, if needed.
"Coconut milk can be used in anything from sweet to savory dishes, some of my favorites are coconut curries, base for oatmeal, or even whipped cream," she said.
8. Pyure Organic all-purpose stevia blend
It may be tempting to bake a lot while being quarantined, but making too many treats packed with added sugar can start to have a negative impact on health and weight.
Instead, Palinski-Wade suggested using Pyure Organic all-purpose stevia blend.
"This granular all-purpose sweetener can be used in the same way as traditional sugar without the added calories or carbohydrates and it has a shelf life of 2 years. With 0 grams of net carbs and 0 calories, this sweetener works for almost any diet plan and can be used to sweeten everything from baked goods to beverages," she said.
9. Veggies Made Great double chocolate muffin
When you need a chocolate fix, Palinski-Wade said her go-to is the double chocolate muffin by Veggies Made Great.
"Eating foods packed with produce helps to provide your body with immune-supporting antioxidants. That's why I love these double chocolate muffins by Veggies Made Great. They taste like a decadent cupcake, but with the first two ingredients being zucchini and carrots, they are packed full of good-for-you nutrition to give your body what it needs right now," she said.
Less Healthy Choices
1. Instant pancake mix
While just-add-water pancake mixes are convenient and have a long shelf life, many are also a source of refined carbs without much nutritional value.
"Instead choose an option rich in protein and whole grains, such as Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes," said Palinski-Wade.
2. Toaster strudel
What you choose to eat in the morning makes all the difference in how you'll feel throughout the day.
"Toaster strudels are packed full of refined carbohydrates and added sugar, leading to a quick burst of energy followed by a crash. As an occasional treat, these can be included in the diet, but I don't recommend stocking up on them as a meal choice now," said Palinski-Wade.
3. Frozen pre-fried chicken
Frozen fried chicken can make a great option for a quick meal because of its long shelf life, but Palinski-Wade said breaded and fried options contain a large amount of added calories and saturated fat.
She recommended opting for a precooked option that has been breaded and baked, or forgo the breading all together for a more nutritious alternative.
Kris Sollid, RD, senior director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation, compares fats to fonts.
"It's the type that matters most. The type of fat we eat is more important than the amount of fat we eat. So, look for items with less saturated fat than unsaturated fat (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated)," he told Healthline.
4. Frozen pizza
A frozen pizza is a great option to have in the freezer and to eat occasionally. However, Palinski-Wade said avoid ones with lots of processed meat or stuffed crust (like this DiGiorno one).
"With the stuffed cheese crust and addition of extra bacon, this frozen pizza contains a high amount of saturated fat (one serving contains 50 percent of the recommended daily value), calories, and sodium," she said.
Instead, she suggested choosing a thin crust frozen pizza topped with vegetables, such as the DiGiorno Thin & Crispy Garden Vegetable option with only 210 calories and 4 grams of saturated fat per serving.
5. Creamy canned soup
Stocking up on canned soup makes sense, but canned varieties with a cream base are often loaded with saturated fat, calories, and sodium, Palinski-Wade said.
Instead, she suggested opting for select broth-based options labeled "low sodium" that contain lean proteins, vegetables, and whole grains, such as a low sodium minestrone soup.
Sollid agreed, noting that sodium is essential for the body to thrive, but too much can have a negative impact on health.
"If you are watching your sodium intake closely, opt for lower sodium items. Items that have 140 mg of sodium or less per serving are considered 'low sodium.' Items that have 35 mg of sodium or less per serving are considered 'very low sodium,'" he said.
6. Ice cream
Having gallons of ice cream stored in the freezer can lead to overindulging.
"If you do want to enjoy a frozen dessert, try purchasing single-serving ice cream bars to help control portion size or even better, make your own 'nice' cream by blending up those overripe bananas you stored in the freezer," said Palinski-Wade.
Sollid noted that added sugars are not an essential part of the diet, though there is room for small amounts of added sugars in a healthy diet. (He advised to aim for less than 10 percent of your total calories.)
"Keep your added sugar intake in check by choosing foods that are higher in fiber and lower in added sugars," he said.
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By Teri Schultz
Europe is in a panic over the second wave of COVID-19, with infection rates sky-rocketing and GDP plummeting. Belgium has just announced it will no longer test asymptomatic people, even if they've been in contact with someone who has the disease, because the backlog in processing is overwhelming. Other European countries are also struggling to keep up testing and tracing.
Meanwhile in a small cabin in Helsinki airport, for his preferred payment of a morsel of cat food, rescue dog Kossi needs just a few seconds to tell whether someone has coronavirus.
<div id="bfda0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c60b1a0dedbedbe5e0ce44284aff852f"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1308390775328251906" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Covid-19 dogs started their work today at the Helsinki Airport at arrival hall 2B. Dogs have been trained to detect… https://t.co/nw4mrw6eJM</div> — Helsinki Airport (@Helsinki Airport)<a href="https://twitter.com/HelsinkiAirport/statuses/1308390775328251906">1600779644.0</a></blockquote></div><p>If it were left to Kossi and his pals, crowds of potential virus carriers could be cleared in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost with none of the physical discomfort that accompanies the current nasal swab test based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method.</p>
No Human Nose Needed<p>A dog can sniff a cloth wiped on a wrist or neck and immediately identify if it comes from someone who has contracted the virus as much as five days before any symptoms appear which would lead a person to go into isolation. "A dog could easily save so so, so many lives," University of Helsinki veterinary researcher Anna Hielm-Bjorkman told DW, who says their testing has shown an accuracy level of nearly 100%.</p><p>It was originally her idea to see whether Kossi, a talented disease-detection dog, could redirect his skills in sniffing out mold, bedbugs and cancer to detecting the new virus just as it started to spread in Europe. "It took him seven minutes to figure out 'okay, this is what you want me to look out for," Hielm-Bjorkman said. "So that totally blew our minds."</p><p>Susanna Paavilainen, the executive director of the Wise Nose scent-detection foundation and the woman who saved Kossi from euthanasia in a Spanish shelter eight years ago, immediately started retraining her dogs to find the coronavirus.</p><p>Miina, who used to track a young girl's blood sugar levels by scent, quickly came on board, along with two others already working in disease detection. In all, they hope to train 15 dogs in the first phase.</p><p>Hielm-Bjorkman said once they discovered the new capabilities, while the normal academic procedure would be to test, publish and get peer-reviewed, their first instinct was to get the dogs into service. "[Researchers] who are actually publishing," she noted wryly, "are not at the airports."</p>
Wags, Not Wages<p>But for that, they needed permission and ideally, some funding. Vantaa Deputy Mayor Timo Aronkyto, who is also responsible for airport security, saw the benefit straight away. "It took me two minutes," he told DW.</p><p>However, his funding options were limited to about $390,000 total for the four-month pilot project aiming to prove that results from the dog tests are at least as accurate as the PCR test. Anyone who tests positive at the voluntary canine site is requested to go to the medical unit for confirmation.</p><p>The interest of Aronkyto, a trained physician, is rooted in both health and wealth. "Our testing at the airport costs more than 1 million [euros] (USD $1.2 million) a month at the moment," he said, explaining he expects that to go up to €3 million (USD. $3.5 million) per month in winter. "These dogs would be much cheaper," he pointed out.</p><p>He's optimistic support will grow as data from the current pilot project accumulates, explaining there is already work underway to change Finnish legislation so eventually sniffer dogs would have the same "authority" as customs dogs.</p><p>Aronkyto anticipates one animal performing both functions in the near future. He plans to continue this level of funding from his city budget into next year but that doesn't train new dogs nor expand the capacity beyond the four that split shifts currently at the airport, even as infection rates rise.</p>
Helsinki Hesitates<p>Notably, however, the Finnish government has not signaled it would like to pick up the program itself, despite a huge surge in publicity and, as Hielm-Bjorkman and Paavilainen emphasize, interest from other countries. Travelers have been eager to participate, waiting in line more than an hour at times.</p><p>Finnish ambassador in Ramallah, Palestine, Paivi Peltokoski, praised the experience after a recent trip but, apparently, her enthusiasm is not overly contagious.</p>
<div id="d9823" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="61d382f115fe66a44eb793d9ebee3d94"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318564228450615299" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">I was tested negative by two #coronadogs upon arrival at the #Helsinki airport in #Finland. Later a medical test ve… https://t.co/cGlWQn8DJb</div> — Päivi Peltokoski (@Päivi Peltokoski)<a href="https://twitter.com/PaiviPeltokoski/statuses/1318564228450615299">1603205184.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"If the government would see this already as something that they would believe in," Hielm-Bjorkman said, she could envision training hundreds of dogs, stationing sniffers at concert halls or sports matches or elderly care homes. She adds there's a need for a "paradigm shift" for both medical professionals and the public.</p><p>Usually it's doctors telling patients if they're sick, she explained, and "here it's a dog handler."</p>
Little Political Will on German Project<p>This situation is not limited to Finland. In Germany researchers also <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/german-sniffer-dogs-show-promise-at-detecting-coronavirus/a-54300863" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announced promising results</a> with canines <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-german-military-training-sniffer-dogs/a-54062180" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">detecting COVID-19</a>, but no dogs have been used anywhere so far. And then, says Professor Holger Volk of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover, there has been insufficient political will or funding to move the project forward, something he called "very troubling" especially with a resurgent infection rate.</p><p>"When we started this whole project, we we did it because we wanted to help to stop the pandemic," Volk told DW. "It's really has been a very frustrating ride. I have had a lot of naysayers in the whole process. If I wasn't a very determined person, having done a lot of research, I would have probably stopped it."</p><p>He agrees with Hielm-Bjorkman's assessment that "it's just not in the perception of doctors that dogs are able to do this precise work." But he also echoes her faith in the vast potential of their discovery. "If you had a dog who could sniff every day quickly your cohort of workers, for example," he said, "think about the impact. You could continue having a workplace."</p><p>Speaking of workplaces, Susanna Paavilainen is starting to think if Finland doesn't want to unleash the dogs' potential at home, she and Kossi might accept one of the many requests from all over the world to provide training. "We can move because Kossi likes warm weather," she says, petting her star sniffer.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
An annual comprehensive report on air pollution showed that it was responsible for 6.67 million deaths worldwide, including the premature death of 500,000 babies, with the worst health outcomes occurring in the developing world, according to the State of Global Air, which was released Wednesday.
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By Hannah Seo
If you've been considering throwing out that old couch, now might be a good time. Dust in buildings with older furniture is more likely to contain a suite of compounds that impact our health, according to new research.
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Poor eating habits, lack of exercise, genetics, and a bunch of other things are known to be behind excessive weight gain. But, did you know that how much sleep you get each night can also determine how much weight you gain or lose?
By Robert J. Orth, Jonathan Lefcheck and Karen McGlathery
A century ago Virginia's coastal lagoons were a natural paradise. Fishing boats bobbed on the waves as geese flocked overhead. Beneath the surface, miles of seagrass gently swayed in the surf, making the seabed look like a vast underwater prairie.
Why Didn’t Seagrasses Recover Naturally?<p>Development, nutrient runoff and other human impacts have damaged marshes, mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses in many bays and estuaries worldwide. Loss or shrinkage of these key habitats has reduced commercial fisheries, increased erosion, made coastlines more vulnerable to floods and storms and harmed many types of aquatic life. Rapid climate change has compounded these effects through <a href="https://theconversation.com/ocean-warming-has-fisheries-on-the-move-helping-some-but-hurting-more-116248" target="_blank">rising global temperatures</a>, more <a href="https://theconversation.com/more-frequent-and-intense-tropical-storms-mean-less-recovery-time-for-the-worlds-coastlines-123335" target="_blank">frequent and severe storms</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/as-climate-change-alters-the-oceans-what-will-happen-to-dungeness-crabs-61501" target="_blank">ocean acidification</a>.</p><p>In the late 1990s, local residents told two of us who are longtime students of seagrasses (Robert "JJ" Orth and Karen McGlathery) that they had spotted small patches of eelgrass in shallow waters off Virginia's eastern shore. For years the conventional view had been that seagrasses in this area had not recovered from the events of the 1930s because human activities had <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquabot.2005.07.007" target="_blank">made the area inhospitable for them</a>.</p><p>But studies showed that water quality in these coastal bays was <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02782971" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">comparatively good</a>. This led us to explore a different explanation: Seeds from healthy seagrass populations elsewhere along the Atlantic coast simply weren't reaching these isolated bays. Seagrasses are underwater flowering plants, so seeds are among the main ways they reproduce and spread to new environments.</p>
Eelgrass beds were restored in four bays at the southern tip of Virginia's eastern shore on the Atlantic coast. David J. Wilcox/VIMS, CC BY-ND
Sowing a New Crop<p>From our <a href="https://doi.org/10.2307/1941597" target="_blank">earlier research</a>, we knew that when eelgrass seeds fall from the parent plant, they sink to the sea bottom quickly and don't move far from where they land. We also knew that these seeds don't germinate until late fall or early winter. This meant that if we collected the seeds in spring, when eelgrass flowers, we could hold them until the fall, helping them survive over the months in between.</p><p>We decided to try reseeding eelgrass in the areas where they were missing. Starting in 1999, we collected seeds by hand from underwater meadows in nearby Chesapeake Bay – plucking the long reproductive shoots, bringing them back to our laboratory and holding them in large outdoor seawater tanks until they released their seeds naturally. After about 10 years we started gathering the grasses using a custom-built underwater "lawn mower" to collect many more of the reproductive shoots than we could by hand.</p><p>In 2001 we sowed our first round by simply tossing seeds from a boat. Our first test plots covered 28 acres of mud flats in waters 2 to 3 feet deep. Returning the following year, we saw new seedlings sprouting up.</p><p>Each year since then, the <a href="https://www.vims.edu/" target="_blank">Virginia Institute of Marine Science</a> and the <a href="https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/virginia/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nature Conservancy's Virginia Coast Reserve</a>, along with staff and students from the <a href="https://www.vcrlter.virginia.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Virginia</a>, have led a team of scientists and citizens to collect and seed a combined 536 acres of bare bottom in several coastal bays.</p><p>These initial plots took off and rapidly expanded. By 2020 they covered 9,600 acres across four bays. Several factors helped them flourish. These bays are naturally flushed with cool, clean water from the Atlantic Ocean. And they lie off the tip of Virginia's eastern shore, where there is little coastal development.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a482c2146febd6782c99960c2b55feb8"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K9NyfPLINtk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Sheltering Marine Life and Storing Carbon<p>Since eelgrass disappeared from these bays in the 1930s, human understanding of seagrass ecosystems has evolved. Today people don't pack their walls full of seagrass insulation but instead value different services they provide, such as habitat for fish and shellfish – including many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12645" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">commercially and recreationally important species</a>.</p><p>Scientists and government agencies also have recognized the importance of coastal systems in capturing and storing so-called "<a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/bluecarbon.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">blue carbon</a>." In fact, we now know that seagrasses constitute a globally significant <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1477" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon sink</a>. They are a key tool for reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64094-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">slowing climate change</a></p><p>We are working to understand the valuable services that our restored seagrass beds provide. To our surprise, fish and invertebrates returned within only a few years as the meadows expanded. These organisms have established extensive food webs that include species ranging from tiny seahorses to 6-foot-long sandbar sharks.<br></p><p>Other benefits were equally dramatic. Water in the bays become clearer as the seagrass canopy trapped floating particles and deposited them onto the bottom, burying significant stocks of carbon and nitrogen in sediments bound by the grasses' roots. Our research is the first to verify the overall net carbon captured by seagrass, and is now being used to issue carbon offset credits that in turn <a href="https://vaseagrant.org/eelgrass-carbon-credits/" target="_blank">create more funds for restoration</a>.</p><p>One big question was whether restoring seagrasses could make it possible to bring back bay scallops, which once generated millions of dollars for the local economy. Since bay scallops no longer existed in Virginia, we obtained broodstock from North Carolina, which we have <a href="https://chesapeakebaymagazine.com/return-of-the-bay-scallop/" target="_blank">reared and released annually</a> since 2013. Regular surveys now reveal a growing population of bay scallops in the restored eelgrass, although there is still some way to go before they reach levels seen in the 1930s.</p>
Restored seagrass beds (dark areas) along Virginia's Atlantic coast, with sunlight reflecting from a small island. Jonathan Lefcheck, CC BY-ND