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Hunkering Down: COVID-19 and Advice on Food for the Long Haul

By Catherine Newman

See Catherine’s list of low-carb, nutrient-dense foods that keep well – allowing you to stay home and still eat healthily. Above all, please stay safe and well

If you are trying to keep your carb intake low, it can be frustrating to see everyone with their giant carts of pasta and rice right now. Because here’s the thing: whether we’re talking about social distancing, quarantine, closed schools, or potential disruptions to the supply chain, we don’t just want to survive these next weeks. We want to feel as well and as good as possible. Which means stocking up not on the high-carb favorites everyone else might be going for, but on low-carb, nutrient-dense foods that keep you well, keep your body healthy, and won’t do crazy things to your blood sugar. A few general rules of thumb: check labels whenever possible; stick with above-ground vegetables (versus root vegetables); and eat as healthfully as you possibly can.

And remember that if you’re at risk for blood-sugar lows, you’ll want to keep around some simple carbs like soda, honey, jam, hard candies, and popsicles. For example, diaTribe’s editor in chief, Kelly Close, keeps Honey Stinger energy chews available. They work quickly raise blood glucose and aren’t as tempting as other simple carb sources.

This article includes a range low-carb, nutrient-dense foods that keep well, in addition to recipes I’ve put together for diaTribe over time. Click to jump to a section!

For more on basic diabetes care during the COVID-19 outbreak, including advice about medication and safety, see our article here.

Okay, but onto the low-carb, nutrient-dense foods that keep well:

Foods that keep well in the refrigerator include:

  • kimchi and sauerkraut (these can last up to a year)

  • butter (6 months)

  • unopened hard cheese (2-4 months)

  • tofu (about 2 months)

  • grapefruits (about 6 weeks)

  • plain yogurt (about 2 months)

  • eggs (about a month)

  • carrots (about a month)

  • low- or no-sugar condiments, such as mayo, ketchup, and mustard

  • large, firm heads of cabbage, if you have room for them (stored in a plastic bag, these can keep a month or longer—just peel off the outer leaves)

Foods that are good to have in the freezer include:

  • Low-carb vegetables

    • cauliflower

    • broccoli

    • Brussels sprouts

    • spinach

    • kale

    • collard greens

    • asparagus

    • artichoke hearts

    • green beans

    • edamame

  • Low-carb fruit

    • raspberries

    • blackberries

    • strawberries

  • Meat and entrées

    • chicken, pork, ground beef, lamb, fish, and seafood

    • hot dogs and sausages

    • bacon

    • cauliflower-crust pizzas

    • low-carb entrées (e.g. Trader Joe Palak Paneer, which is a delicious Indian-spiced creamy green curry with cubes of fresh cheese in it and only 9 grams of crabs per serving)

Shelf-stable foods that you can keep for a long time in your pantry or basement include:

  • Dairy

    • Tetra Pak milk and cream (the latter is sold by Trader Joe’s)

    • powdered milk and buttermilk

    • processed cheese including Velveeta and Laughing Cow

    • unsweetened non-dairy “milks” such as soy, coconut, and almond

  • Protein sources

    • lower carb nuts, including pecans, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, and almonds

    • peanut butter and almond butter

    • seeds, such as pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

    • meat such as beef jerky, meat sticks (look for the natural brand Vermont Smoke and Cure), and some salami

    • Tetra Pak tofu (look for the brand Morinu)

    • cans or pouches of fish and seafood, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, clams, and mussels

    • canned ham, Spam, and chicken (these are not a personal favorite of mine, but maybe I’ll learn to love them)

    • canned chili (look for under 10 grams of carbs per serving)

    • crunchy snacks made of 100% cheese (look for the brands Moon Cheese, Whisps, and Just the Cheese)

    • dried beans and lentils (but add these to other dishes, since they add a lot of carbs, even though they’re a great source of protein and fiber)

  • Canned or jarred (low-carb) vegetables:

    • green beans

    • mushrooms

    • artichoke hearts

    • olives

    • roasted peppers

    • pickles (make sure these don’t have added sugar)

    • sauerkraut

    • bamboo shoots

    • tomatoes

    • spinach (not creamed, which will have added carbs—but you can cream it yourself with butter, heavy cream, and a pinch of garlic powder)

    • black, pinto, red, and garbanzo beans (but add these to other dishes, since they add a lot of carbs, even though they’re a great source of protein and fiber)

  • Sweets

    • sugar-free gelatin and pudding

    • specialty chocolate or candy bars that are marked keto

    • no-sugar added canned or pouched peaches

    • sweeteners such as stevia or Swerve

    • sugar-free hard candies

  • Other shelf-stable items:

    • onions and garlic

    • spices, vinegar, and other condiments

    • cooking oils, such as olive oil and coconut oil

    • shirataki noodles (these don’t offer any nutrients, really, but they are a carb-free way to satisfy a pasta craving)

    • chicken and vegetable broth

    • hot sauce and salsa

    • coffee, tea, and herb tea

    • coconut water

Some recipes you might be able to make without shopping (substitute frozen ingredients for fresh as needed):

Tomato Soup

Creamy Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

Chicken Parmesan

Coconut-Curry Chicken

Personal Pizza Meatloaves

Basic Edamame

Flavor-Saturated Tofu

Crustless Quiche with Broccoli, Cheddar, and Mustard

Zippy Egg Salad

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.