These Are the Longest-Lasting Proteins to Stock up on for Healthy Meals

Photo: Stocksy/Nadine Greeff
Grocery shopping has become a real science lately. Instead of just filling your cart with things you'd typically use up within the next few days, you're trying to balance quickly-spoiling foods like strawberries with long-lasting items that will survive until your next trip. And deciding on which long-lasting protein to buy can be especially tricky.

According to Rachel Paul, PhD, RD, the registered dietitian behind College Nutritionist, instead of grabbing something like raw meat that typically only lasts a few days, now's the time to stick to hardier proteins you know won't expire for a while. "That way you don't have to stress about getting through all of the fresh food in your fridge, and you also don't have to worry about not having food for the coming weeks," she says.

The good news is selecting long-lasting protein options isn't at-all limiting. Aside from staying fresh for much, much longer, they allow you to add some excitement and color back into your meals—because we all know things have become a little bland lately, to say the least. Here are the best long-lasting proteins to grab that will provide healthy meals for weeks.

Stock up on these 7 long-lasting protein options

1. Nuts and seeds

Instead of storing your nuts and seeds in the pantry, store them in the fridge. They'll last way longer. "You can add nuts or seeds to a salad or add them to a stir-fry after it's cooked to maintain the crunch," Paul says. "Make an easy, filling salad with two cups of any lettuce type, another veggie of your choice, 1/3 cup crumbled or shredded cheese, 1/4 cup nuts or seeds, and some light dressing."

2. Cheese and yogurt

Instead of buying a big block of cheese or tub of yogurt, Paul recommends sticking to smaller sizes. String cheese and individual yogurts often last weeks longer, whether it's a dairy or plant-based option.

3. Beans and lentils

Beans and lentils are the ultimate protein food. Just to give you an idea, chickpeas contain approximately 39 grams per cup, lentils contain 50 grams per cup, and black beans contain 15 grams per cup. The great thing is all of these either come canned or dried, making them long-lasting protein staples you can use for months. Aside from roasting chickpeas as a snack and adding black beans into your burrito bowls, Paul loves using them to make soups.

"Soups are super comforting right now," she says. "Spray a pot with an oil spray and add in half of a diced onion and a 1/2 cup diced celery. Stir fry for 6 to 7 minutes, then add in two cups of broth. Next, drain a can of beans (any type!) and add 1/2 cup to the pot. Add in other veggies or cooked proteins if you like. Cover the pot and heat through on low heat for at least 10 minutes."

4. Unopened tofu

Unopened tofu can last up to three months in the fridge, and there's so much you can do with it. You can make vegan wings, blend it into an Alfredo sauce, and—one of Paul's go-tos—create a healthy stir-fry.

"Cut the tofu into small cubes. Add one tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon of pre-minced garlic (or fresh, if you have it!) to a pan. Then stir-fry the tofu pieces for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it's crispy," she says. "Finish by adding in two cups of fresh chopped veggies for another 2 to 3 minutes, then top with dashes of basil, oregano, salt, and pepper."

5. Frozen Non-starchy veggies

Yep, veggies are loaded with protein, too. A handful of great non-starchy options to stock up on are broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and spinach. You can also grab some fresh veggies that last longer in the fridge, like onions and spaghetti squash, Paul says.

6. Frozen seafood

Frozen shrimp is often easy to get your hands on, and Paul says adding it to your meals is really simple. "You don't even need to defrost the shrimp first. Just spray a pan with an oil spray and cook them for 7 to 8 minutes," she says. Then, add them into whatever meal you have in the works.

7. Eggs

Eggs can last up to five weeks in the fridge. And get this: You can also freeze them for up to a year out of the shells. "Instead of your usual scramble, make a frittata," Paul says. "Spray a pan with an oil spray and stir-fry your veggies first. Then crack the eggs in a bowl and whisk them together with a little cheese before pouring them into the pan. Set to low heat and cover with a lid, and it'll cook through in a few minutes."

Here's what a dietitian thinks you should know about eggs:

These are the healthiest canned foods to always have in your pantry, according to a registered dietitian. Then beware of these refrigerator food-storage mistakes to lengthen the life of your groceries.

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