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How to eat healthy during the quarantine

Wellness | April 17, 2020
Four tips to help guide your efforts.

When you are practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 quarantine, it’s important to limit the number of trips you make to the grocery store. This means you might be stocking up on canned and frozen goods instead of fresh foods. While fruits, vegetables and other ingredients are typically the tastiest and most nutritious fresh, you can still make healthy eating choices with pantry items and frozen foods.

With just a little bit of planning and some easy tips, you can keep your healthy cooking and eating habits intact by following these tips.

1. Pay attention to your body’s cues

When you’re at home for the majority of the day, it can be tempting to grab snacks rather than fix a dish. Or maybe, you find that between caring for kids and working from home, there’s just no time to eat at all. But remember, if you allow your body to get too hungry, you’re more likely to consume larger portions of unhealthy foods when it is time to stop and eat.

Try, as best you can, to pay attention to your body’s cues while you are at home. If you find you are hungry, take a break and eat, even if it isn’t a traditional break time or mealtime. Even if you aren’t hungry, it’s helpful to grab something light and easy—maybe an apple, handful of grapes, a yogurt or a piece of cheese.

Remember, anxiety and stress may make you want to eat more than usual. But be aware of your body and the messages it sends—eat slowly and only enough to fill you up. You’ll feel better if you eat only the amount necessary to feel satiated.

2. Plan for fruits and vegetables

Produce may be the first item that goes bad in your fridge. When you do make a trip to the grocery store, purchase a combination of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Many frozen and canned foods offer equal amounts and sometimes more vitamins and minerals. A 2015 study in Nutrients found that canned food use is correlated with nutrient-rich diets in both children and adults. So, while you may prefer the taste of fresh foods, don’t worry; those canned and frozen veggies can still deliver the nutrients your body needs.

If you’re planning out your weekly meals, make a plan to eat the fresh foods first—before they go bad, and save the frozen and canned for later in the week. If your fresh food is going bad before you can eat it all, freeze it for use later. Frozen spinach, for example, is a great addition to a smoothie or pasta dish.

3. Choose other healthy shelf-stable foods

If you’re looking for foods that allow you to stay away from the grocery store for extended periods, shelf-stable foods are a good option. These foods can be safely stored at room temperature, or “on the shelf.” These non-perishable products are found in bags and bottles and don’t expire for a long time—giving you plenty of time to use them. Some examples of shelf-stable foods include:

  • Dried beans. Beans provide valuable protein and fiber for your body. If you choose canned beans, be sure to choose low-sodium options when available and rinse and drain them well before use.

  • Soups and canned meats. Canned tuna, salmon and sardines are good sources of protein. Low sodium soups can be a quick meal that offers protein. However, read the label—sometimes, chicken noodle soup contains more noodles than chicken. Make sure they have plenty of protein, greater than 10 grams per serving. 

    • Dietitian's Tip: If you have a higher sodium soup, it can be diluted by adding a bit of extra water. Also try adding salt-free herbs and spices for more flavor, and extra veggies.

  • Nut butters. These kinds of butter, such as almond butter and peanut butter, offer healthy proteins and fat. They make quick snacks when served with celery or apples.

  • Pasta, quinoa and rice. Try to purchase whole-grain pasta, brown rice or quinoa to ensure you’re getting the proper nutrition you need.

  • Dried fruits and nuts. These foods can be a quick snack during the day to tide you over until mealtime.

4. Double-up and freeze

To make cooking healthy as easy on yourself as possible, make a meal plan before you head to the grocery store. Plan ahead to write out your list and think about doubling the recipe of your favorite healthy soup or casserole and freeze the extra. Freezer meals can be made in one afternoon— and can be a great way to get the kids involved in cooking. Preparing meals ahead of time and freezing them is a great way to free up time during the week. You’ll be thrilled when you just pull out the dish first thing in the morning and voilá—dinner is ready for you at the end of your busy day.

With a little planning and careful grocery shopping, you can keep your family eating healthy even when you can’t enjoy fresh foods. As you continue to practice social distancing remember that you are keeping everyone healthy—including the people around your dinner table.

Dietitian's Tips courtesy of PeaceHealth dietitian and diabetes educator, Jendy Newman, RDN, CDE.

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