Now that some of us are self-isolating or working from home, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle while practicing social distancing. You may wonder if that is even possible? Well, here’s some good news. You can make nutrition a priority, and it’s something that is all the more important if your immune system may be compromised. Though it might look a little different than normal, it’s possible to eat healthfully when stuck at home.
Below is a list of foods that are not only nutritious but versatile too. They can be eaten solo, combined with other ingredients to assemble mini-meals, or used as the base for several recipes.
Just remember that there’s no need to buy out the stock at your local grocery store. Right now there’s no indication that food retailers will be unable to meet the demand of consumers, and it’s also important to consider the needs of others and not overbuy. So only purchase what you actually need – and these items will last you awhile, which is convenient when you’re unable to leave your home.
What to buy for your pantry:
- Beans and legumes
Reach for these on your next trip to the store, because they’re not only long-lasting but also a great starting point for a nutrient-rich meal. Beans and legumes are excellent shelf-stable sources of plant protein. Chickpeas or lentils for example, can be mixed with salads and pasta dishes, or used in soups and stews. If you like hummus, now is the time to make your own.
- Canned fish
Canned or vacuum-packed protein sources like tuna or salmon are also highly nutritious, and offer a boost of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- Nut butters
These are a great source of protein and healthy fats, and pair well with lots of foods, from crackers and breads to apples and bananas. Sun butter, which is made from sunflower seeds, is appropriate for those with peanut or tree nut allergies.
- Whole-wheat and bean pastas, quinoa and brown rice
These are the nutrient-rich grains to stock up on, and they can be used as a side dish or mixed with proteins and vegetables.
You can cook oats and add savory toppings like grated cheese, sun-dried tomatoes or even eggs for a quick, nutrient-rich meal. Note that while eggs do require refrigeration, they still have a longer shelf-life than most refrigerated foods and can be very versatile as well.
- High-fiber cereal
A high-fiber, high-protein dry cereal like Kellogg’s Special K, with low-fat milk can also come in handy as a quick mini-meal.
- Canned, sugar-free fruits and vegetables
Stocking up on canned vegetables, canned fruit and applesauce without added sugar is also wise. Be sure to rinse canned vegetables to get rid of extra sodium. And don’t forget canned or jarred tomato-based sauces.
- Dried fruit, popcorn and yes, chocolate
Dried fruits like prunes, apricots, raisins, cranberries, figs are a sweet source of iron, fiber and antioxidants. They can be combined with nuts – including omega-3 rich walnuts or almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts or pecans. Sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds are also a tasty nutritious option.
Popcorn is also a great source of fiber. You can sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top to turn it into a savory snack or add dried fruit or mini chocolate chips for added sweetness.
You can even indulge in a stash of chocolate, though the healthiest kind is dark chocolate, which is rich in anti-aging flavanols.
- Water, long life milk and coffee
Remember, in addition to stocking up on foods it’s important to stay hydrated. The general rule of thumb for emergencies is to store at least 3L of water per person or 1L per person per day and to have a three-day supply handy. However, if you typically drink tap water or have some sort of filter, don’t worry to much about huge amounts of water.
Milk is also a good source of calcium and immune-boosting vitamin D, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be refrigerated. Having a shelf-stable milk or plant based milk on hand isn’t a bad idea if you don’t want to or cannot venture out to the grocery store.
And caffeine counts too. Consider whether you have enough caffeine to get you through a few weeks. You may need to brew your own pot of coffee if you don’t want to or cannot venture to your favorite coffee shop.
What to buy for your freezer:
- Bread, deli meat and fresh seafood
Remember, fresh foods can be frozen, which will allow you to enjoy them at a later date. Take full advantage of your freezer, including for foods that freeze well but that you might not typically freeze, such as milk, deli meats and breads. Don’t forget to grate your cheese, and freeze, so you can use it for cooking at a later stage.
- Additional fruits and vegetables
Here’s some uplifting news, research shows that frozen fruits and vegetables can have just as many vitamins, as compared to fresh. Frozen strawberries, blueberries and peaches can be used for smoothies, while spinach, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus and green beans can be used as a solo side dish or mixed with pasta or rice.
Packaged foods help meet the nutrition needs of many of us, including vegetarians, as well as those who have special dietary restrictions. For vegans and vegetarians, packaged alternatives are a good option, including items such as frozen bean burritos, frozen veggie burgers and frozen veggie pizza.
Those who are considered most at risk of infection should focus on getting as many fruits and vegetables into their diet as possible, as these foods pack the most nutrients and antioxidants, which help to fortify your cells against invasion from the stuff that makes you sick. This is where frozen produce is particularly handy for those who want to stock up but can’t get to the store easily or often.
When it comes to actually putting a meal together, you can get creative with simple combinations using carbs, protein and healthy fats. For example, oatmeal, nuts and peanut butter could be one nutritious combination. Canned salmon, rice and olives might be another. A smoothie consisting of yogurt, milk and frozen fruit can be another mini-meal. The key isn’t to be too specific about foods but to make sure you get all three macro-nutrients where possible.
Below links with some delicious nutritional recipes, important resources and coping with stress during this uncertain time.
Stay safe, stay healthy! And sanitize . . .