Shopping and eating during COVID-19
Here’s how to adapt
by Emily Newhard, RDN, LDN
Everyone has to eat. But with coronavirus precautions in place, there’s a good chance your usual mealtime or preparation habits have been disrupted.
Grocery stores continue to operate but may be sparse, and you may not be shopping as frequently as usual. If you’re home during the day instead of going to work, you may have found that your eating patterns have shifted as well.
Here are some tips to help get you through this time.
Stock up on the essentials
The federal government advises “additional stores of food and water” during a pandemic. This does not mean stocking up on as much of everything as possible or panic buying, but rather planning for the next week or two. Think ahead about your meals for the next 5 to 7 days and try to hit the grocery store as infrequently as possible. If you do leave your home, make sure to wear a cloth or fabric face covering.
- Purchase food staples that can be used for multiple meals:
- Bread, cheese, milk, eggs, beans, whole wheat pasta, tomato sauce, nuts and nut butters are versatile and keep well
- Choose hardy fruits and vegetables that will last a long time in your fridge:
- Apples, pears, bananas, citrus, grapes and pomegranates
- Carrots, onions, root vegetables (such as beets, carrots or parsnips), potatoes, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, peppers and winter squash
- Frozen produce works wonderfully in recipes calling for fresh fruit and is just as nutritious. Canned fruits and vegetables are also great, but be careful to avoid added sodium and sugars, if possible.
- Repurpose items. When your bananas start to go bad, peel and freeze them for smoothies or make them into banana bread. Have a pasta dinner with whole wheat noodles, then use the leftovers to make pasta salad to serve with lunches.
- Meal plan. Build a calendar of meals based on what you have at home. Plan out meals a few days in advance to save time, stay organized and use what you’ve got on hand.
- Try a website or app such as Supercook to plug in ingredients you already have at home and generate a recipe.
- Grocery pickup and delivery services, such as Instacart (website and app), are a fantastic option if you’re homebound or don’t feel safe entering a grocery store. Pickup is often free and delivery may only be a few dollars.
- Skip buying bottled water unless the water from your faucet is unsafe. Many homes already have water filtration systems in place to purify water. It’s much more economical and environmentally friendly to just drink tap water or fill a reusable bottle or pitcher.
Practice healthy habits
Eating behaviors definitely change if you’re staying put. Being home with a fully stocked pantry can quickly turn into an all-day buffet, and you may have less (or more) time to cook, depending on your work and childcare responsibilities.
- Instead of reaching for a snack out of impulse or habit, ask yourself what you’re truly hungry for. You may be surprised to find that a healthier option is just as satisfying.
- Leaving a plate of cookies or a bag of chips on the counter is a visual cue to grab one every time you walk past. Try cutting up fruit or vegetables with dip and putting them on the counter or in the front of the fridge so they are easy to grab instead.
- Do your best to minimize distracted eating. Use mealtimes to connect with your family by eating at the table together, if possible. Create a separate time for meals and snacks, so that you can enjoy the food and eat as much as you need, without mindlessly overeating.
- If you’re home with kids, try making a snack box for each of them at the beginning of the day with all of their snacks for the day portioned out in it. That way, they can help themselves without having to ask every time, and there’s a limit on the amount.
- Drink water. Keep a water bottle or a cup with a straw close by so you can drink consistently throughout the day. Being hydrated allows your body to accurately gauge hunger and fullness signals.
- Wash your hands. Before you eat, after you eat, anytime you sneeze or cough. Wash your hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
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