As health authorities try to tackle the scourge of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that’s sweeping the U.S and the rest of the world, more and more people are being ordered to self-quarantine or shelter in place, to keep the disease (COVID-19) from spreading.
If you and your family are preparing to hole up at home for a fortnight, choosing the right items to stockpile is key. And no self-quarantine checklist is complete without proper food supplies. Here are some of the best (and healthiest) foods to load up on, according to nutritionists:
For the pantry: “You want to focus on pantry staples that have a very long shelf life since you may potentially be quarantined for 14 days and the current recommendations are to hunker down,” says Miranda Hammer, NYC-based nutritionist and brains behind the popular food blog, Crunchy Radish. Hammer suggests stocking on dried and canned beans, whole grains (such as oats, quinoa, farro and brown rice), unsweetened dried fruit, jarred tomatoes, pasta, spices, oils and vinegar. “These are all great pantry options that allow you to create a variety of nourishing meals, from grain salads to soup and stews,” she says. “When buying canned beans, just make sure they are reduced-sodium or free of salt,” says Deanna Mollicone, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Dee’s Daily Dish. She also recommends rinsing them thoroughly after opening. In addition, the nutrition expert suggests bulk buying fiber- and protein-rich pantry options like whole-grain crackers, cereals and pasta and nuts and seeds. Canned fish like tuna and sardines are another great option to add to your pantry. “These can be used on crackers, mixed into pasta or even to make fish cakes,” says Mollicone. In addition, Manhattan-based chef and nutritionist, Amie Valpone recommends stocking on shelf-stable milk such as boxed almond milk, soy milk or any other plant-based milks that have a long shelf-life. Other than that, “flour, baking powder and baking soda are great pantry staples to have on hand for some baking projects that can help keep you busy,” notes Hammer. “It’s a fun activity to try—especially with the kids,” she adds.
For the fridge: “Consider loading up on apples, citrus fruits and veggies like carrots and celery—which can be used for the base of most soups,” says Hammer. She also recommends adding eggs to the list. “They typically last a month in the fridge if purchased fresh and can be used to make a range of dishes (think frittatas, wraps, salads and patties) as well as baked goods,” she points out. Meanwhile, Valpone suggests stocking on leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard and arugula. “All of these leafy greens are overstocked in the majority of food stores right now because everyone is focused on the non-perishable items,” tells the Eating Clean author.
For the freezer: “Load up on frozen fruits and veggies as they can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts,” says Mollicone. You can use them to whip up everything from smoothies and parfaits to sandwiches, casseroles and stir-fries. “Just look for ones that don’t have added sugars, sauces, syrups, seasonings or salt,” suggests Mollicone. The nutritionist also recommends purchasing protein-rich meats like fish and chicken for the freezer. “When buying meat, keep in mind that they can take up a lot of room—so choose wisely,” she adds.
For the kitchen: “Fresh vegetables like onion, garlic, ginger, potatoes and winter squashes (such as butternut squash) are good options as they can last on your countertop for an extended period,” says Hammer.
Here are a few more nutritionist-backed tips on eating healthy during the coronavirus lockdown:
- Eat more anti-inflammatory foods. “Focus on anti-inflammatory foods that are rich in lycopene and omega-3 fatty acids like tomatoes, walnuts, berries and leafy greens,” says Valpone. “These foods not only provide key nutrients, but they are also excellent at supporting your immune system and fighting inflammation,” tells the Lycored ambassador.
- Snack mindfully. Spending more time at home, primarily in front of a screen, can often lead to mindless grazing. Try these doable tips to curb mindless snacking. Additionally, buy more of good-for-you snacks like dark chocolate, roasted chickpeas, oatmeal bars and mixed nuts than sugar-laden treats like candies and cookies. Also, know that stress can have a huge impact on your eating habits. “Some people lose their appetite when they are stressed out while others tend to overeat to cope with the stress,” notes Hammer. So, if you find yourself stress-eating lately, Hammer suggests reaching out to a loved one or trying relaxation techniques like meditation, listening to music or taking a long bath.
- Prepare in bulk. Hammer suggests focusing more on make-ahead meals that are both nutritious and easy to prepare. “Consider making large batches of soups or stews. They freeze well and can be easily reheated in the microwave,” she says. Preparing food in bulk in advance would also mean that you don’t have to cook even when you don’t feel like it, she adds.
- Stay hydrated. Whenever you feel peckish, “it’s important to really listen to your body and gage if you are actually hungry or maybe dehydrated,” says Hammer. Besides drinking lots of water, Mollicone and Hammer suggest trying herbal teas, coconut water and chicken and vegetable broths to up your fluid intake.
And lastly, plan ahead before you go grocery shopping to avoid frequent trips. For re-stocking, consider delivery services that offer no-contact drop-off to minimize your exposure. Just make sure you order at least five to seven days in advance to avoid any inconvenience.