During this COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining good nutrition can be a challenge. Here are some tips on planning and preparing balanced meals during this time to provide nutrition, satisfaction and, yes, comfort for you and your family.
You may find yourself or your children constantly eating and snacking on a lot of processed foods and snacks. You may be using food to cope with feelings of stress, anxiety or boredom. At this time, remember to be kind and patient with yourself as many of our cravings are biologically driven to help decrease stress. Be more mindful in your food choices. Ask yourself:
- Am I looking for food because I am choosing unsatisfying foods (foods that are low in protein, fiber, flavor and fat)?
- Am I not following my normal meal and snack schedule?
- If I realize I am not physically hungry, what other things could I do in place of eating (read a book, call and check on a family member, make a soup)?
Stretching the Dollar
You also may be under a great deal of stress about how to feed your household members, especially if you experience a smaller income. You may need to become more resourceful and flexible in what foods are prepared.
Try to embrace this situation as a chance to try out new recipes, reduce food waste, and get creative stretching the dollar. Items such as dried legumes (beans, lentils, peas), and canned (look for no added salt or sugar) or frozen vegetables and fruits can be less pricey than fresh. They work well in times when you can’t keep as much fresh produce in your house (due to decreased shopping trips). You can also save money by buying in bulk. For those families experiencing food insecurity at this time, learn about adjustments in services such as WIC, SNAP, and the National School Breakfast and Lunch program.
Options for Your Kitchen
- Fruit: Applesauce/fruit cup, canned/dried/frozen fruit, canned pumpkin
- Veggies: Canned/frozen, root veggies, pickles/pickled veggies (carrots, green beans, red cabbage, sauerkraut), canned/jarred artichokes, jarred roasted red peppers, canned tomatoes
- Proteins: Canned/dried beans, deli meat, frozen chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, tofu, canned tuna, nuts, peanut or nut butters, dried meats (meat sticks or jerky), cheese, frozen edamame or lentils, hummus, ultra high temperature- (UHT) treated cow’s milk, shelf-stable soy milk, dried milk
- Starches: Rice, pasta, quinoa, bread, potatoes, packaged/boxed stuffing
- Fats: olives, nuts, seeds, olive or canola oils, fish (canned/frozen), avocado
For tips on buying frozen and canned produce, click here.
- Oatmeal with flax, nuts, fresh/thawed/dried fruit
- Smoothies with fruit/greens (spinach or kale), chia seeds
- Egg and low-fat cheddar cheese on whole wheat English muffin
- Peanut butter toast (add sliced bananas or raisins)
- Banana or pumpkin muffins made with whole wheat flour, flax seed and walnuts
- Pancakes (boxed or homemade) with fruit compote (frozen berries-heated with a little water and honey or agave), frozen sausage (chicken, pork, veggie)
- Cold cereal with fresh or dried fruit
- Green eggs and ham (add spinach and chopped ham to scrambled eggs and cheese)
- Veggie quiche (use frozen pie crust, defrosted broccoli/spinach/kale, canned mushrooms)
- Hard boiled eggs and whole wheat toast and dried apricots
- Cottage cheese with cinnamon and diced pear
Lunch and Dinner
- Tuna noodle casserole (tuna, cream of mushroom soup, canned/frozen peas and/or carrots, pasta)
- Rice and beans
- Chicken, tofu or veggie stir-fry (frozen carrots/cauliflower/broccoli, canned water chestnuts, mushrooms (top with cashews for crunch and/or extra protein)
- Canned or homemade baked beans and turkey kielbasa
- English muffin or French bread pizza (top with veggies, turkey pepperoni or canned pineapple/ham)
- Black bean (canned) and sweet potato burritos
- Shepherd’s pie (ground meat/turkey/veggie crumbles, canned/frozen corn, instant or homemade mashed potatoes)
- Tacos with beef/chicken/beans, salsa, shredded 2% Mexican blend cheese, guacamole, olives
- Homemade nuggets and fries (white or sweet potatoes, canola oil, salt and pepper)
- Bean-based and/or chicken quesadillas
- Chili (chicken, beef and/or canned or dried bean-based, canned tomatoes, canned/frozen corn). Top with cheese, sour cream/plain Greek yogurt. Serve with brown rice, tortilla chips or corn bread (from box or homemade).
- Beef stew (stewed meat, carrots, potatoes, onions, canned mushrooms)
- Minestrone soup (pasta, beans, frozen/canned veggies) and grilled cheese
- Split pea (ham optional) soup and crackers
- Beef (frozen stewed meat) and barley soup
For recipe ideas, check out www.eatright.org
- Fruit cup
- Olives and cheese plate
- Nuts and dried fruit/trail mix
- Nuts/seeds with raisins and dry cereal
- Apples with peanut butter or low-fat cheese
- Ham or turkey and cheese roll-ups/pin wheels
- Oatmeal, peanut butter or pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (homemade with whole wheat flour and ground flax seed)
- Carrots with hummus
- Popcorn (You have the time so try making homemade!) If you don’t have an electric popper, or don’t want to use the stove, add ½ cup kernels to brown lunch bag, fold and seal bag with tape. Shake kernels flat. Place in microwave for two to three minutes. Viola! Air-popped popcorn.
- Dried seaweed and turkey/beef/pork jerky
At this time, there’s no evidence to suggest COVID-19 is being transmitted via food . If you can afford it, getting take out is a great way to support local businesses and ease the stress of purchasing food and meal preparation. The coronavirus doesn’t live well on foods, but it can live on the containers/wrappers from human contact. Wash your hands after you remove food from containers and wrappers before eating. Place food on a clean plate. For ideas of what to choose when taking out, please see this link from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Covid Nutrition Resources:
*Click here for a video on shopping during this pandemic.
Guest Blogger: Jennifer Hall, RD, LDN, Pediatric Dietitian, UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center