It is no exaggeration to say we’ve all been a bit preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s why we’ve seen panic buying of toilet paper, shortages of hand sanitizers and an onslaught of products claiming to super charge your immune system — from juice cleanses and elderberry syrup to MCT oil and herbal concoctions. (Heads up, they don’t work.)
We’ve also just watched the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission crackdown on companies selling teas, essential oils, colloidal silver and other products that claim to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19, the disease called by the novel coronavirus. (These really don’t work.)
But with each new high-profile event cancellation, school and business closing or travel restriction, we all want to know what we should be doing. With the daily increases in confirmed cases of COVID-19, it’s hard not to think about the potential you may be asked to self-quarantine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking anyone who has been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or has returned from high-risk countries — China, Iran, Italy and South Korea — to self-quarantine for 14 days. That means staying home and avoiding contact with others.
Would You Be Ready If You Needed to Self-Quarantine?
I asked six registered dietitian nutritionists to see if they’re doing anything different now or what they’d recommend to keep yourself and your family happy and well nourished if forced to stay home for two weeks.
“As much as we all might like the idea of a day or two at home, the thought of 14 days straight can be a bit overwhelming, especially in terms of the disruption to your daily routine,” says Regan Jones, a Georgia-based registered dietitian nutritionist, founding editor of Healthy Aperture.com and podcaster at This Unmillennial Life.
You may have to make a few modifications — like opting for coffee at home instead of that espresso shop on the corner — but with a little planning, your food and beverage choices can still be tasty and nutritious, she says.
Boston-area registered dietitian Elizabeth Ward, who runs Betteristhenewperfect.com, is also focused on shopping for the same foods she stocks all the time. “Eating a varied and nutritious diet that is abundant in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can go a long way in helping you fight illness,” she says.
Jones suggests shelf-stable milk. “I’ve already grabbed extra cartons of shelf-stable milk. In case you haven’t visited that section of your supermarket recently, the choices are pretty impressive. From the familiar standbys like ultra-pasteurized cow’s milk and soy milk to newer choices like almond, hemp and flax milk, there are tons of options.”
The good news is that these shelf-stable milks have a long shelf life and taste worlds better than you may remember from years ago.
If you never need to quarantine, you’ll have them on hand the next time you come home from vacation and don’t have any milk in the house, she says.
“If you do end up indoors for two weeks, you can use them for a homemade version of your usual latte you’re no longer drinking on your morning commute,” Jones adds. “Just keep in mind if you plan to catch up on all that baking you never have time to do, you might want to opt for a box of dry milk powder as well. While not usually the top choice for drinking, reconstituted milk works great in baking and cooking.”
Jones also makes sure to have a plentiful supply of dry beans in her pantry.
“My family eats dry beans almost daily anyway, so there’s no harm in having extra. They’re affordable and so versatile. From basics like black bean soup to more creative dishes like garbanzo beans simmered in canned coconut milk and seasoned with curry powder, there are lots of options to turn beans into a main dish, especially at the end of your quarantine when fresh veggies might be running low in your ‘fridge. Bonus: We all need to eat more plants and get more fiber. Now is as good a time as any to start that habit.”
Jones cooks her dry beans in an Instant Pot, but canned beans are also a convenient option.
Deanna Segrave-Daly, Philadelphia-area-based blogger at TeaspoonofSpice.com and author of “The 30-Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook,” says, coronavirus or not, she likes to stock her freezer and pantry with staples for easy Mediterranean diet-inspired meals.
“Frozen seafood like shrimp or fish fillets often are fresher than what you get at the fish counter (as they are flash frozen right on the fishing boat) and they cook up quickly in the oven — even straight from the freezer.”
Segrave-Daly also recommends stocking the freezer with a range of ingredients for quick meals, such as frozen vegetables like corn, peas and edamame, along with frozen fruits like cubed mango, pineapple and berries to add instant nutrition to grain dishes, salads and smoothies.
Ward suggests making double batches of chili, lentil soup, lasagna and other family favorites to stash in the freezer for make-ahead dinners.
Nuts and Nut Butters
Nearly all the nutritionists recommended adding a variety of nuts and nut butters to your shopping list.
“I like to keep nuts — pecans, almonds and walnuts — in the freezer to preserve the flavor,” Segrave-Daly says. They add protein and healthy fats to any dish, and they’re also a snack-friendly food, she adds.
Ward recommends adding whole-grain tortillas, whole-wheat sandwich buns, whole-wheat couscous, quinoa, farro and other whole grains to your shopping cart. Combined with lean proteins — such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 93% lean ground beef and 100% ground turkey breast — these grains can be a wholesome foundation for multiple meals.
Sally Kuzemchak, a registered dietitian based in Columbus, Ohio, founder of RealMomNutrition.com and author of “The 101 Healthiest Foods For Kids,” is trying to be practical, not panicked, over the current coronavirus situation.
“I think a sensible middle ground is to stock up on sick-day supplies you’ll really wish you had if someone in your house (including you) comes down with a cold or flu, whether it’s this virus or not.”
“For my family, we stocked up on saltine crackers, ginger ale and a couple bottles of sports drink for hydration. I also made sure we had pain reliever, both adult and kid’s versions. Sure, you could do a grocery delivery if you needed to, but it’s also nice to have what you need, especially if you need it in the middle of the night!”
Kuzemchak says she tossed a few extra boxes of pasta, some jarred sauce, a couple bags of rice and the basic ingredients for chicken soup in her cart last week for good measure.
“They’re healthy staples we’ll use no matter what, whether we’re recovering from a bug or just making dinner on a busy night.”
Pantry staples Segrave-Daly likes to have on hand: Canned tuna, canned tomatoes, canned beans, canned olives, pasta, barley, rice, low-sodium broths, low-sodium tomato soup, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. You can make a meal out of those pantry staples alone and they keep for many months.”
Not Just for Quarantine or Emergencies
The current concerns about coronavirus is a teachable moment about the value of a well-stocked kitchen, according to Carolyn O’Neil, Atlanta-based registered dietitian, cookbook author and blogger at TheHappyHealthyKitchen.com.
“I’ve always advised folks to keep their pantries stocked with a healthy selection of foods and beverages. If you have nutritious ingredients in your pantry such as rice, dried pastas, cereals, canned tuna, shelf-stable milks, canned beans and other canned fruits and vegetables, you’re ready to create the base for a meal.
O’Neil also recommends keeping your freezer stocked with easy to prepare frozen entrees, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables. Think of your freezer as ‘nature’s pause button.’ This way you’ve got foods on hand whether you’re facing a busy schedule or a time period when you can’t get to the supermarket as often.”
Do an Inventory
Before a quarantine, do a quick inventory of your freezer, fridge and pantry, recommends Robin Plotkin, culinary nutritionist and founder of Board Mama, a charcuterie board and grazing table business based in Dallas. While it’s easy to feel frenzied during this time, it’s important to assess what you already have on hand so you aren’t duplicating items or buying foods you don’t have space for in your kitchen, she says.
“As this is an abnormal situation, it’s important to keep things as normal as possible. We are used to taking sandwiches and soup for lunch, so I’ve stocked up on bread, tortillas, lunch meat, canned soups and broths. Applesauce pouches, granola bars, hard-boiled eggs, string cheese and trail mix are all on my list.”
Long-Life Veggies and Fruits
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, consider ones that have longer shelf lives, such as carrots and celery stored in water, bell peppers, lettuces and pea pods, Plotkin recommends. Or buy items that can live outside the fridge such as apples, citrus, green bananas, tomatoes, unripe avocados, potatoes and onions.
Food for Activities
Staying at home means more time for movie watching and other nesting activities. “I envision a lot of movie watching and game playing at our house, so popcorn is a must,” says Plotkin. “Vegetable oil and kernels are always on my list, along with microwave popcorn. Baking will likely be an activity as well, so chocolate chips and basic baking items, are on my list.”
Since the house will be full 24/7, Plotkin says she likes the idea of easy, no-mess meals and snacks.
“I’m always up for a charcuterie board — adding meats, cheeses, dried fruits, nuts, whole grain crackers and some pickles or olives can be a nice change of pace and a way to use up odds and ends that are leftover from other meals. And of course, I’m adding a few bottles of wine to my list.”
While you’re thinking about your quarantine cuisine, the nutritionists say don’t forget about soap, dishwasher pods, dish soap and any kitchen tools, like a can opener and that valuable corkscrew, that you might need if you’re stuck at home.
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Quarantine Grocery List Recommended by Nutritionists originally appeared on usnews.com