Question: Any suggestions for healthy ‘stocking up’ during the coronavirus situation?

Answer: A timely question and one I am sure many are thinking about! There are a few things to consider when stocking up during emergency situations. We should all be trying to avoid frequent supermarket trips, so take some time to plan your weeks menu. Not only does this help reduce the need to run to the market (and exposing yourself to other people), it can save you money. Be prepared to not find what you are looking for and have an alternative product in mind to take its place. I suspect some of our more exotic fruits/vegetables and products might become absent for a while.

Frozen vegetables and fruits can have a high nutrition content, are a good substitute for fresh, and are often a lot less expensive. When looking for fresh produce however, look for root/tuber vegetables as they tend have a longer shelf life. For example, carrots instead of zucchini or asparagus, sweet potatoes instead of soft produce like mushrooms.

You can refrigerate all fruit and vegetables at this time to extend their lifespan. Don’t forget cabbage (green or red) a great vegetable and one often overlooked! Think stuffed cabbage leaves, boiled beef and cabbage (that time of year) and cabbage soup! Look for brightly colored produce if possible.

Canned vegetables and fruit can also come into play. Look for the low sodium variety if you can. Jar spaghetti sauce over a high protein pasta can make a quick and easy meal, add in some frozen vegetables to boost the nutrition value.

Canned beets are versatile, used cold in salads, roasted for a hot meal, or sliced in a sandwich. Pick up some canned fruit, mandarin oranges or peaches put in an orange jello can be a treat for big and little kids alike. Similarly good old applesauce which pairs nicely with potato pancakes.

Look at your condiment situation, these are items that we forget about until we reach for the pancake syrup only to find that ‘someone’ put the bottle away practically empty (just saying!).

Try and pay attention to the nutritional content of your meals, think about the food groups, do you have representation from each group? This is where the planning come in. Now is not the time to short change your body on good nutrition that supports your immune system. Daily fruits and vegetables in some form are a must.

Dried milk powder can be added to soups, hot cereal and smoothies to boost their protein and calcium content. If you roast a chicken, throw the carcass into a pot with a few carrots and onions and make a nice robust stock and a base for delicious home-made soups.

If you are filling your freezer, check that the temperature is correct and keep an eye on ‘use by’ dates, remember first in, first out. No one wants food poisoning! I have not mentioned processed and packaged products (must be the Dietitian in me) however, frozen meals like ‘TV dinners’ have improved a lot over the years. Meal bowls are a great invention but can be a little ‘spendy’ and high in sodium content. However, having a few of these on hand can reduce menu planning stress. Additionally, burrito wraps can be kept in the freezer, and coupled with a can of refried beans make a nutritious meal. Some easy choices for our older folk or people not recognized for their cooking skills!

Lastly, pick up some vegetable seeds for the garden or patio pot, being a little self sufficient is always a good thing.

Bottom line: Try and plan a week’s menu, it helps reduce cost, helps you use left over’s appropriately and reduces time at the market. Do try and consume some sort of produce on a daily basis I have a feeling our collective immune system needs all the help it can get right now.

Good luck out there!

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