If you are home for the next few weeks for COVID-19 quarantine and trying to survive a work and school shutdown, you are likely limiting your outings to the grocery store. What foods should be stocked up on? Is it possible to consume a nutritious diet? Are there foods that will boost your immune system?
Believe it or not, my grocery list has not changed despite prepping for the possibility of needing to be quarantined. Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” As a dietitian, I strive to make the most out of every bite and let food fuel my body and fill my soul. With my schedule, I usually end up going to the store every other week and I like to keep some easy staples on hand that are versatile and can be eaten alone or in combination with something.
My grocery list is broken into sub-sections with the core of the list being from the five major food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy or dairy alternatives. Additional categories I’ll have is little extras (I love my little treats) and pantry favorites (flour, sugar, oils, condiments, etc).
Fruits & Vegetables: When stocking up on fruits and vegetables, I like to grab a mixture of fresh, frozen, and canned, and a variety of color for vitamins and minerals. Fresh is great for the beginning of the week and some have a longer perishable timeline than others. For example, I’ll buy my bananas with more green on them with the understanding that they will ripen at home, or apples and citrus which tend to last longer. I also like to have onion, bell peppers, celery, and carrots on hand because they are versatile and provide nutrition and flavor to many recipes.
I love my frozen fruits and vegetables because they are fast frozen at their peak nutritious state and such a quick way to add a side to a meal or blend into a smoothie. When picking canned goods, I look for no salt added, low sodium, or canned in water or 100% juice.
Grains: Grains are easy to stock up on and have available! Try to lean towards more whole grains and pick items such as brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, rolled oats, and whole wheat bread. I also like corn or different flour tortillas and high fiber cereal! Your bread can be put in the freezer and defrosted as needed. These grains are also very versatile and creative uses will stop them from being boring. Whole grains are full of fiber and help you to feel full.
Protein: Whether it’s meats, eggs, or protein based, I like to shop the deals when it comes to protein choices. Sometimes, I’ll find meats or fish on sale and divide them up into freezer bags so I can pull out a protein to be used as needed. Chicken, pork, ground beef, and turkey can all be bought and thrown in the freezer. I also tend to pick up my plant-based proteins like tofu and legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans) because it can sit in the fridge for a while and is very easy to flavor. I also like to have eggs and cheese on hand for various recipes or breakfast. Another easy protein option for the pantry is canned or packaged tuna to be added to a salad or mixture.
Dairy or Dairy Alternatives: Milk, yogurt, or dairy alternatives (almond milk, soymilk, cashew milk, and coconut milk) are good sources of calcium and bone health. If your refrigerated shelves are empty, grab the ultra-high temperature pasteurized milk which can be stored at room temperature until opened. For yogurts, I often grab plain, non-fat Greek yogurt for its source of protein and ability to substitute as a healthier sour cream.
Little Extras: I am a snack and sweets kind of gal, so I’ll pick up some popcorn, vegetable chips, trail mix, protein bars, dark chocolate, and some ice cream. When I decide to have a snack, I portion out a serving into a bowl rather than dig into the bag or pint. It keeps me mindful and aware while being able to indulge in something sweet or salty.
Pantry Favorites: My pantry favorites are the items I like to have for the foundations of my cooking. These are my flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder & soda, cocoa powder, salt, vegetable or chicken broth, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, olive oil, seasonings, coffee, tea, and condiments. From these, I can make bread, cookies, dinner, cake-in-a-mug, soup, and stews.
All foods fit into a balanced healthy diet with moderation. Try experimenting with different ways to cook or eat something. If you have children home, involve them in the cooking process and teach them skills like mixing, measuring, and food safety. The main thing is that we nourish our bodies, minds, and spirit and stock up only on what you need so others can nourish themselves as well.
Healthy wishes and eat well!
Devin Brittain is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist in the state of Louisiana. Born and raised in California, Devin obtained her Bachelors of Science in Food and Nutritional Sciences with an emphasis in Dietetics and Food Administration from California State University, Fresno. She then moved to Louisiana and completed her Dietetic Internship at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Devin is currently the Outpatient Dietitian for the Cancer Center at West Jefferson Medical Center where she assists patients and teaches healthy cooking classes. She is serving on the board for the New Orleans Dietetic Association where she strongly advocates for the dietetic profession and the health of her community. In her free time, Devin enjoys attending festivals, reading, developing recipes, dancing, and cheering on the Saints! She is passionate about utilizing her food and nutrition knowledge to benefit others and believes in finding innovative ways to encourage a healthy lifestyle that works for each individual.