The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a lot of changes in our daily lives. We are social distancing, staying home, and unable to dine out at restaurants. It can be easy to slip into unhealthy eating habits during this stay-at-home period, but with a little thought and preparation, maintaining a healthy diet doesn’t have to be a chore.
Good nutrition is always important, but during this pandemic, it’s even more important because a well-balanced diet of nutritious foods helps support a strong immune system.
When it’s time to go grocery shopping, a little planning can help you get in and out of the store quickly. Prepare a shopping list that will cover you and everyone in your household for two weeks, and resist the urge to buy in much larger quantities. Buying more than you need means less for others and possibly unnecessary food waste.
With fresh foods, buy a variety in quantities that you would normally buy. Plan for a mix of fresh, frozen (meats, vegetables, fruits and breads), and shelf-stable foods (pastas, rice, legumes, nut butters, and dried and canned goods). Eat fresh food first, and stock your freezer and pantry with items you can eat in the second week and beyond.
If you don’t want to risk being around others at the supermarket, buying food online and having it delivered is another option, as is curbside pickup, which some local supermarkets are offering. Our region also has a variety of community-supported agriculture systems, where small farmers sell directly to consumers and through food boxes delivered to homes. This is a great way to support local farmers while getting the freshest possible food for your family.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables also contain vitamins and minerals, although the processing of these products sometimes adds ingredients such as sugar, salt or preservatives. Be sure to read the labels so you can choose what’s best for you and your family.
Consume a diet rich in whole grains, nuts and healthy fats such as in olive, sesame, peanut or other oils rich in unsaturated fatty acids. These foods help to support your immune system.
It’s tempting to reach for comfort food when we’re stressed, and that’s okay once in a while. But don’t make it a habit because many of these foods, such as mac and cheese, pizza, and burgers and fries, are high in fat, sugar and salt. Read food labels so you can be informed about the nutritional value of the foods you’re buying, serving to your family and eating.
Drink water regularly. Staying well hydrated also helps your immune system. Stick with plain water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages to cut down on empty calories.
During these challenging times, it can also be tempting to cope by reaching for an alcoholic drink. If you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. Alcoholic beverages have little nutritional value and are often high in calories, and excess consumption of alcohol is linked to numerous health problems.
For more ways to help you stay safe and healthy, and for ways Mount Nittany Health is preparing for and responding to COVID-19, please visit mountnittany.org/coronavirus for more information.