As we navigate through these uncertain times, one thing that has posed to be a bit more challenging is the aspect of food. Since practicing social distancing is key, it is important to limit trips to the grocery store as much as possible. If you find yourself struggling to find recipes to cook, not sure what foods to buy at the grocery store, or are just ordering takeout for every single meal, we have some tips on how you can eat healthy and have fun doing so.
We talked to Barbara Sylvester, clinical dietitian at Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute, about how she approaches food and cooking during this pandemic. She says, "Food plays an important role in the fight against COVID-19. As we’ve seen the virus impact those with compromised immune systems more forcefully, it’s crucial to fuel our bodies with foods that will boost our health."
Foods that are high in zinc, vitamin D and vitamin C all help to bolster a healthy immune system. Sylvester notes, "Zinc can be found in lean meats and legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans. Vitamin D can be taken as a vitamin supplement, or, can be found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna or sardines. And of course, vitamin C can be found in oranges, but, most people don’t know that it can also be found in leafy green vegetables like spinach or kale, brussel sprouts, strawberries and papaya."
Perhaps the most daunting challenge with food during this challenging time is actually acquiring it at the grocery store. While our local grocery stores are working hard to take every safety measure possible, it is strongly encouraged to limit your trips as much as possible. How can we do this? Sylvester advises, "Have a solid, laid out plan before you go into the store. Have a list on your phone conducive to the layout of the store so you can get in and get out. Make sure your meals are as planned out as you can for 1-2 weeks so that you can cook foods that will keep you full in bulk."
If you’re not used to cooking in bulk, this could be an adjustment, but there are lots of great options to choose from. Sylvester offers, "For breakfast, quiches are great and simple. Eggs are inexpensive, have a generally long shelf life, and are a great source of protein. All you need to do is whip up some eggs, throw in some vegetables like spinach or bell peppers, and, if you’d like, add in a meat like sausage or chorizo. For lunch, consider making a big pot of stew or soup to cook for the week. You can also freeze whatever you don’t use. For dinners, look to utilize a crockpot if you have one, or cook a large stir fry for the week. You can use shrimp or chicken and include lots of vegetables like snap peas or carrots."
It’s also important to remember that food should involve the whole family. She notes, "Finding recipes to cook should be a collaborative effort. Ask your teenagers to find recipes they would like to try, or if you have little ones, ask what foods they’d like to eat more of, and ask them to help you cook. Have them measure out the ingredients for you, set the table, assign tasks for cleaning the dishes. I have three teenagers at home, and we’ve started having pizza nights using a healthier alternative: cauliflower crust. My teenagers pick and choose their own toppings and are involved in the meal."
If you are social distancing alone, it’s also important to remember that it does not have to be a time of social isolation. Set up a virtual dinner date with a friend, or cook your meals together in a virtual way to talk through your recipes. Barbara adds, "Food brings people together. While you may not be able to get together physically right now, check in on your friends and ask what they’ve been eating. You may get some recipe inspiration from them, and you’ll also have a chance to catch up."