I’m concerned about the rapidly evolving risks of Coronavirus (COVID-19) a serious respiratory virus. The CDC recommends people at higher risk of contracting this virus to have an action plan including getting medications and stocking up on groceries. If you’re preparing to stay at home for an extended period of time, I want to make sure you have healthier food items in your kitchen and pantry.
Here’s a list of essential foods filled with vital nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and a host of other naturally occurring compounds to keep your mind and body healthy.
Fruits & Vegetables
- Frozen Fruit: load up on plain frozen berries, mangoes, peaches, and pineapple without added sugars. Add to your smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, or a plant-based alternative. Fruit is high in antioxidants and fiber reducing your risk of chronic diseases.
- Fresh Fruits That Last Longer: bananas, apples, clementine, pears, oranges, avocados, and grapefruits. Refrigerate fresh produce that won’t ripen quickly in the fridge like avocados. Keep apples and bananas away from other fresh produce because they emit ethylene gas and cause other fruits to ripen faster.
- Dried Fruit: Look for dried fruit without added sugars such as dates, cranberries, mango, raisins, figs, apricots, and prunes. Full of healthy nutrients but calories can add up quickly. Look at the Nutrition Facts Label on the package to find out the appropriate serving size.
- Canned Fruits: The no added sugar or syrups are great snack options, especially for children. Applesauce, peaches, pineapple, and pears can be enjoyed by everyone in the family.
- Fresh Veggies That Last Longer: Think potatoes, peppers, and carrots but also cruciferous veggies. These veggies are robust and typically last longer than a week in the refrigerator. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Bok choy, Brussels sprouts, collards, and radishes are high on my list.
- Frozen Veggies: So many to choose from! Spinach, butternut squash, riced cauliflower, and edamame. Throw frozen veggies in soups, stir fry, and chili. Make half your plate a variety of vegetables.
- Canned Veggies: I always buy canned beans! Canned tomatoes and pickles are also top choices. Select no salt added or low sodium canned vegetables including beans to minimize sodium intake. Draining and rinsing canned produce with water can be effective in reducing the amount of sodium by 30%.
- Bread & Tortillas: Keep bread products in the refrigerator or place in the freezer for a few months. For a high fiber boost, look for 100% whole wheat bread or tortillas.
- Single Food Grains: Buy a grain you haven’t tried before like millet, barley, Kamut, or buckwheat. Familiar grains—brown rice, quinoa, and oats are packed with fiber and make delicious side dishes.
- Pasta: Chickpea, lentil, and black bean pasta are plant-based options for your pasta recipes.
- Cereals: Check out fortified, high fiber (>5 grams of fiber), and low sugar cereals to get nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B12. Add fruit, nuts, seeds, and any milk or a plant-based alternative for a satisfying breakfast.
- Popcorn: A healthy whole grain food if you skip the butter and added sugars. A serving of popcorn is 3 cups. Perfect for snacking.
Protein is essential for growth and repair of the body and maintenance of good health. High protein foods also provide energy. Here a few excellent sources:
- Canned beans: I mentioned earlier I always buy canned beans because they are high in protein and fiber and easy to add to meals. Stock up on lentils, black-eyed peas, red kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas.
- Nuts and Seeds: Don’t leave the grocery store without a bag of unsalted pistachios, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and peanuts. Grab a handful for a nutritious snack. Seeds that dietitians add to smoothies and oatmeal are chia, hemp, pumpkin and ground flaxseeds. Don’t forget to buy nut butter! An excellent source of protein and monounsaturated fat. Choose unsalted and no added sugar versions.
- Canned Fish: Tuna, salmon, and sardines are my recommendations because these fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Add to salads, crackers, and pasta—or whip up some salmon croquettes.
- Eggs: A large boiled egg has vitamin A, folate, B vitamins, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, and zinc. Whew! That’s a lot of nutrients. Don’t place store-bought eggs on the fridge door. Keep them on the fridge shelf so they can last up to 3 weeks.
- Milk and Cheese: Hard cheeses especially cheddar can last at least 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Freeze shredded cheeses to last longer. Shelf-stable milk varieties are ideal for emergency situations. Plant-based options such as soy or pea nearly match the protein content in dairy milk. Select no-added-sugar plant-based alternatives.
Flavor Your Foods
Staying at home may also mean cooking more. Flavor your foods with fresh or dried herbs and spices. Here are a few to incorporate into your daily meals: