How has your life changed in the last weeks since we have been pressed to shelter at home? Have board games or puzzles provided a renewed source of entertainment? Are you cooking more meals yourself and eating nutrient-dense food?
During COVID-19 and beyond, eating a healthful diet is more important than ever. When you anticipate a battle, you want to be sure your army is up for the fight. That would be your immune system. Michael Pollan has said that cooking and preparing our food is more than half the battle when it comes to eating well.
Maintaining a healthy diet while in the midst of a crisis can be a challenge for reasons such as:
- access to some foods may be limited
- we are shopping less often
- we’re under added stress, which can lead to poor food choices and emotional eating
- our kids are schooling at home and we may have less time to cook
With this in mind, I have a few tips to help you eat healthfully while sheltering in place.
Meals don’t have to be a masterpiece – that wouldn’t be realistic in everyday circumstances. Simple meals from fresh ingredients don’t require a lot of time and preparation. Steamed veggies, canned salmon and a sweet potato can make a great meal – cook extra and you will be able to eat it again for a lunch. Think in terms of a protein and produce (vegetables or fruit) as foundations of your meals. Foods as close to the way they grow provide greater levels of nutrients – that density means more bang for the buck.
You may consider some foods belong with a particular time of day, but there’s no reason you can’t eat “breakfast” for dinner, or vice versa. You may even find you prefer to shift your meal times and eat a salad or simpler snack if you aren’t as hungry.
You’ve probably opened the fridge and wondered what you would eat. Rather than give up and order take-out, take this opportunity to get creative. You could:
- pick a protein you have and check online for recipes that would use it
- choose a spice you have and experiment with using it in your meal
- take 3 things out of your fridge and find a new way to combine them in a meal (consider using the stir-fry approach – reply to this email and I will send you my guide for creating a stir-fry)
Learn to Love Leftovers
I get it. It’s a lot of work to cook and clean up after 3 meals a day. One way I counter this issue is cooking twice as much so that we can eat several meals – whether that second meal is breakfast, lunch or dinner. Another option would be to cook in bulk over the weekend – getting the kids involved to help you – so that you have roasted vegetables/baked potatoes or baked chicken ready to be warmed for a meal.
Cook One-Pot Meals
We have discovered that a slow-cooker or Instant Pot can be a lifesaver on days when the schedule is tight. Ingredients can be put together in the morning and dinner ready hours later. You will find lots of resources online to get you started if this is new for you.
Change isn’t comfortable. I’ve sought to embrace a new paradigm encouraged by a friend of mine – that of viewing changes or uncertainties not as problems, but as opportunities. COVID-19 could motivate your exploration of new skills and habits. Exploring real food and eating nutrient-dense food will certainly benefit your health in the future.