The following article was written by Jennifer Hall, RD, dietitian for the UmassMemorial Good Fit Teen Weight Loss and Wellness program. It contains wonderful tips and a wealth of resources for eating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you Jennifer!
During this COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining good nutrition can be a challenge. This article is to share with you some tips of how to plan and prepare “balanced” meals during this time, which provide nutrition, satiety, satisfaction and, yes, comfort for you and your families.
Food is a sense of security, especially at times like these. Having to be “present” for this extended period of time at home, we now have an opportunity to fine-tune how we regulate our appetite, known as a “Hunger Satiety Scale”. You may be finding yourself or your children “constantly eating”, snacking on a lot of refined cracker and snack items. Part of this practice may be due to using food to cope with feelings of stress, anxiety and/or boredom. Am I eating because I am afraid/full of fear? At this time, it is important to remember to be kind and patient with ourselves, as many of our cravings are biologically driven to help decrease stress that we are experiencing. The other piece to keep in mind is can I be more mindful in my food choices? Am I looking for food often because I am choosing unsatisfying foods (lacking protein, fiber, flavor, and fat) or not following my normal meal/snack schedule like I would in my usual routine? If I realize I am not physically hungry, what other things could I do in place of eating (read a book, call and check in a family member, make a soup).
As someone in charge of shopping and/or cooking at your home, you also may be under a great deal of stress about how to feed your household members, three meals per day, on a newly restrictive income. We are sensitive that many families may need to become more resourceful and flexible in what menu items you are now offering. Involve children when preparing the menu, and meals themselves; have them measure out or safely chop ingredients. This necessary task is a great way to incorporate math and science skills as so many parents adjust to home-schooling. Try to embrace this situation as chance to try out new recipes, reduce food waste, and get creative stretching the dollar. Items such as dried legumes (beans, lentils, peas), canned (*look for no added salt or sugar) or frozen vegetables and fruits can be a less pricey option, which work well in times when you will not be able to keep as much fresh produce in your house (due to decreased shopping trips). You can also save money by buying in bulk such as bags of potatoes and apples, or larger quantities of meat and poultry, which can be divided and frozen. For those families experiencing food insecurity at this time, here are some links for adjustments in services such as WIC, SNAP, and the National School Breakfast and Lunch program.
Adaptations for COVID:
- FRUIT: Applesauce/fruit cup, canned*/dried/frozen fruit, canned pumpkin
- VEGGIES: Canned*, frozen, root veggies, pickles/pickled veggies (carrots, green beans, red cabbage, sauerkraut), canned or jarred artichokes, jarred roasted red peppers, canned tomatoes
- PROTEINS: Canned/dried beans, deli meat, frozen chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, tofu; canned tuna; nuts, peanut or nut butters, dried meats (i.e. meat sticks or jerky), cheese ; frozen edamame or lentils, hummus, Palmalat or UHT-treated cow’s mik, shelf-stable soy milk, dried milk
- STARCHES: Rice, pasta, quinoa, bread, potatoes, packaged/boxed stuffing
- FATS: olives, nuts, seeds, olive or canola oils, fish (canned or frozen), nuts as above, avocado/guacamole
For tips on buying frozen and canned produce, click here.
- Oatmeal with flax, nuts, fresh/frozen-thawed/dried fruit
- Smoothies with fruit/greens (spinach or kale), chia seeds
- Egg and low-fat cheddar cheese on whole wheat English muffin
- PB Toast-add sliced bananas or raisins
- Banana or Pumpkin bread/muffins made with whole wheat flour, flax seed, and walnuts
- Pancakes (boxed or homemade) with fruit compote (frozen berries-heated with a little water and honey or agave), frozen sausage (ckn, pork, veggie)
- Cold cereal with fresh or dried fruit
- “Green Eggs and Ham” (add spinach and chopped ham to scrambled egg and cheese)
- Veggie quiche (use frozen pie crusts, defrost frozen broccoli/spinach/kale, canned mushrooms)
- Hard boiled eggs and whole wheat toast and dried apricots
- Cottage cheese with cinnamon and diced pear
Entrees/Items for Lunch or Dinner:
- Tuna noodle casserole (tuna, cream of mushroom, canned/frozen peas and/or carrots, pasta)
- Rice and beans
- Chicken, tofu, or Veggie* stir-fry using frozen veggies (carrots, cauliflower, broccoli), canned water chestnuts, mushrooms; serve with canned pineapple, cooked rice . *Top with cashews for crunch and/or extra protein
- Canned or homemade Baked beans and turkey kielbasa
- English muffin or French bread pizza-top with veggies, turkey pepperoni or Hawaiian (canned pineapple and ham)
- Black bean (canned) and sweet potato burritos
- Shepherd’s Pie (ground meat/turkey/veggie crumbles, canned/frozen corn, instant or homemade mashed potatoes)
- Tacos with beef/chicken/beans, salsa, shredded 2% Mexican blend cheese, guacamole, olives
- Homemade nuggets and fries (cut up white or sweet potatoes, toss with canola oil, S &P)
- Bean-based and/or chicken quesadillas
- Chili (ckn, beef and/or canned or dried bean-based, canned tomatoes, canned/frozen corn) topped with cheese, sour cream/plain Greek yogurt; serve with brown rice, tortilla chips or corn bread (from box or homemade)
- Beef stew (stewed meat, carrots, potatoes, onions, canned mushrooms)
- Minestrone (pasta, beans, frozen or canned veggies) and grilled cheese
- Split pea (ham optional) soup and crackers
- Beef (frozen stewed meat) and barley soup
For recipe ideas, check out www.eatright.org
- HBE and fruit cup
- Olives and cheese plate
- Nuts and dried fruit/trail mix
- Nuts/seeds with raisins and dry cereal
- Apples with PB or low-fat cheese
- Ham or turkey with cheese roll-ups/pin wheels
- Oatmeal, peanut butter or pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (homemade with whole wheat flour and ground flax seed)
- Carrots with hummus
- Popcorn (you have the time-try making homemade!) If you do not have an electric popper, or do not want to use the stove, add ½ cup kernels to brown lunch bag, fold and seal bag with tape. Shake kernels flat-place in microwave for 2-3 minutes. Viola! Air-popped popcorn.
- Dried seaweed and turkey/beef/pork jerky
Take out Guidelines
At this time, there is no evidence to suggest COVID-19 is being transmitted via food . If you can afford it, purchasing take out is a great way to support local business and ease the stress of purchasing food and meal preparation for you at this time. Cornovirus does not live well on foods-but it can live on the containers/wrappers from human contact. Take care to wash your hands after you remove food from containers and wrappers before eating. Place food on clean serving wear (plate, bowl) for consumption/serving. For ideas of what to choose when taking out, please see this link from the American Academy of Dietetics, Covid Nutrition Resources:
- Hand washing
- Choosing healthful take-out and delivery meals
Shopping Guidelines-Keeping Your Family Safe
Be sure to purchase long-lasting produce, as well as your family’s favorites. Stagger your produce so that you eat the most perishable items first such as berries, lettuces, grapes, cucumbers, bananas and asparagus. Citrus, avocados, apples, pears, beets, celery, kale, cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, and turnips can last a bit longer. The real stars that will do the best long-term are potatoes-sweet and white, winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.), onions, garlic, carrots, and parsnips. Consider storing these in cool, dry, dark space i.e. cooler in garage.
For more information about the below topics, please check out and the Academy’s Covid Nutrition Resources
- Opportunities to make the best of time at home: family meals, get kids cooking
- Buying groceries during quarantine
*Click here for a video on shopping during this pandemic.
Other resources that may be helpful
- For individuals at risk for compromised immune systems, read about what foods you can eat to help boost immunity.
- Huff Post article, “Grocery Shopping For a Quarantine”
- New York Times article, “The Challenge of Feeding Kids During Coronavirus”