As countries take stronger measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, self-quarantine and the temporary closing of businesses may affect normal food-related practices. Healthy individuals, as well as those showing acute respiratory disease symptoms, are being requested to stay at home.
Good nutrition is crucial for health, particularly in times when the immune system might need to fight back. Limited access to fresh foods may compromise opportunities to continue eating a healthy and varied diet. It can also potentially lead to an increased consumption of highly processed foods, which tend to be high in fats, sugars and salt. Nonetheless, even with few and limited ingredients, one can continue eating a diet that supports good health.
In order to support individuals in eating healthy during self-quarantine and isolation, here are a set of general tips, a list of “best food buys” and a few examples of recipes for inspiration.
Take only what you need
Multiple cases of over-purchasing have been observed. Panic buying behaviour may have negative consequences, such as an increase in food prices, overconsumption of food and an unequal distribution of products. It is therefore important to consider your own needs, as well as those of others. Assess what you already have at home and plan your intake. You might feel the need to purchase large amounts of foods, but make sure to consider and utilize what is already in your pantry, as well as foods with shorter shelf life. This way you can avoid food waste and allow others to access the food they need.
Prioritize fresh products
Use fresh ingredients and those that have a shorter shelf life first. If fresh products, especially fruits, vegetables and reduced-fat dairy products continue to be available, prioritize these over non-perishables. Frozen fruits and vegetables can also conveniently be used over longer periods of time and often have a similar nutrient profile to fresh foods. To avoid food waste, you may consider freezing any leftovers for another meal.
Prepare home-cooked meals
During regular daily life, many individuals often do not have the time to prepare home-cooked meals. Spending longer periods of time at home may now offer the possibility to make those recipes you previously did not have time to make. Many healthy and delicious recipes can be found online.
Be aware of portion sizes
It can be difficult to get portion sizes right, especially when cooking from scratch. Being at home for extended periods, especially without company or with limited activities can also lead to overeating. Seek guidance through your national food-based dietary guidelines on what constitutes healthy portions for adults and be mindful that young children will need smaller portions.