As mandates to shelter in place continue and the uncertainty of a new normal sets in, maintaining a routine around healthy eating can be difficult. Markers that typically navigate us through the cadence of meal time (day and night, weekday and weekend), are disrupted. While it’s tempting to seek solace in indulgent snacks and comfort foods, establishing a nutritious and diverse diet has never proved more crucial. Here are five tips that can help you stay healthy, happy, and nourished while staying home.
Make a List
Is there anything more stressful than a trip to the grocery store these days? Between the long wait times, the masked patrons and the interpretive dances we do to maintain 6 feet of distance, our mental capacity for shopping is limited. Before you suit-up and head outside, make a grocery list. Open the pantry, open the refrigerator and assess what you have and what you need. Take a few minutes to pause and consider how to best utilize your pantry inventory and plan for the week ahead. This simple yet crucial task will allow you to shop smarter and avoid temptations to panic buy.
Eat the Rainbow
With trips to the grocery store limited, it can seem futile to fill your basket with fresh fruits and vegetables. However don’t let short shelf lives dissuade you from maintaining a nutritious and diverse diet. Develop a strategy to prioritize fresh produce and dairy over non-perishables when available. Ingredients such as apples, carrots and beets, can generally last for at least one month in the refrigerator while hearty cabbage, an excellent source of vitamin C, has up to a six month shelf life when stored in a sealable plastic bag in the crisper drawer.
If fresh produce is not available, many frozen fruits and vegetables have a similar and sometimes better vitamin and mineral profile than their fresh counterparts. In fact, frozen produce is harvested and frozen at its peak ripeness, locking in both taste and nutritional value. Broccoli, spinach, peas, cherries and berries are all excellent options for both taste and texture. When shopping, just remember to skip brands that contain added sugar or use any type of syrup or sauce.
Choose Healthy Shelf Stable Goods
If refrigerator space is limited and you are looking to stock the pantry for an extended period of time, there are several shelf-stable options that can contribute to a nutrient dense diet. Whole grains such as quinoa, barley and wild rice are a healthier alternative to the traditional starch side. Dried fruit, nuts and nut butter make for the perfect afternoon snack and can satisfy a nagging sweet tooth.
While canned goods have traditionally gotten a bad rap when pitted against fresh foods, canning remains an affordable and safe means for preserving nature’s best. Canned fish including tuna, salmon and sardines offer an excellent source of lean proteins and omega-3 fatty acid. Canned beans simmered in an array of pantry spices and aromatics make for both a delicious meal and a happy, healthy gut. However, not all canned goods are created equal. Be sure to look for varieties that are both low in sodium and sugar and are BPA-free.
Snack Smarter & Snack Simpler
With stress levels at an all-time high, it can be tempting to indulge in an all day snack fest of our favorite sweet and salty foods. However, overeating ultra-processed foods can have negative effects on our sleep, mood and immune system in the short and long-term. If you need to snack, snack smarter and snack simpler. The less ingredients, the better. Whole, unprocessed snacks like an apple and your favorite nut butter, homemade trail mix and even a square of dark chocolate are nutritionally preferable to anything you’ll find in a package. Choose snacks that are high in fiber and protein (legumes, nuts, hard-boiled eggs) to keep you satisfied longer.
For the first time in decades, Americans are cooking and enjoying most meals inside the home. While the physical and psychological benefits of home cooking are well established, the repetition of cooking and cleaning (who’s tired of dishes!?) can be tiresome. Designating a specific day or time towards cooking can relieve stress around meal time and help you make more nutritious choices for the week ahead.
Exploring batch cooking or “meal prep” can be as simple as busting out the slow cooker, doubling up on ingredients or pre-selecting a protein and vegetable sides for the week. While soups and stews are great options that can be frozen and enjoyed indefinitely, a roasted chicken or simple tomato sauce can be repurposed into varying dishes and cuisines throughout the week.
At Blue Apron, we’ve created a meal prep product to make planning ahead simple. With this offering, you receive a week of delicious options–including carb conscious and percatarian recipes for a healthy lifestyle–that can be made in as little time as a single 90-minute prep.
As always, recognize and stay connected to your body’s cues. When you need to conquer a craving, pause and consider an alternative choice. Ponder whether you want to eat because you are hungry, stressed or simply bored. While all are valid in our topsy turvy reality, doing the detective work can often result in a more mindful outcome.