This pandemic has flipped our lives upside down in unimaginable ways, and our food choices are not exempt.
As we continue to face low stocking issues for a variety of products, it may mean finding new ways to shop, seeking new meal prepping strategies, and recipe hunting in order to hold up our healthy eating standards.
Yep, just one more challenge in the midst of this upheaval.
For starters, not being able to find what foods we're looking for can throw us off the rail. Here in the U.S. we're used to having everything available 'round the clock, so fishing for certain foods around the city when they're not available at our nearest store can feel like such a hassle. This inconveniency has pushed many to stock up on canned and packaged foods more than fresh foods - and even those are limited.
This might be making it harder for some people to stay healthy, especially those with dietary concerns. Time can be a primary issue as well. As more families are busier with kids at home while working remotely, there might be a higher inclination towards packaged-food in order to make it through this tough time.
From a nutrition perspective, contrary to what many believe, canned and packaged foods are completely fine, as long as we’re paying attention to the nutrition label. Many brands now offer single frozen meals that are low in fat and calories and higher protein, often serving as great substitutes for fast food. Also, many fruits and vegetables conserve more of its nutrients when kept frozen or when canned. Did you know that the plant nutrient lycopene is higher in canned tomatoes than in fresh? There are also many healthy shelf-stable food options that can make healthy meal planning work for us.
*Protein pancakes (Kodak brand)
*Single-serve ready-made quinoa
*High fiber crackers
*Starkist single serve tuna
*A variety of Amy’s organic soups or frozen meals
*Canned fruit (no added sugar)
*Dried fruit like prunes or dates
*Healthier popcorn options like Skinny Pop or Smart Pop
*High protein/low sugar granola bars like Rx Bars or Muscle Milk
*Precooked entrees (ex: TastyBite brand)
*High protein chickpea pasta.
Much to our benefit, the nutrition label has been recently modified to depict nutritional values in a simpler way. For example, the calories are now larger and bolder, the serving size has been updated to reflect more of people’s average intake, potassium and vitamin D are listed, and finally, we can see how much added sugar is on a product.
These changes can make us more aware of nutritional differences in foods when comparing brands as well as more cautious about added sugars, guiding us to make more informed decisions.
Focusing on what I like to call the five go’s and the 3 slow’s, we can make wiser food choices.
The slow’s are saturated fats, sodium, and sugar.
We can focus our attention on the % DVs when comparing food labels to make the most appropriate choice, which represents the daily value of calories we're getting from each nutrient based on a 2,000 calorie diet. So the rule of thumb is choosing foods higher in the go's and lower in the slow's.
Getting an ample variety of fruits and vegetables and consuming foods from every food group (unless we’re following a strict diet for medical reasons), is extremely important to keep our immune system high. So getting a little more creative in the kitchen, being open to new foods, and trying those foods we think we hate, cooked differently, is a great way to increase our nutrient intake. These are things we can also remind ourselves to do every now and then to expand our palette beyond the usual basic flavors we're used to.
Epicurious has some amazing recipe ideas for all kinds of cuisine. You can type the ingredient you wish to use to find recipes and even limit the search if you have dietary concerns. You can search based on the type of dishes you want like bread or casserole, and by meal or course such as breakfast or appetizer, OR if you want to plan ahead only with what is in season, they have a section for what produce is in season in your city.
One thing I find great about this app is the option to add your grocery list, add items you need straight to your grocery list from recipes you’ve saved, and the great variety of recipe selections. You can also filter by holiday, cuisine, or even cooking technique.
If you have kids, you can make recipe hunting for the week a chore for them! They might be more willing to try new foods because they took responsibility for the planning. Additionally, Epicurious has step-by-step instructional videos of most recipes, to save you reading time.
Shakes and smoothies can help increase your day’s daily nutrient recommendations, keep your weight in check, keep you satisfied for an extended period of time, reduce cravings, and provide you with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. It should not necessarily be a meal replacement unless you’re trying to lose weight, however, having one as a snack can be a smart alternative to a drive-thru meal or packaged snacks that are high in sodium and saturated fat and may not be filling/nutrient-dense enough. UltimatumX's high-quality products are packed with vitamins and minerals to enhance your nutrient intake.
During these hard times, we want to feel healthy, strong and protected from this virus and we definitely want to fight it quicker if we do contract it.
I hope this article has given you some peace of mind, given you some new insight on how to make your life in the kitchen easier, and given you an incentive to try some different strategies in order to stay healthy during the pandemic.
Eat well and stay active!