Academy Offers Meal Planning, Grocery Shopping Tips During COVID-19 Pandemic

May 7, 2020

CHICAGO – The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers tips for planning, preparing and storing healthful meals while under quarantine during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

"Before going to the grocery store, plan menus for one to two weeks focusing on the foods you already have in your refrigerator and pantry," said registered dietitian nutritionist Yasi Ansari, a national spokesperson for the Academy. "By using what you have, you can prevent spoilage and make room for new purchases."

Chop up leftover meats and vegetables for soups, salads or sandwiches. Make a hearty salad with hard boiled eggs or canned fish or add vegetables and leftover poultry or tofu to beans and wrap in a corn or whole-wheat tortilla for tacos, she said.

Plan Your Menu

Plan your menus with foods from the five food groups by including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and sources of low-fat or fat-free dairy.

"Plan meals that freeze well, such as casseroles and soups, so you can have leftovers," Ansari said. "Before freezing, portion out the amount you will use for lunches, snacks or a second family meal. Frozen foods can maintain their quality in the freezer for two to three months."

Use your fruit — fresh, frozen or canned — to whip up a smoothie with low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or a non-dairy alternative. A parfait with fruits, such as bananas and blueberries topped with yogurt, a sprinkling of granola or a spoonful of nut butter can serve as a snack or as part of a quick breakfast, Ansari said. Take this opportunity to experiment with new recipes, she said.

Plan Your Grocery Trip

Take your grocery list to the store to shop for ingredients to complete your planned meals, Ansari said. Include a checklist of your favorite foods and prioritize purchasing ingredients with which you can cook multiple meals, keep track of seasonal items on sale and use coupons to save money, Ansari said.

To help you reduce the amount of time you spend at the store, create a plan before you go. Organize your list according to the section of the store in which these items are located. This will prevent you from having to run from one end of the store to the other.

Follow your state guidelines for using face masks and gloves. Use disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizer to clean your hands and wipe down the shopping cart and basket handles before shopping, Ansari said. Practice social distancing — stay at least six feet away from others.

Purchase shelf-stable foods such as canned goods — beans, peas and lentils, tomatoes, fruits, vegetables, soups and meats — as well as nuts, dried fruits and cereals. Purchase oats, quinoa, rice, potatoes, pasta and whole wheat bread and tortillas. Purchase frozen fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat and pizza dough, Ansari said.

"Make sure you have dried herbs such as dill, parsley and basil to flavor your meals," Ansari said. "I like to add dill to my poultry dishes and basil and parsley to my pasta."

Eating nutrient-rich foods will help support your immune system and give your body extra protection, but no one food or supplement can prevent illness, she said.

Wash your hands when you return from your grocery trip and put the perishable foods in the refrigerator or freezer immediately. Although there is no evidence of food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19, you can wipe down product packaging and allow it to air dry, as an extra precaution, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Food Safety During COVID-19

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there is currently no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging. It is believed that the virus spreads from person-to-person through close contact or respiratory droplets, for instance when a person coughs or sneezes. However, it may be possible for viruses to survive on surfaces and objects, reinforcing the need to observe proper hygiene and food safety practices.

Regular handwashing, along with routine cleaning and disinfecting, especially all frequently touched surfaces, remain the most effective ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

For more nutrition tips, visit the Academy's COVID-19 Nutrition Resource Center at eatright.org/coronavirus.

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Representing more than 100,000 credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at eatright.org.