This entry into our quarantine series focuses on everything we might be lacking in the kitchen while we’re locked down. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led all of us into isolation. The visits to grocery stores and in turn resources for cooking have been minimized. This is the real testing time for your cooking skills; cooking healthy and nutritious meals with what is available can be quite a challenge.
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Plan your meals in advance in order to simplify your grocery shopping and minimize the number of trips to the store. Set up the menu for at least the next 7 days keeping your family’s likes and dislikes, your cooking skills, and the time and effort required in mind. Once the menu is finalized, you can write down the ingredients you will need to cook healthy with these nutritious meals. Take a look at your pantry to see what is already available to avoid expiration and wastage.
Keep Nutritional Value in Mind
Plan a meal balanced in both calories and nutrition. A healthy portion comprising of carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins, trace metals, and other micronutrients should be a priority as healthy eating can keep your immune system strong, protecting you from COVID-19. Making proper food choices and rationing your carbohydrate intake can help to eliminate cravings or at least minimize them.
Stock up on healthy food items that will stay fresh and last you a week at a minimum. Some of the staples to buy for your kitchen include:
- Vegetables: A number of options are available to choose from such as fresh vegetables, canned, plain frozen, and sun-dried. Try to buy fresh vegetables such as broccoli, onion, tomatoes, potatoes, celery, spinach, etc. as much as possible.
- Fruits: Again, there are a number of choices to pick from but fresh fruits are among the healthiest food options available. Dried fruit tends to pack in a little more sugar per square inch, so maybe a little less of those.
- Cereal and Pasta: Oatmeal, rice, pulses, grains, etc. are healthy selections with a reasonably long shelf life. You can also opt for quick-cooking pasta and frozen brown rice if you are short on time.
- Breads and Grains: A variety of whole grain or multi-grain bread, wraps, bagels, tortillas, and muffins should be available in your pantry. Try to avoid the products full of enriched white flour and please note that plain old wheat bread is not much better than white bread.
- Beans and Legumes: Canned beans and chickpeas can save the day when you are trying to fix a quick meal.
- Dairy and Eggs: Buy fresh, canned, and shelf-stable packages of milk to make sure they last you an entire week. Stock on fresh eggs and get different types of cheese such as sliced, grated, cubed, and shredded to meet the requirements of diverse recipes.
- Seeds and Nuts: Bagged and canned nuts can serve as a healthy snack between the meals. Just watch your serving sizes, as one serving is usually 1/4-1/2 of a cup, and nuts are fairly high in calories.
- Meat: You can buy frozen or canned chicken, frozen ground beef patties, and ready to cook healthy seafood such as fish fillet, canned tuna, sardines, and salmon. The meat will provide for the proteinaceous portion of your meal.
- Sauces and Seasonings: Sauces such as ketchup, mustard, salsa, and seasonings such as dried herbs, spices, lemon/lime juice, and dressing can transform any boring meal into something appetizing.
Avoid relying on prepared frozen meals as they are high in sodium, fat, and preservatives. Limit the purchase of unhealthy and sugary items such as cakes, cookies, chocolates, ice cream, etc. Preparing your own food will not only ensure a nutritious meal for your family but will also help cut down the cost as resources are already limited in these unpredictable times.