Seclusion Sustenance

Walking through the grocery store these days can be frightening—barren shelves, shortages on a number of foods (unless you’re vegan—judging from the full stock of vegan products, they seem to be the only ones not in panic mode), and people fighting over Eggo Waffles. True story.

Our world became a different place almost overnight.

But don’t fret. Meal-prep during the quarantine doesn’t have to be canned beans and chili cooked over a camp stove. While it may take a little more creativity and preparation in the grocery store, it is still possible to eat healthy, nutritious meals while locked in the house for the untold future. And it’s more important than ever because a balanced diet rich in fruits, veggies and whole grains is key for a strong immune system!

At the Store

Before going to the store, let go of expectations. As mentioned, there are empty shelves, and they may just be out of your favorite brand of milk. Now is not the time to yell at the stockers for something beyond their control. Breathe and be flexible.

Besides stocking up, the goal is not to hoard, but to minimize the trips you’ll need to take outside your home. Look into non-perishables like shelf-stable milks (they’ve come a long way since the 50s), bulk whole grains like couscous, farro, oats and buckwheat, frozen fruits, vegetables and seafood, nuts (get them in bulk and make your own nut butter), and maybe some pantry basics like pasta sauces, canned tomatoes, soups, tuna, oils and cereals. Long-life fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, cabbage, citrus fruits (for extra immunity), apples, bananas, avocados, tomatoes and carrots are great additions to the cart.

Avoid the sugary and over-salted snacks, but feel free to throw in some healthy options like popcorn kernels, dried fruits, dark chocolate, string cheese and applesauce.

With these in hand, you’ll be all set to survive the zombie apocalypse AND the Covid Quarantine.

At Home

First, wash your hands—seriously. Take the time to scrub your hands and clean off any jars/cans and fruits and vegetables. Do this first, and not only will you ensure you are protecting yourself and your loved ones, but your produce will last a lot longer.

Next, if you haven’t come up with a menu, take the time to write down your meals for the coming weeks. Invite the kids in on the process! They’ll love helping create the menu and will definitely love being a part of the cooking process. You aren’t the only one trapped at home—bringing the whole family into the meal prep creates a boredom-fighting activity that can be a pleasant distraction. And, it will ensure you don’t waste hours cooking something the rest of the family doesn’t want to eat. This is also a great opportunity to teach your kids about nutrition and healthy meals.

Once your menu is in place, it may make sense to go ahead and start cooking—a little prep in the beginning can go a long way during the days you are battling to keep your head above water with taking care of the kids, trying to work from home and keep your house clean. Carve out some time and make some large-pot meals, or meals that keep well: chili (not the canned variety), soups, lasagna, roasted vegetables, egg salad or tuna salad for lunches, the fixings for stuffed sweet potatoes—you name it. This activity is also something that can really help even when the quarantine is lifted and you are still trying to balance all the ‘things.’

When Boredom Strikes

Remember those popcorn kernels? Make cooking fun! Show the kids how to pop popcorn on the stovetop. Use this time to teach them to bake cookies. Let them dye the eggs you’ll use to make the egg salad. Be creative and remember to include the family.

And keep an eye on what goes into your mouth, too. Boredom often leads to snacking. Instead, make a list of fun activities, or even things that need to be done around the house (laundry, anyone?) Put the list on the fridge or the pantry—wherever you find yourself going more often than other places. Reach for the list instead of for the food.

Quarantine doesn’t have to be about gaining weight as you shove a bag of chips into your mouth. Boredom is the enemy of healthy eating so it is essential to not only not have the unhealthy foods in the house (remember that shopping trip? That’s the time to NOT pick up the sweet treats), but to make sure you have healthy options ready to go so you reach for the carrots instead of the brownies.

That being said, everything in moderation—even moderation. If you taught the kids how to make cookies, it’s ok to eat the cookies. Unless they used 1/4c of salt instead of 1/4tsp…been there. Don’t recommend.

Breathe through it. Let go of expectations. Plan and prep, and you’ll be good to go.

For a metabolism boost, try this spiced cabbage soup with lentils and sweet potatoes.