A Dietitian’s Top Tips for Food Shopping During a Pandemic

By Jemma Besson RD, CDE

Jemma Besson is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator who works for Shoppers Drug Mart®.

It is safe to say that most of us these days are trying to limit our trips to the grocery store as much as possible. So during this time, you might be wondering what should you be buying and is it even possible to consume a nutritious diet? The good news is – Yes! You can still maintain a healthy and balanced diet during this time. It might look a little different, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. The biggest change will likely be more panning before trips to the store. Now more than ever is a great time to make healthy eating a priority as nutrition plays a huge role in the health of our immune system.

So how do we stock your pantry to make sure all of your bases are covered?

  1. The first thing is to stock your pantry with a supply of nutrient-dense foods that will last for two weeks. Start by making a list of dishes for each meal and the ingredients it takes the make them. My go to breakfast these days are overnight oats with frozen fruit, chopped walnuts and Greek yogurt. An example of a go-to dinner is chili con carne with rice – load the chili with vegetables like diced carrots, celery, peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Save chili for week two as it is a great way to use up some fresh vegetables that may be a little past their peak. Chili is a great staple dish – can’t find ground beef? No problem – substitute it with ground turkey or canned lentils for the same hearty meal. Lunch could look like a tuna salad wrap with some sliced carrot on the side. Carrots are a great vegetable that last at least a few weeks if stored correctly in the fridge. Once you have your list of dishes and required ingredients to make them, you can now use this to make a 2 week meal plan and the shopping list to go along with it – by listing out the ingredients for your meals, you are less likely to forget something! Don’t forget to add in snacks to the meal plan. Apples last a long time in the fridge and are pair well with nut butter for a satisfying and tasty snack.
  2. Once you have got into the groove of meal planning for 2 weeks at a time, you can take it up a notch and add in some batch cooking. Going along with the chili example – while you are already taking the time to make one batch – simply double the ingredients to make twice as much (remember to factor this into your grocery list). Pack the extra chili into individual containers for freezing, this way in the future you can take out just what you need. Other foods that freeze well include soups, stews, omelet muffin cups, French toast, spaghetti sauce, falafels, stuffed peppers, taco filling, cabbage rolls, beef or bean burgers, lasagna… the list is endless!
  3. All of this can feel quite daunting for one person. My suggestion is to make food prep a family activity, starting right from when the groceries are taken home. Rather than just placing everything in the fridge right away, designate someone to wash all of the fruits and veggies so that when it comes to meal prepping there is one less step to take. Designate someone else to precutting any foods for snacks for the next few day (for example, slicing carrots and placing in a Tupperware in the fridge so they are ready to eat).
  4. Sometimes even with a meal plan set out we don’t always feel like following it. For days like these, always have some easy proteins on hand. Things like canned tuna or salmon, sardines, beans, lentils, or frozen shrimp. These are simple ingredients that are very versatile. No chicken? Try shrimp tacos with some shredded cabbage and spicy salsa for a quick last minute meal idea that requires minimal prep.
  5. Lastly, I ask that we all be mindful – try not to overbuy and then end up wasting food. What happens a lot is people buy foods they think they “should” eat instead of what they “want” to eat and this can lead to unnecessary food waste. Keep a running grocery list and add to it as soon as something runs out. By doing this you will have a better idea of what your family uses most frequently and what quantity lasts well for 2 weeks. Just remember that there's no need to buy out the stock at your local grocery store. At this time there is no indication that food retailers will be unable to meet the demand of consumers.

This can be a time to bring your family together. Let everyone pitch in and help. Perhaps make it fun and try one new recipe per week, with each person taking turns to find a new recipe. With a little bit of pre-planning, you can decrease the stress and anxiety of preparing meals and also decrease the frequency of unnecessary trips to the grocery store.

The information provided is for personal use, reference and education only and is not intended to be a substitute for a Physician’s advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific information on personal health matters.

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