COVID-19: Quarantine Tips from a Dietitian

shopping cart in sparsely filled graocery store

By Jamie M. Marchetti, MS, RDN, LD
March 20, 2020

As grocery store options grow sparse and many face the possibility of being quarantined to their homes in the wake of COVID-19, neither you nor your patients may be able to eat the way you normally do. As your typical foods may be unavailable or perishable, consider these tips when choosing new options from the grocery store, and share this information with your patients as well.

Focus on nutrient density

  • Try to make choices that allow you to get the most out of your food. For example, consider breakfast cereals that include protein and soups that include vegetables.
  • Whole grain crackers and pasta lend extra nutrients, fiber, and feelings of fullness.

Choose shelf-stable options

  • Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are equally as nutritious as fresh, plus they last substantially longer.
  • Canned meat such as chicken and tuna are great options for animal protein, and nut butters are excellent, easy-to-use plant proteins.

Stock up on staples

  • Both rice and canned or dry beans are versatile and can be used in many different ways, plus they are a complimentary protein together.
  • If available, potatoes – whether fresh, frozen, or dried – make excellent bases for many meals, and with the skins on, they pack lots of fiber.
  • Deli meats and sausages can be frozen to have easy-to-eat meats for a long time. While these are not known for being nutritional powerhouses, they do provide essential protein and satisfaction.
  • Broth can be used to make lots of things into soups and stews to make them into meals that feel more cohesive when it feels like you have just odds and ends.

Rely on the community

Many communities are developing “community pantries,” or places for members to share what they have to help each other out. There are abundant stories of people needing dairy alternatives or baby formula and communities coming together to help them access what they need. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. The following are tips for community resources that may be available in your area:

  • Social media such as Facebook may be home to local groups for food sharing
  • Soup kitchens and food pantries and banks
  • School districts may be continuing to provide some meals for students who are not in schools
  • Hospitals may have, or be able to refer to, human milk banks or resources for infant formula

Special diets and eating disorders

  • If you or your patients have medically-indicated dietary requirements and are having a difficult time accessing foods that meet your needs, continue working with a local dietitian to help find appropriate, available foods.
  • It is also very possible that, if you have an eating disorder, the current food environment may be highly triggering. Many dietitians are able to work via telehealth if you need nutrition support during this time.

    Harvard Medical School is producing a number of COVID-19-related resources for both medical professionals and the general public. Please see the COVID-19 Resources section in the right sidebar of this blog for the latest information.

Author Jamie Marchetti profile pic

Jamie M. Marchetti, MS, RDN, LD, is a Health At Every Size ® dietitian. She is also a freelance writer and a MA Mental Health Counseling candidate who plans to combine her skill sets to provide nutrition and body acceptance therapy through her private practice, Wonderfully Well.

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