Eating Well in Quarantine

Photo courtesy of ICL

So, you’re stuck at home until the world gets it together. Your life has been thrown one epic curveball, that’s for sure. And while many things are beyond our control right now, the way we eat is not. Sure, have some comfort food during this stressful time, but well-balanced meals and snacks should also be on the menu.

Speaking of the menu, what’s been on it?

  • Pop-Tarts and freezer meals
  • PB&J
  • Plenty of fruits and veggies (on occasion)
  • Chips, chips, chips!
  • Whatever’s on the take-out menu

Yeah, me too. I should own stock in Terra chips right about now. Seriously, they’re addicting (and healthy)!

It’s no secret that the “new normal” doesn’t feel like “normal” at all. Wherever you are on the spectrum of “surviving” day-to-day life during this time, you are rocking it!  In a time of crisis, we lose many of the safety nets we humans thrive on–control, comfort, and contact. So we look for those things wherever we can get them. And for most of us, it’s through our stomach.

Most of us turn to food when faced with challenging times. Food feeds our hunger in body and soul. It takes us to another place and brings us memories we cherish. And there are few things you can do to make sure the whole you is well-fueled and satisfied with foods to make you healthy, balanced, and well.

Keep a Routine

I talked a little bit about this earlier in the week with tips for working well at home during quarantine. Not only is it a must-have for maintaining telework sanity, it is the first step in eating well at home too.

“When faced with suddenly being at home all day, the biggest thing we lose is our routine. The first thing I recommend is establishing a meal schedule. Setting up a meal schedule can help to decrease boredom and emotional eating because it provides a structure…”

Registered Dietitian Anna Kippen, MS, RDN, LD.


Humans are creatures of habit. We literally thrive on it! And mealtime is no different. One of the best things you can do is follow a general meal routine. If you had one that worked before quarantine, use that! If you didn’t, try one like this.

Stock up on the good stuff

It’s safe to say that you’re going to eat what’s available. And when healthy options are readily at hand, you’re more likely to eat them. And, when you have a grocery list already written out prior to shopping, you’re less likely to impulse buy unhealthy junk. To make both easier, here’s a basic list of things to avoid and items to keep around.

Things to limit/avoid:

  • Frozen meals
  • Bleached flour products
  • White rice
  • Juice (with added ingredients)
  • Soda
  • Candy & Sweets

Things to stock up on:

  • Meat alternatives. (My fave–Beyond Meat)
  • Canned tuna or wild salmon
  • Canned beans
  • Frozen, preservative-free meats
  • Frozen or canned vegetables (no sauces or additives)
  • Frozen fruits
  • Dried fruits
  • Apples & oranges
  • Bananas
  • Nuts &/or nut butters
  • Olive oil &/or Coconut oil
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Oats and/or oatmeal
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Onions and garlic
  • Spices

Another couple of great tips–make sure each meal has a good source of protein and fiber. This will keep you full longer and help you keep your food routine going strong. Also, put your produce and healthy snack foods at eye level in the fridge. You’re more likely to pick what you see first.

Find (healthy) Substitutes

Now, in a perfect world, all the items above would be readily available. I don’t know about you, but the grocery store shelves haven’t been exactly full around here lately though. In fact, there’s something on my grocery list every trip that I can’t find. There’s nothing quite like getting to the end of a grocery list and not having the last item. It’s a special kind of frustrating. But just because you are missing one ingredient doesn’t mean you can’t still make the bomb meal you’ve planned!

There are loads of resources out there for finding ingredients you can sub in for whatever you might be missing. 

This list by the New York Times is a fantastic resource for cooking substitutions!
They’re offering subscription-free articles to the general public right now, so take advantage.

Want just the nitty-gritty? This list has exactly what you need.

Not a recipe follower (guilty)? Do your own thing! Whether you’re a seasoned cook or baker with confidence to burn, a free spirit looking for a challenge, or simply channeling your quarantine boredom in the kitchen, you can always improvise in the event that you’re an ingredient or two short. I will say that if you want a guarantee, this is not the option for you. But, you may very well end up creating a new household favorite. And, if it doesn’t go to plan, you’ll at least have a good story to tell later.

When in doubt, get creative!

With social-distancing in full-effect, many of us are choosing to stay indoors as much as possible. And that means your mealtime menu is at the mercy of whatever’s in the house. Not unlike ingredient subbing, there are endless possibilities in your pantry for making healthy, delicious meals and snacks with limited inventory.

Canned Beans

Beans are so versatile! There’s so much you can do with them. They’re full of fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals, which makes them a healthy option. And they’re pretty cheap, which is a plus. Here are a few ways you can incorporate beans into your meal plan: 

  • Make a Protein Bowl with beans and your favorite greens, and roasted veggies.
  • Top a sweet potato with black beans and salsa, onions and peppers.
  • Try some Beyond Meat crumble and mix with chickpeas. Use it for tacos! 
  • Cook some white beans and spinach and top your favorite whole-grain pasta.

Want more recipe ideas for canned beans? These 20 recipes from Kitchn are easy and delish!

Tuna or Salmon

Canned fish is incredibly nutritious! It’s packed with high protein, omega-3, and loads of vitamins and minerals. Here are some tasty ways to use canned tuna and salmon:

  • Make a tuna melt from homemade tuna salad.
  • Try a baked potato with tuna or salmon, sauteed veggies, and cheese for a seafood loaded baked potato.
  • Make tuna patties or salmon burgers. You can add onions, peppers, or other veggies to the mix. Season them with your favorite herbs and spices. 
  • Make tuna or salmon fried rice with fresh or canned carrots, peas, or mixed veggies.

Nuts or Nut Butter

Here are some easy and delicious ways to add nuts and nut butters to your meals: 

Now for the best part…FREE RECIPES!

In case you’re wondering what to do next, looking for some kitchen inspiration, or you just love free stuff (who doesn’t), you’ll want to keep reading. I’ve put together a full day’s worth of easy, healthy recipes to get you started eating well while stuck at home!

Breakfast

Easy Frozen Fruit Smoothies

Mini Veggie Quiche Muffins

Lunch

Black Bean & Corn Summer Salad

Veggie Lentil Stew

Snacks

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Energy Bites

Dinner

Homemade Pad Thai

Southwest Meatloaf & Vegan Meatloaf

Desserts

Gluten-free Apple Oatmeal Cookies

There you have it: a basic guide to eating well during quarantine. The days may be bleeding together (really, what day is it?), but your menu doesn’t have to! While you’re busy doing mankind a solid and staying home, remember–you have the power to create delicious, healthy meals to eat great, stay healthy, and be well.

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