With the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, many parents are finding themselves juggling work, childcare, and household chores. Some families are also recovering from financial losses due to pay cuts and lay-offs. Figuring out what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner suddenly becomes an even more stressful task.
Citizens are highly encouraged to limit their supermarket trips to comply with social distancing measures imposed by local, federal, and national governments. The first instinct of most shoppers would be to stock up on items with a long shelf life and opt-out of perishables. Unfortunately, most healthy options fall within the latter category.
Most parents will look to ready-to-eat, microwavable meals to cut costs and save time but there are also convenient and affordable healthy alternatives they can buy.
Here are some healthy eating tips during the COVID-19 outbreak so your family can maintain a nutritious diet without breaking your budget.
Limit Highly Processed Food
Fresh produce may not always be readily available but you don’t have to resort to highly processed foods. These are usually packed with saturated fat, sugars, and salt. If you do put processed foods in your shopping basket, actively research healthier options.
Look up healthy alternatives that contain less of unhealthy substances before you go out and shop. Through this, you spend less time searching through food items and minimize your exposure to the virus during grocery trips.
Avoid sugary drinks as well and drink a lot of water instead. Encourage water drinking habits by infusing them with slices of fruits and vegetables such as lemon, lime, berries, or cucumber slices.
Swap In Dried or Canned Alternatives
Fresh produce is always highly recommended but can be hard to come by in a lockdown. Whenever possible, ensure your kids are still getting plenty of fruit and vegetables in their diet.
Buy a large number of fresh vegetables and cook large batches of soups, stews, or other dishes. Meals can last longer when stored properly and provide meals good for days. Simply freeze portioned meals and reheat as needed.
You can also purchase fresh produce in bulk and freeze them. This will help them retain most of their nutrients and flavor even over time.
Alternately, you can buy canned produce such as beans and chickpeas. These provide an abundance of nutrients, can be included in a variety of meals and can be stored for a long time.
Canned oily fish will fill in your needs for protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals. These included canned mackerel, tuna, salmon, and sardines. Use them straight out of the can for sandwiches or salads, or cook them into warm meals.
Canned tomatoes may have fewer nutrients than their fresh counterparts, but can be used for a variety of applications.
Look into dried goods. They are nutritious, long-lasting, tasty, affordable, and filling. These include grains, dried beans, and pulses such as rice, oats, quinoa, couscous, split peas, and lentils.
Buy Freeze-Dried Items
Freeze-dried food is seeing an uptake due to the lockdown. The freeze-drying process removes moisture from food items while retaining their structure.
Naturally, the process also helps maintain their nutritional content at the time it was dried. Freeze-dried foods avoid any degradation in quality, nutrition, or taste that can be usually observed in fresh food items.
When consumers add back the moisture, the taste and texture are comparable to fresh ingredients.
Some freeze-dried fruits and freeze-dried vegetables come in chopped or powdered form. One to two-level tablespoons of freeze-dried powdered fruit can be mixed into water for a refreshing drink, blended into smoothies, or added recipes such as healthy desserts and baked goods.
This makes it an attractive option even for those pursuing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
Cooking With Freeze-Dried Food
One advantage of cooking with freeze-dried items is you skip all of the stressful washing, peeling, cutting, and disposal.
For one, freeze-dried fruit and vegetables are alright to eat on their own! The unique and fun texture also appeals to kids since they crumble in your hands and are not tough to chew.
Fair warning, you may need to drink more water to aid digestion.
If you are cooking freeze-dried ingredients into soup, simply put them into a pot, add an appropriate amount of water, and simmer. You can add them to smoothies or blended sauces without rehydrating first too. Just add 3-4 tablespoons of extra liquid for each cup of freeze-dried ingredients when cooking this way.
Freeze-dried vegetables are also amazing for sautés. Add a bit of oil in the pan and you’ll be amazed how much easier it is to bring out the aroma and flavor you’re looking for!
If you do need to rehydrate your freeze-dried items, use much less water than you think you’d need. Too much and you risk them getting mushy and soggy. Add enough water to cover the bottom of a bowl or until the food is just starting to float and stir to hydrate evenly.
Once you start cooking with freeze-dried foods, you might want to cook with them more often. Learn how to convert measurements for fresh to freeze-dried so you can easily substitute them in recipes!
Freeze-dried food for sale can be easily found online. You can have them delivered straight to your home to reduce the need to go outside, therefore reducing exposure to the virus.
Stock Up On Healthy Snacks
Teach your children to make healthy dietary choices. Up to 27% of a child’s daily calories can come from snacks since they need them to keep going.
Resist sweet or salty snacks and give them chopped or dried fruits, unsweetened yogurt, boiled eggs, nuts, cheese (not processed), or other accessible healthy options that are filling and nutritious.
Make Cooking a Family Activity
Cooking and eating together helps create healthy routines and eases the work for parents. Older children can help with setting the table, actual preparation, and cooking while younger ones can help sort and wash food items.
Structured preparation and mealtimes as a family also reduce anxiety especially for children and strengthens family bonds.