For those of us that are practising physical distancing measures and are limiting our frequency of grocery trips, nutrition still plays an important part in maintaining our health.
So how can we continue to eat well when fresh produce has a shelf life of a few days or, at most, a week?
We’ve asked Jessica Bain and Meagan Mulkearn, our dietitians at Epworth Rehabilitation to find out!
How to maintain a balanced diet when you’re limiting grocery trips
Plan, plan, plan
Plan your meals ahead for the week and write a shopping list so that when you go to the supermarket you can get all the items you need in one hit. If you have a plan you’re more likely to stick to it instead of resorting to unhealthy takeaway food.
For some, planning your meals for the whole week can feel overwhelming, to make this easier you can start with planning your main meal of the day (e.g. dinner). Once this is out of the way other meals and snacks tend to feel less overwhelming.
Keep your food for longer
Once you know what meals you would like to cook, cook them in bulk. Make large batches of meals like soups, stews, pasta sauce and freeze them.
Use your fresh food and perishables first. Cook leafy green vegetables such as bok choy earlier in the week and use ingredients like potato, pumpkin and carrots closer to your next shop.
To keep your ingredients fresh keep all fresh produce in the fridge and freeze your meats. As an alternative to fresh vegetables, you can use frozen vegetables which are just as good nutritionally and keep much longer.
Tinned or dried legumes are also a great option which you can add to your meals (e.g. pasta sauces, soups, curries) to increase your vegetable and protein intake as well as help stretch your meals out by increasing portion sizes. When choosing tinned vegetables look out for low salt versions and rinse before use.
Snack on whole foods rather than premade snacks, good snacks are things like: fresh or dried fruit, cheese and crackers, yoghurt and nuts.
Don’t rely on sugary snacks. Bake your own treats so you know what’s going into them and so you can adjust ingredients as needed.
What you can do if your health condition requires a specific diet
Whether you need to restrict your diet due to health conditions, allergies or personal choice, once again planning your meals in advance is a great way to make sure you cover all your dietary requirements.
Talk to your regular supplier (e.g. supermarket staff, local butcher or greengrocer) if you’re not able to find an ingredient you need, they may be able to assist you to source it especially if it’s for a particular condition. Depending on the health condition think about substitutes that you can make if an item is unavailable, for example, use rice or quinoa if no gluten-free pasta is available if you are coeliac.
If you are having difficulty, you can seek additional support via phone or video link as many dietitians are now available via Telehealth.
How to get the most out of what you have
In order to make use of as many perishable ingredients possible, there are a number of resources available online to help incorporate these ingredients into your meals. These include:
- 5 ingredient meals via Coles magazine and online
- Taste.com.au has a search function to find recipes based on what ingredients you have at home
- Supercook.com has a similar search function that shows recipes based on your ingredients
- Have a read through any cookbooks you have at home or look online for new dishes to try
Don’t hoard ingredients, as you will then be stuck with only one kind of food and not be eating a balanced diet.
A word on supplements
You should take supplements if they have been recommended for a medical purpose or for a nutritional deficiency, but for everyone else you can skip them, it’s that simple! If you’re concerned about your intake of a particular vitamin or mineral talk to your dietitian or doctor.
We’re all in this together, remember to leave enough items at the grocery store for others, be kind to one another and get in touch with people around you who might need a little extra help in these times.