By Shannon Crocker, MSc RD PHEc
If the pandemic has provided us with anything, it’s the chance to take a step back and focus on our health and wellbeing. Whether you’ve been turning to “comfort foods” to self-soothe during this stressful time, or have been ramping up your workout routine, your food choices play a large role in keeping you healthy.
Here are three ways to shop, cook and eat well now (and always!):
Choose nutrient-rich foods most often.
Eating well can help you to manage your mood, feel energized and support your immune system. Choose nourishing foods like veggies and fruits, plus whole grains, eggs, lean meat, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and dairy – it’s your best bet to give your body nutrients it needs to stay well.
Two top tips to boost nutrition on your plate:
- Make half your plate fruit and veggies at each meal. Choose from fresh, frozen, or canned varieties – they all count! Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables gives you essential vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C, that are important for immunity and good health.
- Pair proteins on your plate for nutrition synergy. Animal proteins, like lean red meat (e.g. beef) and poultry (e.g. turkey) provide a source of immune-strengthening zinc that your body can absorb easily. And the zinc in animal proteins also helps you to absorb more zinc from plant-based proteins, like chickpeas or lentils. Try this White and Black Bean Turkey Chili.
Plan meals and shopping trips ahead.
Large weekly shops have become the norm as we all try to avoid popping into the store for just a few items. This means planning ahead is essential.
Here are a few steps to take to help you ensure you’ve got nutritious ingredients on hand:
- Step 1: Take Inventory. Take a look in your cupboards, fridge and freezer before going to the store. Check expiration dates (toss what’s expired) and make a list of what you’ve got and what you need.
- Step 2: Make a Meal Plan. Make your plan based on foods you already have in your cupboard, fridge and freezer. Start with foods that need to be eaten soon and build from there. Include some “nextover” meals with planned leftovers. For example, if you’re making meatballs for pasta, make a double batch and use the extras for a veggie-filled buddha bowl.
- Step 3: Make Your List and Stick to It. Based on your kitchen inventory needs and your meal plan, write your grocery list. Set it up according to the layout of the store. When you’re in the grocery store, stick to your list as much as possible so you don’t buy food you don’t need and don’t spend extra money.
Need help meal planning for 1-2 weeks at a time? Try an online meal planning tool or app to help you organize your grocery list and schedule meals.
Make the most of nourishing ingredients.
Eating more home-cooked meals means you’ll likely get more nutrients you need for good health. Try these budget- and health-friendly kitchen tips to make the most of nutritious ingredients:
- Out of butter? Try substituting 1 cup (250 mL) of solid fat with ¾ cup (175 mL) of canola oil in baking recipes like muffins, pancakes, or biscuits. Results are equally delicious, and canola oil is affordable, heart-healthy and shelf-stable.
- Use up all the good stuff! Have an almost-soft apple or one last carrot? Grate it and add to muffin or cookie batter or oatmeal for a delicious boost of fibre. Check out these 5 ways to use up mushy bananas.
- Save those potato peels! Potatoes are budget-wise, long-lasting, and high in vitamin C and potassium. Next time you cook with potatoes, keep the peels to turn into a crunchy snack. Toss with canola oil, season, and bake in a 400 F (200 C) oven until crispy.
- Get creative with leftovers! Try turning eggs and whatever leftover cooked vegetables you have in your fridge into a tasty frittata. Eggs are budget-friendly, nutrient-rich, and a high-quality protein source. Try these tasty frittata combos.
The Bottom Line:
Eating well is important to help you feel energized and to support your immune system. Make most of your choices nourishing ones. And if you’re enjoying more “comfort foods”, that’s okay. It’s normal. Don’t stress about food choices, especially now.