Nutrition in the Time of Covid – and Beyond

Written by

April 22, 2020

Here are some simple adaptations regarding food shopping and food prep that are relevant to our stay-at-home situation.  Many of us as health care workers, are still on the job in some ways, but we are home more than we’re used to, out of our routine.  And many have their young children or adult children home with them – a lot – and need to cater to many different dietary wants and needs, with less takeout and fewer trips to the store.

It becomes clear that we truly are what we eat – and we eat what’s available.  If we’re home alone with Oreos – guess what?!   

This is a good time to evaluate the QUALITY of the food we can reach for.  We can use these choices to feel better and have more energy now , and come out on the other side healthy.  I would also suggest that if you are doing your own food shopping, you organize your shopping list ahead of time according to groups of items, to enable you to make one quick walk through the store.  

One useful strategy for home cooking is to have the ingredients for meals that people can pick and choose what they want. You can pretend you have the newest branch of CAVA or Chopp’d.  If you start with a base of grains and greens, some people can add lentils and beans while others add chicken or beef, and you don’t need totally different meals for plant based vs omnivore preferences.  What I would propose is:

At different times, prepare large portions of :


beans, lentils

grains – hearty – I prefer farro, bulgur and barley.  These are more solid, contain some protein.  Quinoa and couscous are not as filling.  You can cook the grains with some low sodium vegetable broth and/or onions for added flavor.

pastas – many now available made from lentils or chickpeas.  You can make a meal of these without feeling guilty.  The consistency is more like regular pasta, moreso than whole wheat pasta, which is not my favorite.

nuts, seeds – higher in calories, but contain protein and good fats and they are filling.  Use these to sprinkle on salads, soups, chili – for this purpose, I like sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds especially

other proteins – tempeh (see factoids below) or tofu, canned or fresh fish, eggs, chicken or other animal products 

soups, chilis – freeze a few portions for another time.  A family fave is butternut squash chili.

Shopping – to avoid unnecessary trips to the store or deliveries – 

all of the goods noted above, especially dried goods – beans, lentils, grains, as well as tofu, tempeh

frozen fruits and vegetables – often flash frozen, usually retain all the original nutritional value and usually packaged without additives.  Frozen peas are a particularly good add-on to other dishes.

get fresh fruits at different stages of ripeness – bananas, avocados – some ripe, some not so they will last a week or more

apples last a long time

tuna, chicken or other animal products – some for now, some to store or freeze

Snacks – healthy easy to grab things:

Sometimes I’m grazing and realize after 2 or 3 snacks, that what I really need is WATER

Sometimes brushing your teeth can help stop the grazing

yogurt – dairy or non-dairy –  with cereal, granola, nuts, berries

apple or banana with peanut butter


Substitute ingredients: try new recipes butnow you can’t run to the store each time you need something 

Google – Ask ‘what can I substitute for …’  There are usually 4 or 5 options, and I usually have at least one on hand.

2 tsp lemon for 1 tsp vinegar

1/4 to 1/2 tsp dried herbs for 1 tsp fresh – I usually double any fresh herb in recipes for increased taste

Substitute lentils or frozen Gardein veggie crumbles for chopped meat

Random nutrition facts:

Benefits of chicken soup or pho – traditional chicken soup evidently does have some healing qualities, but pho – Vietnamese soup – is made with star anise. Tamiflu, used to treat influenza, is synthesized from shikimic acid found in star anise, ginkgo, spruce, pine and fir trees.  Pho is my family’s go-to for any flu-like illness. Tamiflu, however, does not have any action against coronavirus.  Remdesivir, an anti-viral being tested against corona virus is an adenosine analog, which is unrelated to star anise.

Many people are familiar with tofu, which is produced from the milk of the soybean.  Tempeh, which comes as a more solid block, and is easier to use, starts with cultured whole cooked soybeans, and sometimes grains, which bind together and firm up as they ferment.  It can be used right out of the package or sauteed, and added to salads, soups or stews.  It is packed with protein, and it’s hearty with a nutty taste. 

Increased fiber intake is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer death, Alzheimers and constipation.  Legumes, including beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils, have a higher fiber content than fruits and vegetables, which are mainly water.  All of these are part of a healthy whole food, plant based diet. 

Interested in aiming for a more plant based diet ?

See some of our family creations below just from the past few weeks.  Enjoy trying out new recipes.  Regarding moving toward a plant-based diet, don’t let perfection be the enemy of good – any movement on the path toward a whole food plant-based diet represents some improvement in risk factors for chronic diseases.  Here’s more info if you’re interested.


Gamechangers – Netflix – benefits of Whole Food Plant Based diet in elite athletes

Nutrition Action newsletter – – unbiased reporting on nutrition issues

Michael Greger – – vegetarian recipes – general- excellent recipes – especially the side dishes – check them out!