In a very short time period, COVID-19 turned how we live upside down. We’re suddenly living, eating, and shopping differently than perhaps ever before. Has all this impact been negative? I spoke with 8 nationally-known registered dietitian-nutritionists to get their take on what they think are the POSITIVES that might come out of the current pandemic, what they’ve learned, and a few noted what they’d like to keep from the whole pandemic experience.
Newfound Respect for Some Pantry Standbys
Amy Myrdal Miller hopes people “appreciate the benefits of canned fruits, vegetables, and beans and frozen fruits and vegetables. For too long people have believed ‘fresh is best.’ This points out the reality that canned and frozen foods offer nutrition benefits and convenience.” If the increased demand for canned and frozen foods is any indication, this appears to be happening.
Neva Cochran agreed, noting that consumers returned to these foods as well as beans, beef, pasta, and others, “that are often mis-characterized as not being healthy or nutritious.” Since the onset of the pandemic, she continued, “Concerns about buying organic, meat-free, non-GMO, all-natural, no added hormones, antibiotic-free and gluten-free have taken a back seat when people are concerned that there may not be enough food.”
Gratitude was also expressed. “I’ve never been more grateful for all these non-perishable options – and the farmers who bring them to my table,” said Nicole Rodriguez. “Whether it’s a simple box of raisins with my daughter during ‘home school’ snack time, cottage cheese topped with a pre-portioned serving of cling peaches, or frozen berries heated up as a makeshift jam,” she said she has a deeper appreciation for fruits in all forms. As do I, including fresh fruit! (See my Cut-To-The-Chase Take-Away below for more!)
Isolation – The Good Part
Some found appreciations that had nothing to do with food or nutrition. Chris Mohr’s normal schedule has him on the road constantly. Being grounded (literally!) has been an unexpectedly positive experience for him, his wife and their two daughters. “I love the increased level of connection among us. We’ve each grown closer because we’re not socializing, traveling for work or anything else. And I will work really hard to keep that up once we are ‘released’ from our homes”. Probably something we all might focus on.
Having a less structured schedule during isolation has allowed Karen Ansel some freedom. She’s found that she can do things “at times of day that mimic my body’s natural energy flow instead of when I’m “supposed” to do them. I’ve been spending a lot of time spinning my wheels trying to be productive at the wrong times of day.” While she realizes all this may change when isolation is relaxed, “normal” life resumes, she does want to maintain take some of this new-realization. “I do plan to really try to follow my body’s internal energy cues as much as possible.”
If your kids show an interest in cooking, all the at-home time is great for getting into the kitchen with them to practice. Toby Amidor, author of numerous cookbooks, has found it’s allowed her to, “Cook with my kids in the kitchen and actually see how my girls can cook without me in the kitchen.” She sees how much they’ve learned from their mom, adding, “Now we are focused on further developing their cooking skills into more complex dishes they want to learn to cook.” Sounds like “teacher” and her students have both learned something.
Rosanne Rust loves that people are sharing more time with their families in general, but including in the kitchen. “Teaching the kids how to bake, or working together at home, is a win-win for both the parents and the children. Even if at times it seems stressful.” Good point. If you’re new to teaching your kids cooking skills, start with goof-proof, entry-level skills: boiling an egg, baking a potato, steaming a vegetable. Baby steps here!
As a retail dietitian (as in supermarket), Leah McGrath thinks many have gained a new appreciation for how hard supermarkets and restaurants work to make sure there is food available to us. “Perhaps we won’t forget to take a moment when we’re shopping for groceries or eating out to remember that with a kind word, a smile or, when appropriate, a generous tip.” Active on social media (@InglesDietitian), she’s using the #QuarantineKitchen hashtag. “I think many have surprised themselves with their culinary creativity and ingenious substitutions to make meals for themselves and their families. Necessity is the mother of invention!”
Beyond teaching cooking skills, food has always been part of family culture, too. Notably, our isolation has occurred during Easter and Passover periods. Christine Rosenbloom sees this isolation as, “An opportunity for kids and families to learn to cook and bake. Teaching kids family heritage through foods and sharing treasured recipes,” is something she recommends during all the enforced down time.
I hear that. Growing up, we celebrated what we called “regular” Easter (the one recognized nationally) and “Greek” Easter (the Eastern Orthodox one, which usually falls on a different Sunday). This year, I did my part by making this braided Easter bread, like my Greek grandmother made, pictured here. (I hope she’s lenient – I reduced the amount of anise seeds by half and added some nuts – personal preference!)
Cut -To-The-Chase Take-Away:
I join my colleagues in valuing all those pantry staples people have forgotten or dismissed. They are – and always were – safe and nutritious to eat. BUT…SO IS FRESH PRODUCE!
Moreover, farmers need your help! Many are plowing under or discarding perfectly good crops because of lower demand by consumers too afraid to handle and purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
You CANNOT get COVID-19 from food. Why? I explain it to you backed by facts!) in a previous post here. So, when you do shop, buy fresh, too. Remember – farmers aren’t “first responders”, they’re CONSTANT responders, through all.