During the coronavirus pandemic, minimizing our exposure to others is the most important thing many of us can do. That said, avoiding restaurants means we can quickly run out of ideas in the kitchen—and end up leaning a little too hard on packaged snacks, takeout, and sweets.
Getting savvy about what we buy, what we cook, and what we snack on is key over the coming weeks, so we asked functional dietitian nutritionist Nour Zibdeh, R.D. for the best healthy cooking tips for when we’re all stuck inside.
Here’s what she had to say:
Be Smart About What You Stock Up On
“The first thing to do is stock up on frozen fruits and veggies,” says Zibdeh. “My favorites are cauliflower rice, green beans, broccoli, peppers and onion mix, and stir-fry mix,” she continues, adding that this may be a good time to try less popular veggies, like frozen artichoke hearts.
Stocking up on dried fruit is also smart because it has an extremely long shelf life and you can add it to salads, oatmeal, and other meals. Just be aware that it contains a lot of sugar, so Zibdeh recommends sticking to less than ¼ cup per serving.
Canned food can also be a good option if you choose wisely; see nutritionists’ recommendations for the healthiest canned food to stock.
Go for Simple Packaged Foods
When it comes to packaged foods, it’s important to be discerning. Look for simple foods that don’t have an endless list of ingredients. Zibdeh recommends the following:
- Rice cakes with almond butter
- Seaweed chips
- Unsweetened banana chips
- Plain raw or roasted nuts and seeds
- 75% (or higher) dark chocolate
- Popcorn (she recommends opting for old-school popping in a pot instead of microwavable bags)
- Roasted chickpeas (here’s her favorite recipe)
Opt for Low-Carb, Filling Meals
At mealtimes, Zibdeh recommends focusing on vegetables and protein. Limiting carbohydrates—especially simple ones like rice, potatoes, and white bread—can help you feel more satiated for longer after your meals. Plus, “If you’re not moving as much, you don’t need all the carbohydrates.” If you’re hitting the at-home workouts pretty hard, go ahead and enjoy a few more healthy carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes and legumes.
If you’re looking for a great go-to meal, Zibdeh suggests making a mini tuna salad by combining canned tuna, chopped raw veggies you have at hand (like celery, radish, bell peppers), some herbs (like fresh or dried parsley or basil), mashed avocado, and some salt, pepper, and lemon. “This makes a high-protein satisfying meal and you can eat it with some carrots or lettuce,” she says.
Get Mindful About Snacking
If you find yourself mindlessly snacking from dusk until dawn, you’re not alone. Stress can spike blood sugar and make us more prone to cravings and stress eating. So what can we do? “My biggest recommendation is out of sight, out of mind,” says Zibdeh. This means working and hanging out with family away from your kitchen. And as tempting as it may be, avoid too much baking and dessert-making activities.
If you are craving something sweet, “You can pop some frozen blueberries and cranberries in a bowl as a snack for a quick and easy antioxidant boost,” says Zibdeh. Or, “try snacking on sunflower or pumpkin seeds in their shells; it will take some time and effort to peel the shell so that can help you slow down,” she continues.
Lean on Low-Sugar Drinks
As tempting as it may be, now is not the time for sodas or other high-sugar beverages like juices. They take up a ton of space in the fridge and they are seriously lacking in the health benefits department. Instead, “drink herbal teas or add cinnamon sticks or shredded ginger with a teaspoon of honey to warm water,” says Zibdeh. This type of warm drink can help calm you, keep you hydrated, and will support your overall health and immune system.
As we all adjust to a lot more time around the house, lean on these healthy cooking tips to avoid a snacking frenzy and keep your body in tip-top shape.
Header image courtesy of Group4 Studio/Getty Images.