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Stuck At Home And Hungry? Here’s What To Eat

A Northwell Health doctor has advice about what to stock your pantry with to keep your health and nutrition on track during social isolation.
A Northwell Health doctor has advice about what to stock your pantry with to keep your health and nutrition on track during social isolation. Photo Credit: Phelps Hospital

Dear Doctor,

My child’s school is closed, and I’m stuck working from home. I want to stock up on some essentials so I can avoid the stores in the coming weeks, but also don’t want to get stuck eating processed junk. What should my shopping list look like?


"Holed Up and Hungry"

Dear Hungry,

With many people stuck at home for the foreseeable future—whether they’re in mandated or voluntary quarantine or just practicing social distancing—it doesn’t mean that you have to resort to only eating nonperishable and frozen foods. In fact, in high-stress times, I actually recommend making healthy eating a priority. Take the time to take stock of what you already have in your fridge and pantry, clear out old food, and throw away any expired items you might have.

Once you know what you have, you can decide what you need. Make a shopping list that includes things like proteins and healthy carbs. I find it helpful to try sorting the list into healthy options by meal, ensuring that you’ll have items for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Since people are more prone to graze while they’re home and have stretches of unoccupied time, healthy snacks like popcorn, nuts and cheeses, and 100% whole grain breads and crackers are important to include as well.

While you’re formulating your list, try to plan out meals in advance. Things like one-pot and slow cooker meals that you can pre-prepare with fresh ingredients and then freeze until your family is ready to eat them are good ways to keep healthy options in rotation. Smoothies are also a great option for you and your family, and can be made with pantry essentials like frozen fruit if you’re not able to get to a store to pick up fresh ingredients.

And while staying hydrated is also important, rather than buying cases of bottled water, I recommend investing in a water filtration system like Brita if you don’t already have one at home. Most importantly, when you go to the store to stock up, be mindful of and read the nutrition labels before you toss something into your cart. Be on the lookout for things like added sugars and check the sodium content of products before bringing them home. Nonperishables rely on sodium for preservation, so if you’re using those items in your cooking at home, build flavor with ingredients like fresh or dried herbs and spices and garlic rather than adding more salt.

If you’re still feeling a bit lost, here’s my top 10 list to help ensure your have healthy options when you’re stuck at home:

  • Canned beans (be sure to rinse the beans before use)
  • Grains such as quinoa and brown rice
  • Whole grain pastas
  • Canned tuna, salmon, and sardines
  • Frozen vegetables 
  • Frozen fruits
  • Natural nut butter (check the label to ensure there are no added sugars)
  • Eggs
  • Onions
  • Root vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes

Next Steps and Useful Resources

  • Coronavirus: What one infectious disease expert wants you to know.