Healthy Bites: Smarter Grocery Shopping

By Michelle Lau

Maximizing nutrition and emergency preparedness (without hoarding) during COVID-19

Emergency preparedness is a tricky thing, and something that’s risen to sudden importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, preparedness doesn’t mean you should rush to the nearest supermarket and start panic-buying. Think of this time as an opportunity to “eat smart, shop smart” – and it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Investing a little more time in planning prior to a trip to a grocery store can help keep your diet healthy and minimize stress. More than ever, it’s important to make healthy eating a priority, as nutrition plays a key role in our immune system health – stocking your kitchen and pantry well with nutritious, good-for-you ingredients is one simple step to being healthier.

So how do we grocery shop nutritiously and efficiently during this challenging time?

These ‘nutrilicious’ tips can keep your grocery shopping and diet healthy and stress-free:

1. Plan ahead: Get more out of your grocery store trips by writing down exactly what you need so you don’t end up giving into temptation and purchase foods that aren’t the best for your health and impulse purchases that you will never end up eating. This way, you can cut down on unnecessary calories and food waste. Think about what you are going to cook during the week, how much storage space, you have at home to store the food, and go from there.

2. Eat seasonal.Not only are seasonal fruits and veggies the best tasting produce, they are also more nutritious, and usually cheaper. Colorful whole fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals and protective antioxidants and phytonutrients (plant nutrients with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits), which should be included in everyone’s diet.

3. Eat cool. Frozen produce is packed and frozen at peak ripeness, meaning that is doesn’t lag behind its fresh counterpart when it comes to nutrition. Not to mention, frozen fruits and veggies can be substituted for the fresh kind in most recipes. For example, you can easily use antioxidant-packed berries, peaches, and carrots in smoothies.

4. Read the label.Food labels can often be difficult to understand; try to stick with food items that have short and easy-to-understand nutrition labels. If there are too many ingredients to read, and words you can’t even pronounce, it’s most likely not the healthiest choice and often highly processed.

So what should you look for in the per 100g column on a nutrition label? As a starter, look for low-fat (3 grams of total fat or lower), low-salt (120 milligrams of sodium or less), and low-sugar (5 grams of sugar or less).

5. Try canned foods. Versatile canned foods with a long shelf-lives, such as canned beans, tomatoes, legumes, and fish, can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts and also only require minimal prep time when cooking. Choose low-sodium options where available for a healthier option.

6. Go nuts (and seeds). Shelf-stable nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats, protein, minerals, and fiber, and are the perfect healthy snack when holed up at home. One of the most common responses to being bored and stressed is–you guessed it–snacking. Forgo greasy chips and cookies, and opt for unsalted nuts and natural seeds instead.

7. Don’t forget about protein. Protein is vital to build and repair body tissue, and hence fight viral and bacterial infections. For days like these, always have some easy proteins on hand; try canned tuna or salmon, beans, lentils, cottage cheese, or frozen shrimp. No pulled pork available at hand? Try fish (or meat-free) tacos with some shredded cabbage, tempeh, and salsa for a quick last-minute meal idea that requires minimal prep.

This can be a time to bring your family together. Get everyone in the household involved. Perhaps make it fun and try one new recipe per week, with each person taking turns to find a new recipe.

Since you and your friends or loved ones might live in separate households, it could even be a fun exercise to cook together over a video call, so it still feels like you are cooking (and subsequently dining) together.

With a little bit of pre-planning, you can decrease the stress and anxiety of preparing meals, decrease your spending at the supermarket, and also consume food that will help to safeguard your health during the COVID-19 crisis.

About the Author

Michelle is a Registered Dietitian (MSc.), nutrition educator, media personality, and the founder of NUTRILICIOUS, a B2B nutrition consultancy and communications company that aspires to inspire millions across Asia to eat their way to healthier and happier lives. Michelle and her team passionately motivate all audiences to Eat Whole, Train Smart, Live Full and deliver science-based nutrition information in fun and “digestible” ways. As an avid runner and obsessive home baker, she appreciates and prioritizes balance in all areas of life. “Change the world, One bite at a time.

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Photo by nrd on Unsplash

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