Tips from an Expert: Good Nutrition at Home
As more people are spending time in their houses as a result of COVID-19 precautions, Whitney Linsenmeyer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University, gives some advice on eating healthy at home.
Why is it important to maintain a healthy diet during this time?
Good nutrition is one important way to support a healthy immune system. Don't worry about tracking down "superfoods" that are often hard to find and price-inflated. Focus on eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and dairy.
What are the best foods for people to buy right now?
If you are grocery shopping less frequently than usual, think about food that can be more shelf-stable. Good staples may include:
- Frozen or Canned Fruits and Vegetables: Aim to choose products with minimal or no additional ingredients, i.e. frozen strawberries without added sugar, frozen vegetable mixes without the added sauce.
- Whole Grains: Brown rice, barley, whole wheat bread and whole grain cereals.
- Lean Protein Sources: Consider canned salmon or tuna, or frozen fish, shellfish, poultry and beef. Plant-based protein foods really get to shine here; think dried or canned beans and legumes such as black beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans, and lentils.
- Fermented or Cultured Dairy Products: These last longer than fluid milk; think plain yogurt and hard cheese. Milk alternatives such as oat milk or soy milk are also good shelf-stable options that only need to be refrigerated once opened.
What would you recommend for those who are beginners in the kitchen?
Choose recipes that use just a few staple ingredients. I love the series of "Basically" recipes by Bon Appetit. You can also get inspired by the creative cooking of SLU's own culinary nutrition students -- follow us on Instagram at @SLUnutrition1818.
Also, try alternating with cooking from home and making use of the many take-out options if your means allow. This is a great way to support the restaurants that are experiencing major challenges.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch published a list of over 300 St. Louis restaurants offering take-out.
A lot of people are probably facing the "what can I make with whatever is in this pantry" situation. Do you have any go-to meals or recommendations?
I love that situation. Try making fried rice if you have rice, some vegetables, a protein like canned chicken or tofu, and a dash of soy sauce. Soups can also be very forgiving; use those canned beans and any vegetables that might be a little wilted in your refrigerator. Or, dice up any vegetables you have on hand, give them a good roast in the oven, and top them with two eggs any way you like them.
Are there any resources you'd recommend for maintaining good health during this time?
In addition to supporting your immune system with a healthy diet, practice self-care through the many factors supported by research that will contribute to good immunity, such as regular exercise, time in nature and staying connected to your social circles.
Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.