Eating Healthy During a Pandemic or Other Emergency (Part 2)


In the second part of our two part series on eating healthy during a pandemic or other emergency, Palomar Health Registered Dietician Janice Baker expands her list of healthy foods that are shelf stable and great for emergency preparedness.

In part one, Baker shared that fad diets have unfairly targeted carbohydrates and pasta as unhealthy. She said carbs fuel our brain and supply necessary vitamins and minerals. She said “the poison is in the dose,” or more specifically the amount of the dose.

Quinoa is a whole grain, fiber-rich source of carbohydrates that’s also high in protein. It’s especially effective at fighting gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, Baker said. You can use it cold in salads, hot as a side dish and even as a breakfast food. If you have a problem with carbohydrates spiking your blood sugar levels, she suggests eating them at the end of the meal as studies show that’s when the spike is lowest.

Another good source of fiber is oatmeal, which can be eaten as a cereal for breakfast or used in baking products like cookies. Some even use oatmeal as a side dish, in a chicken broth. Oats are inexpensive, readily available and nutritious, Baker said. Bran cereals are also great sources of fiber. If you are trying to increase your fiber intake, Baker counsels you to do it in incremental doses and increase your water intake to stay hydrated.

Canned foods also make great healthy, shelf-stable foods. Canned mushrooms last much longer than fresh mushrooms and can be used in quiches and soups and other recipes such as pizza. Canned corn is high in amino acids and vitamin A, is high in fiber and can be added to salads and soups. Canned pumpkin is high in beta carotene, is a great anti-oxidant, can be stirred into yogurt and makes a great soup or dessert. Pumpkin isn’t just for Halloween anymore. Canned evaporated milk is an old-fashioned product that Baker says has many modern day uses. It stores for a long time without refrigeration and can be used as a replacement for cow’s milk. It’s high in vitamin D, calcium and high-quality protein.

Nuts are great nutrition, shelf-stable, add variety to foods and cooking, make great snacks, have heart healthy fats and are good sources of protein and fiber. Baker recommends having nuts for dessert along with chocolate and fruit. Dried fruits are also great such as raisins, apricots and plums. Baker cautions portion control with dried fruits as they are more highly concentrated with sugars than their fresh fruit counterpart.

Flavored oils can really make a difference in the taste and enjoyment of foods, Baker said. “A little goes a long way.”

Oils do have fats but Baker said healthful fats in oils are necessary to make us feel full and adds to food enjoyment.

Finally Baker recommends maintaining a supply of protein drinks, protein bars and granola bars if you need something quick to nourish your body.

Whether it’s food storage or your normal eating pattern, Baker emphasizes you need to keep treats on hand at all times. “Nutrition is about delightful, enjoyable eating,” Baker said. “If you are eating food just because they are high protein, low fat and you’re miserable, that is not nutrition.”

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