Quarantine Nutrition: Making the Most Out of a Pandemic

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During a pandemic, you may be faced with having limited availability of foods you normally eat. To make matters more difficult, many have their jobs put on hold, or needing to save money otherwise. But regardless when putting a meal together, you can get creative using simple combinations of your basic macronutrients: carbs, fat, and protein.

For example, canned tuna, rice and olives might be a nutritious combination; and a smoothie consisting of yogurt, milk and frozen fruit can be another mini-meal. The key isn’t to be too specific about foods but make sure the eating occasion as a whole has all three macronutrients if possible. While you may not hit your usual macronutrient numbers during this time, you can still manage to eat nutritious foods.

Below are some simple recipes you can make with many more widely available ingredients, you may not see among the hoarded empty parts of the aisles, and also cost-effective during this economic rough patch.

Makeshift chili. Bring to a boil 2 (15-ounce) cans drained, no-salt-added kidney beans; 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes with chilies; 1¼ cups vegetable broth; 1 tablespoon chili powder; and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon. Then stir in three thinly sliced scallions, if desired, and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Enjoy as is, stuffed into baked potatoes, or ladled on top of spaghetti as a twist on Cincinnati chili.

Niçoise-inspired salad. If you’ve got fresh baby arugula or other greens, top them with canned tuna, quartered hard-boiled eggs, sliced black olives, fresh grape tomatoes or jarred roasted red pepper, and then dress as desired, such as with Dijon vinaigrette.

No-cook, cowboy “caviar.” For an easy side, stir together canned, drained black beans; canned and drained, or thawed from frozen, sweet corn; and pico de gallo or chunky salsa.

Easy stuffed grape leaves. You can still add culinary intrigue to meals with Mediterranean-inspired canned foods, such as canned stuffed grape leaves. Drain them well; sprinkle with lemon juice and cinnamon; and quickly heat in the microwave (on a microwave-safe plate) to enjoy warm.

Asian-inspired side dish. Cook frozen asparagus in a little toasted sesame oil, then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and a pinch of sea salt for Asian flair.

Buffalo garbanzo snackers. Like spice? Make these by tossing together 1 (15-ounce) can drained, no-salt-added garbanzo beans with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, then add 2 teaspoon each hot pepper sauce and white wine vinegar and ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Bake for 25 minutes at 425°F. Snack on right away!

These times will pass, but there’s no need to feel lost in the process!