Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
March is National Nutrition Month and, amid the concern of coronavirus 2019, or COVID-19, there are a few ways to maintain healthy eating habits as families prepare to spend more time at home.
“Focus on all of the food groups — fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein — and include healthy fat in your diet and plant fats including mono- and polyunsaturated fats — nuts, olives, seeds, nut-butters, avocados and vegetable oils,” said Marcy Sedwick, Munson Army Health Center registered and licensed dietitian. “Try to buy foods with longer shelf lives or food that can be prepared and stored.”
Though fresh fruit and vegetables are the best way to start, they don’t have as long of a shelf life, but there are ways to lengthen their shelf-life or preserve them.
“Place (fresh food) in the refrigerator or freezer. Berries should be rinsed and dried prior to freezing and peel bananas before freezing,” said Capt. Melissa Shaffer, MAHC registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist. “Frozen and low-sodium canned, or jarred food is a wonderful alternative to fresh produce. Try creative ways to incorporate the produce you have into your recipes to avoid food waste.
“A healthy soup with a broth base can accommodate just about any vegetables you need to use,” she said. “Soup can be refrigerated or frozen for later use.”
When preparing meals, practicing healthy habits is important, too.
“Wash your hands for 20 seconds before handling food and between handling raw and uncooked food, and use different boards and knives for raw and cooked foods,” Shaffer said. “This is a great time to cook at home, practice and learn cooking skills.”
For more safety tips, visit www.foodsafety.gov. For recipes, visit www.choosemyplate.gov and click on “My Plate Kitchen.” To learn how to increase fruits and vegetables in the recipes, visit www.fruitsandveggies.org.
While the concern of becoming ill with COVID-19 is high, maintaining a healthy immune system is important no matter what the illness, and Sedwick said there are several options to help.
“Vitamin C foods are protective antioxidants that help prevent or slow damage to cells, help with wound healing and increase iron absorption,” Sedwick said.
Foods rich in vitamin C include oranges, kiwi, mango, strawberries, melons, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage and more, Sedwick said. Sweet potatoes and carrots are sources of Vitamin A, beans and eggs are good sources of zinc, and whole grains, including oatmeal and brown rice, are all foods that help strengthen the immune system.
No matter what the situation, practicing healthy habits is always beneficial.
“Eating healthy helps aid your immune system to fight infections, promotes good overall health, and keeps your strength and energy levels up,” Sedwick said. “Focus on continuing your healthy lifestyles, aim for good hydration and healthy meals, include some exercise, get your sleep and take care of your emotional well-being.”