How to Grocery Shop During COVID-19, According to a Pediatric Nutritionist

If you’re the mother of babies or young children, the COVID-19 pandemic has likely caused you to feel all the feels: stress and anxiety, fear of the unknown, and perhaps even a glimmer of happiness that through all of the craziness, this unprecedented time has made time slow down just a little bit and has caused your family to cling even closer together. 

 

As a pediatric Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, my daily life has been turned upside down too. I’ve now been stripped from my patients in clinic, forced to see them from a virtual platform where the element of personal touch is removed, and I’ve had to face a lot of frightened mothers who wonder ‘how in the heck’ they’re going to feed their babies during a time of quarantine and food shortage. My hope as a nutrition professional is that this blog post will not only dispel the myths you may have read swirling around social media these past few weeks, but also offer you practical tips for making the most of short and necessary trips to the grocery store. 

 

Shopping Tips

 

  • Have a Plan
    • Consider taking time to plan staple meals you know the entire family will enjoy. Some dishes can be parlayed into many other meals: for example iron-rich taco meat can be served in a tortilla shell, over a salad, or made into breakfast burritos that can be frozen for later. 
  • Write a List
    • If you’re like me, you’re wanting to limit exposure to crowds as much as you can right now, and this is not the time to be letting key grocery items slip your mind. Keeping a list is a surefire way to help keep you focused. To save even more time, write items down in the order of your grocery store layout. For example, clump all the dairy items together in one section on your list, all the produce, all the canned goods, etc.

 

  • Before You Go 
    • Before heading out to the store, consider throwing a small bottle of hand sanitizer or bag of Clorox wipes into your purse. Many of the grocery stores have changed protocols where staff are sanitizing each cart before passing out to customers, but in case this doesn’t happen you’ll at least know you’re prepared to touch a clean cart with bare hands.

 

Staple Foods

Quarantine is not a time to let the nagging voice of diet culture direct your every move. It’s okay that your usual dietary routine is thrown out of whack, and know that this too, shall pass. The time sheltered inside, however, shouldn’t be an excuse to let loose with eating all the junk food. Serving meals with all five food groups will help keep you and your family feeling full and satisfied and will make you less inclined to mindlessly graze. 

  • Proteins: 
    • Aim for a variety of lean proteins that are either quick grab-and-go options, easily frozen, or shelf stable. Examples are: 
      • Natural, low sodium deli meats
      • Tuna packets/cans/sardines
      • Ground chicken, chicken breast, canned chicken 
      • Lean ground beef
      • Tofu
      • Nut butter jars/packets
  • Grains: 
    • For best health, aim to find 100% whole grain products or minimally processed grain products. Crackers, low sugar cereals, loaves of bread (which can be frozen), rice, quinoa, and potatoes are all good options that will last. 
  • Fruit/Veggies
    • Now is the time to keep your eye on frozen and canned fruits and veggies. Despite what you might have heard, these options are no less healthy for your family and are a fine substitute to give to baby! If you choose to use canned goods to make baby food, just look for ones canned with low sodium and skip the added syrups. 
    • Pro Tip: Ain’t nobody got time for an avocado to go brown in the blink of an eye. Spring for frozen avocado chunks found at major retailers. These are a perfect addition to smoothies, or can easily be thawed and pureed using the Beaba Babycook. 
  • Dairy
    • Most dairy products have a long life when kept in the crisper drawer of any refrigerator. Buying larger bulk bags can help your family save money and also reduce trips to the store. Good options to buy from this food group include eggs, shredded cheese, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or milk. To extend the life of your milk even more, try plant based! Many products such as almond, rice, or soy milks are packaged in Tetrapaks which can be stored at room temperature for about 8 months to 1 year when unopened. 

 

Foods You Didn’t Know Could Freeze Well 

  1. Eggs – These can be scrambled or cracked into an ice cube tray and stored in a freezer safe bag for 6 months or more. 
  2. Butter – Store in its original wrapping in a sealed container for up to 1 year!
  3. Beef/Chicken Broth – Don’t waste extra broth from crock pot soup. Pour into a freezer safe bag to store for 6 months or more. 
  4. Pita/Tortillas – Store in their original container and keep up to 8 months in the freezer.
  5. Avocados – As mentioned above, you can extend the life of an avocado dramatically by freezing. Chop into squares and keep in a freezer safe bag for up to 6 months.

 

 

Caroline Weeks, RDN, LD

 

Caroline is a clinical Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in pediatrics. She has a passion for educating families on how to provide nourishing meals from the beginning of life. She is a postpartum and infant feeding expert with a focus on baby led weaning. For evidence-based nutrition tips, follow her on Instagram @theclinicdietitian. To purchase her comprehensive Baby Led Weaning Guide as well as other resources, visit www.theclinicdietitian.com

 

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