The 411 on Eating Well While Remaining "Safer at Home"
Author: Katherine McCune, RD, MA | SHC Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist
What Pepperdine Students Are Saying
Thirteen weeks ago, this is what a typical "lockdown" menu looked like – most often eaten while streaming movies or attending online classes:
- Bowls of ice cream
- Lots of popcorn
- Chips, chips, and more chips
- Veggies/fruit here and there
As a dietitian-nutritionist who has been providing nutrition education and counseling to Pepperdine students for years, I was not surprised to hear this. I can relate. Our bodies want these types of foods because they are comforting, and the current situation makes us go into fight or flight mode, which causes our bodies to require more calories to cope. In a way, this comfort diet helps us better manage stress. If I tried to satisfy an ice cream craving with celery sticks and hummus, it would not likely have the same comforting effect, and I would end up going overboard with other foods later on to fill the gap.
Over the past one and a half months, I have seen some changes in food choices and the way students acquire food. This is because we are a bit less anxious since we have experienced three months of a very different way of life.
Within the last several weeks, California has begun to loosen up restrictions on dining. Students I have interviewed still eat at least 75% of their meals at home. Some of their meals are picked up or delivered.
Recently, I asked students what they are eating now. Here is what they had to say:
- Frozen or fresh fruit – mostly bananas, berries, citrus, and avocado
- Frozen mixed vegetables
- Oatmeal, small trail mix packets (Trader Joe's), peanut and almond butter, crackers, granola bars, cheese sticks, boxes of macaroni and cheese, cottage cheese, sweet potatoes, and Top Ramen
- Turkey slices, canned tuna, and quinoa
- Ice cream, popcorn (lots of popcorn!), homemade chocolate chip cookies, and milk or milk alternatives, like or soy or almond
- Ice cream or frozen yogurt
- Favorite meals from local restaurants
Go-To Items Shopping List
Most items are student-preferred, but I added a few to the list.
- Frozen or fresh fruit like berries, bananas, and mangos
- Fresh or frozen broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes
- Fresh Spinach or lettuce
- Oatmeal, Cheerios
- Breads, whole grain, GF, crackers
- Pasta, quinoa, rice, lentils, beans, garbanzo beans
- Frozen pizza with some veggies on it like Trader Joe's roasted veggie pizza
- Cheese sticks, cottage cheese, yogurt
- Milk or milk alternatives
- Bars: granola bars, nut bars, etc. (limit to once a day)
- Canned tuna or salmon, chicken, and other meat
- Nut butters: peanut, almond, cashew
- Hummus – all types
Simple Ideas for Eating Fruits and Veggies
Mix a Smoothie
- Frozen banana, peanut butter, yogurt, and spinach
- Frozen pineapple, banana, spinach, and yogurt
- Frozen peaches, mango, yogurt, and chia seeds
Make Veggie-Packed Muffin Tin Omelets
You can make these in advance and freeze them. Use leftover veggies you have on hand. Try this simple recipe.
Prep Fruits and Veggies in Advance
- Chopped strawberries are an easy topping for yogurt, oatmeal, or ice cream
- Orange wedges
- Wash, peel, and chop veggies in advance like broccoli or cauliflower
- Wash and pull grapes from stems – freeze for a refreshing, icy treat
As the country makes plans to open back up, I am hopeful. We are all in this together and figuring it out as time goes on. The huge shift caused by COVID-19 happened in a matter of days and will have a lasting impact across the world, in our homes, on-campus, and on our plates. We will not be eating alone and taking anxiety-ridden trips to the grocery store forever, though. One day, we will once again be sharing meals together – in person – and appreciating that gift like never before.