As countries are taking stronger measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, self-quarantine and the temporary closing of businesses may affect normal food-related practices. Healthy individuals, as well as those showing acute respiratory disease symptoms, are being requested to stay at home. In some countries, restaurants and take-away offers are being limited and some fresh items are becoming less available.
Good nutrition is crucial for health, particularly in times when the immune system might need to fight back. Limited access to fresh foods may compromise opportunities to continue eating a healthy and varied diet. It can also potentially lead to an increased consumption of highly processed foods, which tend to be high in fats, sugars and salt. Nonetheless, even with few and limited ingredients, one can continue eating a diet that supports good health.
For optimal health, it is also important to remain physically active. To support healthy individuals in staying physically active while at home, WHO/Europe has developed specific guidance for periods of quarantine, including tips and examples of home-based exercises.
“Best food buys”
The following is an overview of foods with high nutritional value which are generally affordable, accessible and have a longer shelf life. You may use this list as inspiration for what to keep at home during self-quarantine or longer home stays.
Long-lasting fresh fruits and vegetables
WHO recommends consuming a minimum of 400 g (i.e. 5 portions) of fruits and vegetables per day. Citrus fruits like oranges, clementines and grapefruit are good options, as well as bananas and apples, which can also be cut into smaller pieces and frozen for later consumption or to add to smoothies. Root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and beets, as well as vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are relatively nonperishable. Garlic, ginger and onions are also great options to keep at home, as they can be used to add flavour to a variety of meals.
Although fresh or frozen vegetables are normally the preferred option, canned vegetables such as mushrooms, spinach, peas, tomatoes and green beans are good alternatives with a longer shelf life, to ensure a sufficient intake of vegetables. Remember to choose, when possible, options with low or no added salt.