Make a plan – take only what you need

Panic buying behavior may have negative consequences, such as an increase in food prices, overconsumption of food and an unequal distribution of products. It is therefore important to consider your own needs, as well as those of others. Assess what you already have at home and plan your intake.

Be strategic about the use of ingredients – prioritize fresh products

Use fresh ingredients and those that have a shorter shelf life first. If fresh products, especially fruits, vegetables and reduced-fat dairy products continue to be available, prioritize these over non-perishables. Frozen fruits and vegetables can also conveniently be used over longer periods of time and often have a similar nutrient profile to fresh foods.

Prepare home-cooked meals

Spending longer periods of time at home may now offer the possibility to make those recipes you previously did not have time to make. Many healthy and delicious recipes can be found online. Take advantage of the wealth of freely available information, and experiment with the ingredients you can access, but remember to keep in mind the principles for healthy eating offered in this guidance.

Take advantage of food delivery options

Although home-cooked meals should be prioritized, some cities have rather advanced delivery systems for ingredients and ready meals, and many businesses are now starting to offer some solutions include “contact-less” options, where no human interaction is required, thus supporting self-quarantine and isolation measures. They have to follow strict food hygiene requirements. For food delivery and transportation, it is important to keep food at safe temperatures (below 5 °C or above 60 °C).

Be aware of portion sizes

Being at home for extended periods, especially without company or with limited activities can also lead to overeating. Seek guidance through the food-based dietary guidelines on what constitutes healthy portions for adults and be mindful that young children will need smaller portions.

Follow safe food handling practices

Good food hygiene can prevent many common foodborne diseases and includes:

  1. keep your hands, kitchen and utensils clean
  2. separate raw and cooked food, especially raw meat and fresh produce
  3. cook your food thoroughly
  4. keep your food at safe temperatures, either below 5 °C or above 60 °C
  5. use safe water and raw material.

Follow safe food handling practices

Choose foods with reduced or no added salt and consider rinsing canned foods such as vegetables and beans, to remove some of the excess sodium. Be aware that pickled foods often contain high levels of sodium too. Usually, 50–75% of the salt intake comes from the foods we eat, rather than what we add ourselves. Use fresh or dried herbs and spices for added flavor instead.

If you crave something sweet, fresh fruit should always be the priority. Frozen fruits, canned fruits in juice rather than syrup, and dried fruits with no added sugar are also good options. When other dessert options are chosen, ensure that they are low in sugar and fat and consume small portions. Don’t use added sugar and avoid sweetening your beverages.

For cooking use less or no fat, such as steaming, grilling or sautéing instead of frying foods. If needed, use small amounts of unsaturated oils like rapeseed, olive or sunflower oil to cook foods. Prefer unsaturated fats, such as fish and nuts. Reduce foods such as red and fatty meats, butter and full-fat dairy products, palm oil, coconut oil, solid shortening and lard. Use minimally processed foods and ingredients.

Consume enough fiber

Fiber contributes to a healthy digestive system and offers a prolonged feeling of fullness, which helps prevent overeating. To ensure an adequate fiber intake, aim to include vegetables, fruit, pulses and wholegrain foods in all meals. Wholegrains foods include oats, brown pasta and rice, quinoa and whole-wheat bread and wraps, rather than refined grain foods such as white pasta and rice, and white bread.

Stay hydrated

Good hydration is crucial for optimal health. Whenever available and safe for consumption, tap water is the healthiest and cheapest drink. To enhance its taste, fresh or frozen fruits like berries or slices of citrus fruits may be added, as well as cucumber or herbs such as mint, lavender or rosemary.

Avoid drinking large amounts of strong coffee, strong tea, and especially caffeinated soft drinks and energy drinks. These may lead to dehydration and can negatively impact your sleeping patterns.

Avoid alcohol or at least reduce your alcohol consumption

Alcohol is not only a mind-altering and dependence-producing substance, harmful at any level consumed, but it also weakens the immune system. Thus, alcohol use and especially heavy use undermines your body’s ability to cope with infectious disease, including COVID-19.

It is recommended that alcohol in general be avoided, but especially when in self-quarantine.

Enjoy family meals

The social distancing associated with the COVID-19 outbreak has meant that many families are spending more time at home, which provides new opportunities to share meals together. Family meals are an important opportunity for parents to be role models for healthy eating, and for strengthening family relationships. Involve children in cooking healthy foods, which can help them acquire important life skills that they can carry into adulthood.

List of “Best food buys”

  • Long-lasting fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits like: citrus (oranges, clementines, grapefruit), bananas, apples; root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and beets, or cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower; garlic, ginger and onions etc.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Dried and canned pulses (beans, chickpeas, lentils)
  • Whole grains (rice, pasta, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, etc.) and starchy roots (potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava)
  • Dried fruits, nuts and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Canned fish
  • Reduced- fat, shelf- stable milk

Source: World Health Organization Food and nutrition tips during self- quarantine, 2020