Did you know March is the designated "Nutrition Month" by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics? This is a bit timely considering many of us are getting used to the new norm with COVID-19 and are cooking at home more vs. eating out. Right now this means we need to rethink our grocery lists and budgets to account for more mouths to feed at home. So, how do you keep everyone happy and healthy while minimizing time spent at the grocery store?
First and foremost, give yourself a break, you don't need to become a 5-star chef overnight. You just need to get back to the basics starting with stocking your pantry with quick, easy-to-fix dishes. Next, try to commit to making a few less-easy meals every week. You can make this a fun, family activity where everyone learns to cook a healthy, nutritious meal together.
Planning out a weekly menu in advance can be helpful as well as assessing your current pantry in order to save money and get through items you have literally pushed to the back shelf for some time. Using up what you already have will also prevent unnecessary trips to the grocery store so you can protect yourself during this heightened flu time.
Here are some basic food items that provide the foundation for healthy meals. Although organic is best, during high demand times it may be more difficult to find fresh organic foods. That's ok, just make sure you wash your conventional fresh foods well and switch back to organic when supply is readily available. Try to pick up a few of the foods below from every category at each time you shop and look up recipes you can make together.
- Legumes: Dried or canned beans, peas and lentils (such as black, garbanzo, kidney, white and pinto beans; green, yellow or split peas and lentils.
- Canned vegetables with no added salt (such as tomatoes, green beans and corn)
- Dried or canned fruit in 100% fruit juice
- Whole grains (such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, millet and whole-wheat pasta)
- Pouches or canned fish and chicken
- Nuts, seeds, and nut butters
- Olive, canola or other vegetable oils
- Dried herbs and spices
Let's break this down.....
Pasta and Noodles
- Brown rice noodles (typically found in the international section)
- Chickpea pasta
- Quinoa pasta
- Udon noodles
- Soba (buckwheat) noodles
- Whole grain pasta
- Whole wheat pasta
- Whole wheat lo mein noodles
- Vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and Brussels sprouts)
- Fruit (such as berries and cherries )
- Whole wheat pizza dough
- Bell peppers
- Green peas
- Leafy greens (kale, chard, collard greens)
- Sweet potatoes
- White potatoes
Fresh Herbs and Aromatics
Breads and Tortillas
- Whole-grain pita bread
- Brown rice tortillas
- Whole-wheat tortillas
- Corn tortillas
- Almond milk
- Oat milk
- Rice milk
- Soy milk
- Coconut milk beverage (high in saturated fat, use very sparingly)
Nuts and Seeds (no salt/sugar)
- Poppy seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Applesauce, unsweetened
- Brown rice syrup
- Dates (to make Date Paste) and/or date syrup
- Pure maple syrup
SLN's Take Home Message
Healthy meal planning is easier than you’d think, especially once your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry are abundantly stocked with nutritious staple food. We’ve put together this grocery list to help you get started.
You don’t need to buy every single item on this comprehensive list, just START with several items from each category and go from there. We now have recipes at our fingertips to satisfy individual cooking abilities, time requirements and diet preferences.
Now is the time to get back-to-basics and I believe this is not entirely a bad thing. What we do during this time is up to us. Making meal planning and preparation an activity for all is a great way to spend quality time with family members while learning critical life skills.