Your Red Light pantry: what food to have on hand for Covid-19 self-isolation
If you and your family suddenly have to self-isolate, do you have what you need in the pantry to cover the 14-day distance?
Even if you don’t get sick, you will need to stay onsite for at least another 10 days after your family member or roommate is released with Covid-19. It is therefore worth thinking a little about how and what you are going to eat now.
We asked nutritionists to compile a home shopping list for 21 days of self-isolation, so you don’t have to rely on UberEats for every meal.
The things to store are versatile, affordable, nutritious, cooked quickly and durable.
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Registered Nutritionist Nikki Hart says we needed: a pantry and freezer stocked with alternative protein; good sources of carbohydrates (to conserve energy); and frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.
We can get protein from meat and fish, but also from inexpensive non-perishable foods like canned beans and lentils.
Plan food for sick people
“At the start of isolation, set aside food stores suitable for sick people,” writes dietitian Helen Gibbs.
“Most people who develop Covid-19 will have mild symptoms. They are likely to have a fever and lack of appetite, and food is important during this time. If during the last few days of self-isolation no one in the household is sick, then you can start eating this set aside food.
Don’t starve the fever
“If you have a fever and sweat a lot, your body is trying to replace the sodium content,” Hart said. “Vegemite on toast can be really helpful because the salt will help you want to drink more fluids, which we want to happen.”
“Put a few loaves of bread in the freezer. If you’re feeling really bad, put peanut butter on toast and at least you’ll get some whole grains and protein.
Lemonade ice packs are a winner: “They will provide glucose, they can help you cool down very quickly.”
When you feel sick, the smell of food can sometimes make you worse. Cold foods have less smell, so you are more likely to consume them. “Something like yogurt is a great source of protein, probiotics, and don’t worry dairy won’t cause phlegm,” Hart said.
Drink plenty of fluids
Encourage a sick person to drink plenty of fluids, which may include juices, syrups, soup, milk drinks, juice, tea or coffee.
“If you are not feeling well and your ability to stand or cook for a long time is impaired, you need to think of things that will be healthy and can lessen the infection. We know that broths and soups are the fastest way to get there,” Hart said.
It can be packet, canned or fresh soups, it doesn’t matter. Even powdered broths plus boiling water and a handful of frozen or fresh vegetables will do.
“Soup can help lessen the inflammatory action when you have a sore throat (a common symptom of coronavirus),” Hart said.
She also likes hot drinks with ginger, lemon and honey.
Eat little and often (or just when you feel like it).
Food for those who are well
The main issues for people who stay healthy during self-isolation are: boredom, fair sharing of food, and unavailability of usual food choices.
Remember that dry staples like pasta and rice (which are high in fiber) will keep you full longer.
Then it’s about making sure you have things to add to those meals, like canned and frozen fish, and lentils.
“Frozen foods may be more nutritious than fresh foods that have been sitting around for a few days,” Hart said.
“Eggs are an underrated protein source that’s affordable when you’re feeling sick. It’s really easy to scramble eggs or make egg fried rice (instead of animal protein).
To keep yourself from rummaging through the cupboard out of boredom, pair dry foods with fluid foods (like crackers AND fruit, or popcorn AND yogurt) to stay full.
Hart’s favorite comfort foods are chicken noodle soup and mac and cheese. Both are easy to prepare, easy to digest, “and delicious.”
“People forget that potatoes are a valuable source of vitamin C.”
At the back of his pantry are cans of baked beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and chili peppers – all of which can be tossed into rice dishes or on toast in no time.
She also likes pesto and tomato on toast, or in pasta with leftover chicken, apple crumble (for breakfast or dessert) – which is made with the same oatmeal, flour and canned apples – or a frozen berry smoothie.
Shopping list for self-isolation
This is designed for four adults over a 21 day period, written by dietitian Helen Gibbs.
Make a list of these items as they are used in the main pantry and replace them weekly when shopping.
Rice (5 kg bag)
Pasta (5kg). Spaghetti and vermicelli cook faster.
Beans (10 cans 390-410g). Ideally in spring water but brine or tomato sauce OK.
Meats (5 cans 390-410g). Canned corned beef or equivalent.
Fish (5 boxes 390-410g format). Cans in oil are more energy dense if the people you are feeding are very active.
Fruit (20 cans 390-410g). Select a variety.
Vegetables (20 cans of 390 to 410 g OR 8.2 kg of frozen vegetables). Select a variety.
Powdered milk (5kg – 110g powdered milk makes 1L when mixed with water)
Cereal (4 large cans, choose high fiber)
Flour (6kg: 3kg of high-end white flour + 3kg of wholemeal flour is ideal)
Baking powder (200g). Get double action baking powder if possible.
Oil (2L). Canola or rice bran are best.
Sugar (2kg). This may seem excessive but will be used in cooking and for hot drinks.
Tea (250 sachets). Hot drinks are good between meals and if people need to warm up.
Coffee (500g). If people don’t drink it, consider buying soup mixes, milo, or drinking chocolate.
Margarine (1kg). Choose one that is at least 70% fat. It will probably keep better than butter.
Salt (200g). It’s for taste if needed.
Peanut butter (600g). It keeps well and is a good source of energy.
Crackers/cabin bread (6 packs of 250g).
Eggs (48). If your eggs are fresh, they can be stored in a cool cupboard. Turning them every other day will improve shelf life. If your eggs are a bit older, you can coat them in petroleum jelly. Store them in a tray covered with cling film or other plastic. Vaseline eggs can last up to 3 months – do the float test before use.
Onions (5). Store in a dark, cool place. Remove any plastic packaging. Individual wrapping in paper can extend shelf life.