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With the need to self-isolate due to COVID-19, most trips outside are for one essential task: grocery shopping. But with the few trips one has the chance to take, understanding how to get the proper nutrition may be necessary.

As one may be limited to what is on the shelves at the grocery store, especially after panic buyers collect more items than needed, knowing which food items are essential for a balanced diet may be a good first step to maintain proper nutrition during the week.

Allison Childress, registered dietitian and assistant professor in the Tech Nutritional Sciences department, said in addition to what nutrients one gets, the amount of nutrients also needs to be considered.

“It’s not necessarily the nutrients, it’s the amount of nutrients,” she said. “But the problem in self-isolating and quarantining is there are certain nutrients that might have the potential to be more deficient than others, specifically those that we find in fresh fruits and vegetables.”

One can alleviate this issue through buying frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, Childress said.

Frozen fruits and vegetables can be better than fresh ones, as they are frozen right after being picked, and the nutrients are preserved, Childress said. With canned foods, one needs to be careful with the amount of sodium in the food, especially in canned vegetables, so buying canned food with no salt added or less sodium is encouraged.

“So, of course you want as many non-perishable items as possible, especially when limiting trips to the grocery store,” she said. “So, things that would be shelf-stable. I think, a lot of times, we think those foods are typically heavily processed, and a lot of times, they are, but there are some good shelf-stable foods people can stock up on that are high in nutrition.”

These foods include dried beans, canned beans, frozen meats and cans of tuna or chicken, Childress said. These are foods people can start focusing on.

“Then, if somebody is really worried about their nutrition or their nutrient intake, they can always check into taking a multi-vitamin or a multi-mineral supplement,” she said.

Jenna Anding, professor and extension specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, said people need to get a variety of foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, dairy and whole grains, for a good balanced diet.

“Basically, the foods that you’re going to eat now are the foods, hopefully, you were eating before the COVID-19 virus hit,” she said.

Now is not the time to adopt a new diet, Anding said. One should maintain a sense of normalcy with meals and snacks as much as possible.

Another issue people may face while trying to self-isolate is stress eating.

Stress eating during a crisis or times of stress is very common, Anding said.

“And again, using food to, you know, kind of calm you down, calm you emotions, try to make you feel better, and that may work initially, but the stress is still there,” she said.

Putting less healthy foods out of sight and having more healthy foods around the house are some ways to help limit stress eating, Anding said.

Regardless, having to visit the grocery store during the pandemic may be a concern for people, which is why limiting the number of trips is a goal some might want to achieve.

Shannon Galyean, registered dietician nutritionist and assistant professor in the Tech Nutritional Sciences department, said people can look up different recipes to see how they can use the food and ingredients they buy.

“Again, it’s all about planning,” she said. “So, making a shopping list but also looking at recipes to see what they need to put on there to get in order to make several days worth of meals.”

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