Dietitian offers tips for eating healthy during self-quarantine

Union photo by Gretchen Teske

Fresh fruit is available at many grocery stores and recommended by a local dietitian as a great source of vitamins.
Union photo by Gretchen Teske Fresh fruit is available at many grocery stores and recommended by a local dietitian as a great source of vitamins.

Grocery store shelves are sparse due to customers buying in bulk to stock up during self-quarantine as the coronavirus has begun to spread. For those having to cook at home more than normal, a local dietitian offers tips and advice for the healthiest options.

Elise Klopfenstein, Clinical Dietitian with Henry County Health Center in Mt. Pleasant, says her first big tip to consumers is to purchase a variety of produce. While pizza rolls and hot pockets may be completely out of stock, fresh fruit and vegetables will more than likely not be. Fresh, frozen and even canned items are suggested.

“Try not to get yourself stuck in the rut of only one of those categories. You can get a lot of different things that way,” she said.

Klopfenstein said when it comes to canned fruit, she recommends people look for food in their own juice with no sugar added. For frozen fruit she recommends looking for unsweetened and adding a sweetener, like Splenda or honey, at home.

Vegetables in steamer bags are a quick way to ensure the family is getting the two cups of vegetables suggested per person per day, she said. Buying plain vegetables also opens the door for creativity in the kitchen.

“It doesn’t always have to taste the same. Now is the time for creativity,” she said, adding that she encourages people to take a look at what spices they have and try something new like Cajun seasoning on broccoli or pumpkin spice on applesauce.

While at the store, Klopfenstein encourages people to “do the math.” If buying dinner for a family of four, each person needs at least one cup of vegetables. The back of the package will say how many cups are in each.

If the package has enough for four cups, that is enough for one meal she said. With people needing at least one cup of vegetables at lunch and one at dinner, she suggests buying multiple bags and of different varieties as well.

Two servings of fruit are also recommended and whether canned or fresh, Klopfenstein the important thing is that it gets consumed.

“We still need to make sure we are buying that bright colored produce. It will be readily available so take advantage of that,” she said.

Because COVID-19 is a virus, Klopfenstein said there is not a certain food group that will do better than the others to fight it off. If one is already taking a daily vitamin, she suggests keeping that up but no new supplements are needed. However, there is one exception to that rule.

“If there is one vitamin I wold recommend more of its vitamin D,” she said.

Sunburn is not a risk factor this time of year so sitting in the window or going outside is recommended to help the body absorb vitamin D.

Sending kids to play outside can exhaust them and bring on added snack times. Klopfenstein says it’s best to find a routine and stick to it.

At school, students are used to eating breakfast, lunch, an after school snack and dinner. Planning ahead and doing the math can make this easier, she said, and will offer an opportunity for creative snack options.

“Kids eat with their eyes so make it silly,” she said.

Klopfenstein said ants on a log or making a face with vegetables is a great way to get kids interested in eating healthy alternatives. Pinterest is full of options, she said and suggests care givers look into all it has to offer.

“Kids don’t eat like adults so even if it’s two slices of cucumber, and some carrots and broccoli, together that’s a cup of veggies and that is a full snack,” she said. “It doesn’t have to look like a lot because dinner is coming after.”

Older adults in care facilities are encouraged to choose healthy options as well. Because they are state regulated, there are always healthy options available but sometimes its easier to choose a dessert, she said.

Klopfenstein recccomends choosing a piece of fruit as a sweet instead to curb the craving for dessert while still choosing a healthy option.