Medical experts weigh in on takeout, delivery, and quarantine eating
Whether the organic items on your shopping list are unavailable or you're limiting your grocery store runs, many staple ingredients can be used for healthy meals and last longer than you think.
Here's how to curate a quarantine pantry and refrigerator, plus advice on delivery protocol from medical experts at Memorial Hermann.
What staple ingredients should you should have?
"Maintaining a healthy diet during these trying times can be challenging," says Staci Larkin, Dietitian 2, RD, LD, M.Ed, at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital.
Look for healthier pantry staples with a longer shelf life, such as dried or canned beans; lentils; brown or wild rice; whole wheat pasta, quinoa, or other high-fiber grains; canned tomatoes or vegetables (make sure they're low or no-sodium added); soup stock; canned tuna; nut butters/plain nuts; canned fruit in juice; oatmeal; whole grain cereals; and olive oil.
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut or winter squashes, and onions can last several weeks or longer if stored in a cool, dark place.
Meat, fish, cheese, milk, and bread can all be frozen for several months. Also stock your freezer with plain vegetables and frozen fruits. Eggs are a great staple that can last several weeks in your refrigerator.
Ways to stay healthier
You might find yourself eating more processed foods than usual due to the limited grocery store selection. To balance this out, try to include vegetables and fruits with your meals and snack and eat whole grains when possible.
Choose lean proteins like chicken and fish, and opt for healthy fats like olive oil and nuts.
"Keep meal and snack times scheduled to prevent grazing all day long," advises Larkin. "Stay hydrated by drinking plain water and keep sugary beverages to a minimum."
To deliver or not to deliver
You may also be supporting local businesses through food delivery or retail shopping. Everything has its relative risk, including receiving food from the delivery person and from the restaurant.
If you're going to order in, says Dr. Reginald Nguyen, family medicine doctor with Memorial Hermann Medical Group Sugar Land Primary Care "order from locations and restaurants that you have visited and are familiar with. Avoid new or exotic foods for now, and avoid foods that are prone to upset your stomach."
As for receiving food, discard any bags, remove the items from containers, and place them on your own plates. If possible, reheat food items in the microwave or oven. Before and after eating, wash your hand thoroughly.
Can you get COVID-19 from eating contaminated food?
Coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, but if the food that has been delivered or prepared has been exposed to someone with coronavirus, there is a risk of infection.
"Because COVID-19 is a novel disease, our knowledge about it is still evolving," says Dr. Nguyen. "But in terms of coronavirus being food-borne — meaning it uses food nutrients to replicate or make pre-formed toxins — the answer to that is most likely no."
How should you handle delivery packages at your door?
Whenever a box or package arrives, open the box at the door, remove the products from the box, and bring the products into the house while leaving the empty box at the door. Then discard or recycle the box immediately.
Wipe down all products with a disinfecting wipe. Be sure to wash your hands throughout this process to lower your risk for picking up germs.
For food items, wash fruits and vegetables before placing them in clean containers and refrigerating.
Wash all clothing items before wearing them. If you do try something on before washing it, take a shower afterwards.
For all deliveries, it's safest to leave a note on your front door asking for all packages to be left at the door.
For more COVID-19 information and resources, visit memorialhermann.org/coronavirus.