Nutrition & Meal Planning while Social Distancing
If you’re a breastfeeding or pumping mom, and feeling overwhelmed about your nutrition during this time, you are not alone. In hunkering down for the Coronavirus, we may find ourselves straying from our healthy eating plan, maybe eating more than we usually do, and leaning towards those foods that promise comfort. Now, more than ever, is a great time to remember that healthy eating is one way to build our immune defenses. That means consuming lots of vegetables and fruits, foods high in fiber, and healthy sources of protein.
When you’re feeling stressed out, close your eyes, relax your body, take a deep breath into your belly, and consider adopting the 5 meal planning tips and tricks below to help you and your family eat healthy while social distancing and staying at home.
1. Plan ahead: pick a day and time when you can sit down with your recipes and plan out your dinner meals for one whole week, along with the groceries that you need for those meals. Consider meals that may offer extra food, which you can freeze or eat as leftovers for lunch the following day, like a big pot of vegetable soup with beans. Also consider placing meals that use perishable items earlier in the week, so you decrease the possibility of the food going bad before you use it. Ensure each stay at home meal plan includes plenty of non-starchy vegetables (like broccoli, green beans, asparagus, etc.), perhaps some fruit (like apples, pears, berries, melons, etc.), a starch high in fiber (like quinoa, beans, legumes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc.) and a lean source of protein (like skinless chicken, turkey, pork loin, fish, tofu, or tempeh).
A good technique when planning your grocery list in advance is to divide it in half. On one half put the produce that you need for your meals and on the other half put the non-produce items. Reserve a space on this list for your frozen groceries. This organization will help make your shopping more efficient. This is key right now, given the importance of getting in and out of the store quickly. If you’re in a location that no longer allows for in-person grocery shopping, this technique can help make your online shopping a bit easier, too.
Add to your grocery list anything else you might need for breakfast, lunches, and snacks. These might include milk, eggs, nuts, or fruit to snack on.
2. Be flexible: Planning ahead for meals is a great tool to help put your mind at ease and build confidence in your routine. That being said, be flexible. If an item you need for a particular recipe isn’t available, think about what you could substitute. Can you replace one vegetable with another, or use unsweetened applesauce instead of oil? Doing a search online will typically produce different offerings for substitutions or give you confidence that you can simply leave a particular item out. Another option is to add a bonus meal to your weekly menu. Carve out a unique spot on your grocery list for this meal. If a majority of what you require for a planned meal isn’t available, then you have your bonus meal to fall back upon. And if your bonus meal isn’t needed, you already have one stay at home meal planned for the following week!
3. Share your success: If you find a recipe you love, a grocery list, or grocery shopping technique that works for you, share it with your friends and loved ones. This is a great time to use social media outlets for positive stories, sharing tips and techniques that work for you and your family. We’re all adjusting to our “new normal” and it’s highly likely that people in your network, and other breastfeeding or pumping moms, are looking for these types of recommendations.
4. Try your best to eat healthy: The uncertainty and unknown that we’re all experiencing right now can lead to stress, and stress can drive us into the arms of comfort food. Comfort foods can be quite individualized, and not all of them may be unhealthy. For these purposes, I’m focusing on the comfort foods that tend to be on the unhealthy side, and include the high-fat, high sugar, high salt, and empty calorie options like chips, soda, fried foods, and boxed snacks.
Now is probably not the best time to try a new diet or eating plan, but there are some things you can do to try and manage your cravings for those less than healthy comfort foods.
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry: Whether shopping in stores or online, if there was a golden rule to grocery shopping, this might be it. When we’re hungry we tend to over-buy, especially those items that we crave which may not be super healthy. So, before you shop, make sure you feed your belly.
- Shop the outside of the grocery store: You may have heard this recommendation as well. The processed, boxed, and less than healthy items tend to be placed in the middle of the store, so if you can stick to the edges, you may avoid shopping these items. If you’re shopping online you can still use this rule by thinking about where the item would be if you were in the store.
- Practice portion control: As a dietitian, I am a realist. I know we don’t all have iron-clad will-power to avoid buying certain items, I certainly don’t all the time. Typically, what I recommend, is that if you’re craving something, go eat it when you’re craving it. Don’t sit and think about it or berate yourself for having the thought in the first place. The longer you think about it, the more likely you are to binge, so if you’re craving it, go eat it. One thing you can do is to take the comfort food that’s tempting you and divide it up into smaller portions, per what is recommended on the label, and only eat one portion. Also put the smaller portions in an inconvenient place. Put them in the top of your pantry, on a top shelf, in your basement, or another hard to reach place. And at the same time, put your healthier food items at eye level in your pantry or refrigerator. Making the less healthy foods more inconvenient to access is just one technique that can help you manage your cravings.
- Be mindful of refined sugar:With families and kids at home, many of us are baking more than usual. This is a great activity to engage your kids and keep yourself busy but be mindful of how much refined sugar you are consuming. Consuming foods that are high in refined sugar may weaken our immune systems. Do a search for refined sugar substitutes for your recipes. You may be surprised at what you find. Something like roasted sweet potatoes may be able to be used instead of sugar and will boost the nutrient content of your recipe!
- Try new recipes: While now may not be the best time to begin a new diet, or way of eating, it is a great time to give a new recipe a try. Involve your kids, or other family members, and try something new. If you’re new to eating soup, perhaps try a broth-based soup. If you don’t typically eat vegetarian, maybe try a non-meat meal. If you’re used to preparing boxed meals, perhaps try something from scratch. Check out the recipes below for some ideas. I included one for some delicious overnight oats – a great option for a breastfeeding mama!
5. Follow safety guidelines in and out of the store: We should follow CDC guidelines and any local regulations or guidelines for protecting ourselves and our families during this time. In addition, below are specific tips for grocery shopping.
- Don’t go shopping if you’re sick: use a grocery delivery service if you can. You may need to plan a week ahead as they are currently quite busy, and it may be difficult to get same day delivery in your area. Alternatively, ask a friend or neighbor if they can pick up what you need during their visit to the store and drop it off (contact-free!) at your door.
- Sanitize carts: many stores offer sanitizing wipes; consider wiping down your cart or basket before going into the store.
- Wear a mask, if required: In some areas, people required to cover their noses and mouths with masks or cloths when in stores. Stay up to date on the regulations in your area so you can be prepared.
- Sanitize your hands or use gloves: sanitize your hands before handling produce or use gloves when inside the store to handle the items that you need. Sanitize your hands after you pay and before you drive home.
- Wash your hands at home: before putting your food away, follow the CDC guidelines for washing your hands. Consider wearing gloves to put your food away.
- Wiping food packages: According to the FDA, there is no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. However, like other viruses, COVID-19 can survive on surfaces and objects. The FDA recommends following these techniques for proper food handling at home.
- Wipe down surfaces: It is a good idea to keep the bags you are unpacking on the floor and put the food away directly. However, it is also a good idea to ensure your food preparation surfaces are cleaned and sanitized, so wiping them down often is advised. If you are using reusable bags, wash them after each shopping trip. Pro tip: Let them air dry after washing to prevent a lot of shrinking!
- Wash hands and produce before use: wash your hands often during food preparation, following the CDC guidelines. Wash your produce while gently rubbing the outside surface (use a vegetable brush if you have one available), under plain running water. Do this before you cut or peel your produce. It is not advised to wash your produce with anything but plain running water as cleaning residue from the cleaning solution may remain on the produce and could potentially be consumed. Use a new paper towel or clean cloth to dry the produce before cutting or peeling. In addition, see these recommendations from the FDA on how to safely handle produce.
- Follow food safety preparation techniques: in addition to the above, ensure you properly store perishable food items, cook meat to safe temperatures, and use dedicated cutting boards for meat versus produce. Practice first in first out with your pantry and refrigerator: this means you should consume the items that have been in the refrigerator or pantry the longest – this will help to ensure perishable foods are consumed before they lose nutritional value or spoil. Additional details on food safety can be found on the FDA website.
All content found on the Lansinoh.com website, including: text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
Laura King, RDN, LDN, is a registered and licensed Dietitian Nutritionist in Maryland. She has spent the last 16 years working in healthcare and the nutrition industry, where she most recently used evidenced-based research to create innovative solutions in early life nutrition. Laura believes that breast milk represents the nutritional gold standard for infant feeding, and that supporting moms' nutrition through their breastfeeding journeys is paramount.
Warm Up Minestrone
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, slice into half-moons
- 3 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 large potato, diced
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) low sodium diced tomatoes
- ½ cup dried black lentils
- 7 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup small pasta shapes, like shells or elbows
- 5 cups shredded green cabbage or kale
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup minced fresh basil
- Ground pepper, to taste
1. Grab a large soup pot and heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until the onion starts to look golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the potato, rosemary, garlic, pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Cook for another 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes and lentils and cook for another 30 seconds.
2. Pour in all the broth and let it come to a simmer. Reduce the heat and let that go at a gentle pace until the lentils are almost cooked and the potato is tender, about 15 minutes. Next, add the salt, pasta and cabbage (if using kale, don’t add it yet) and keep the pot gently simmering until the pasta is cooked all the way, approximately 10 minutes, depending on your pasta. (If you are using kale, fold it into the pot after the pasta is cooked and let the soup simmer for 2 more minutes).
3. Add the vinegar and lemon juice, stir well, and remove from the heat. Fold in the parsley and basil and let the pot sit for a minute or two. Taste to see whatever else it might need, like more spices or herbs. Pull out the bay leaf and enjoy!
Adapted from Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook (2014).
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 ½ cups chopped kale
- 3 green onions, slices
- ½ carrot, shredded or chopped
- 1 avocado, pitted and diced
- ½ red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- ½ cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup Sweet Tahini Dressing
1. Rinse the quinoa, which can have a bitter taste if not rinsed thoroughly. Add the quinoa and the water to a pot, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until all the liquid is absorbed.
2. Lightly steam the broccoli and kale in a small amount of water until the colors are bright green.
3. Add the green onions, carrot, bell pepper, tomatoes, and chickpeas to a large mixing bowl along with the steamed kale and broccoli. Once it is cooked, add the cooked quinoa to the bowl of vegetables and stir to combine.
4. Dish out the buddha bowl, top with avocado, drizzle the tahini dressing over the top, and serve.
Sweet Tahini Dressing
- ¼ cup tahini
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1 tsp white miso paste
- ½ tsp sea salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
Adapted from The Plant Pure Nation Cookbook, (2015) by Kim Campbell.
Overnight Peanut Butter Cup oats
- ½ cup oats
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 to 2 tbsp almond butter
(can substitute peanut butter)
- 1 tbsp ground flax
- ½ tsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ½ tbsp dark chocolate chips
1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl, except the peanut butter, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
2. In the morning, stir the oats, add the peanut butter, warm up in the microwave for 30 seconds if desired, and enjoy.