Written by Sharon Charles BSc Nutrition (Candidate)
Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD
Dietitian note: Sharon was going to write this post on our 2020 Nutrition month theme. She pivoted beautifully and changed her theme, to help us all find silver linings in this time of uncertainty. Well-done, Sharon. To everyone- stay well, be safe and enjoy cooking and eating at home, during this time. Andrea
The global pandemic that is COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a very scary time for all of us. Panic buying, shortages on food and toilet paper, all prove that this is an extremely stressful time for all of us. Staying glued to the tv to keep yourself updated on the news may be necessary but can be equally as draining when this is the only thing running through your mind all day. That is why this nutrition month in particular is the best time to connect with cooking because it is more than just about food #morethanfood !
With social distancing in effect, this means that people will be at home with a lot more time on their hands. During this stressful time, one of the best ways to cope and use your time productively is to get cooking! There is something quite magical about cooking and making foods from scratch. Cooking is an important skill to stay healthy, incorporate a lot of fresh foods into your diet, and know about all the ingredients you are consuming. Get in the kitchen and get cooking!
Cook with Family and Friends
When at home, try to cook as a family. These moments where everyone is at home might be rare for some of us and should be cherished all the more. Now is the time to get everyone in the kitchen and make wonderful memories either making a traditional family recipe or making something new and exciting. Ask family members to find recipes with ingredients on hand and agree on a time to get cooking. This will keep everyone looking forward to the delicious food to be made and enables everyone to enjoy the experience of cooking. Children, teens, or young adults who may not have as much experience with cooking can get the supervision and help, they need while learning the valuable life skill of cooking. Adults can help teens or young adults who feel overwhelmed with cooking by giving them small parts of a recipe to work on to build their confidence and slowly introduce them to cooking (ex. giving them a carrot to dice, or showing them how to use the oven).
Cooking with kids:
Being at home from school can be a shock for both parents and kids alike, and cooking is a great activity to keep kids active and interested. It is a good idea to keep a routine with your kids so that the transition when going back to school is not as difficult, and that there is structure throughout the days. Being confined to staying at home can be especially challenging for families with young children, who have lots of energy. Keep the children entertained and busy by letting them watch you cook, or if they are able to help, give them very easy things to do.
At a time when grocery store shelves are wiped out and ingredients may be scarce, it is important to keep yourself interested and excited about cooking. When children are able to participate in the cooking process, they will become more interested and more likely to try something especially if they directly took part in it. Especially at a time when their favorite foods may not be in stock at the grocery store, giving them the opportunity to be involved in the cooking process may help them be more appreciative and curious to the food available.
Cooking to connect!
With all this free time, why not look to cooking as a way to unwind and de-stress. Amidst this crazy time, cooking is an experience that helps you be really present in the moment. It is a time to connect with family, friends, deepen bonds, connect with your culture, and be in tune with yourself. With people at home, make the time to eat as a family or if living alone, facetime/video call friends or family to eat/cook together – a perfect way to maintain social distancing!
New to cooking?
Back when I learned how to cook, I would get very frustrated and discouraged. In part, being a teen when I first set foot in the kitchen eager to learn meant that I was incredibly impatient! Fortunately, times have changed for the better. This means that if you are new to cooking, do not lose hope! Cooking is a skill, and like any other skill it takes a lot of patience, time and perseverance to become proficient. Sometimes you will fail and sometimes you will get it right. Even the most seasoned chefs began somewhere! Keep on cooking!
If you are new to cooking, here are some tips to get started:
- Call up a family member or friend for tips! Ask them for recipes, how to use utensils, etc.
- YouTube is your friend! Watching someone else cook from scratch not only is inspiring, but can also be a great way to pick up on subtle techniques the food handler is demonstrating. It also shows you the entire process of cooking from start to finish.
- Browse cookbooks and Pinterest! Write down recipes to try from the internet, or book mark the recipes from cookbooks you want to try.
- Most importantly – don’t give up!
With grocery store shelves being nearly wiped out, it is time to get creative! Work with whatever you have on hand. If a recipe calls for something you do not have on hand, do not worry! Instead, take it as an opportunity to substitute it with something similar, or add something else that you think you would enjoy!
Also, if there was ever a recipe that was too time-consuming or tedious to do, now is the time to try that recipe out! With the extra time some of us find that we have, it is nice to step away from work or from feeling bored by diving into a hands-on recipe. Ever wanted to make pasta from scratch? How about a fresh loaf of bread? Get creative!
This is also a great time to meal plan as it allows you to work with what you have on hand while minimizing food waste and encouraging variety in your diet. Keep a meal plan on the fridge or in an easily visible area so that family members can also contribute to meal ideas and be involved in the process. As always, any leftovers should be promptly refrigerated and be consumed within three days.
During this global pandemic, it is important to follow all public health safety measures such as washing your hands, refraining from touching your face, and eating healthy. With the end of March in sight, this year’s nutrition month will be one to never forget! We must take the time to thank our nurses, physicians, social workers, dietitians, pharmacists, and hospital staff. Just as importantly, we must also be thankful for those who are keeping society running smoothly: garbagemen, grocery store workers, warehouse staff, transit operators, news staff, gas station workers, local businesses, the post office, those making deliveries to our porches and mailboxes … and the list goes on! The truth is we can make it out of this global health crisis if we stick together, if we follow all public health measures, look to reliable sources of information and don’t give up hope. The health of each individual in our communities depends on each other. Stay strong and healthy!