Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments. 

The global pandemic COVID-19 has caused changes to a lot of things Americans are used to, including food.

Many restaurants are closed or limited to takeout only to attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Grocery stores and supermarkets may have limited supplies of canned goods and other food products.

It may be more difficult for you and your loved ones to eat healthy at this time, but it’s still possible. Follow some of these tips to keep balance in your diet.

Never Miss a Beat!

Sign up for COVID-19 Alerts from UPMC

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

What to Stock in Your Pantry During COVID-19

According to the American Society for Nutrition, many types of food can last for a week – or much longer. And many of those nonperishable items, including canned and boxed goods, can pack plenty of nutrition.

The ASN says you should think nutrition first – going for items like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.

Because of low supply and high demand, some of these items might not be available at your grocery store or supermarket right now. But the ASN says to keep an eye out for items in these categories:

  • Beans: Canned or dried beans can add texture and protein to many different dishes and can be a replacement for meat. Look for lower-sodium or no-salt-added options.
  • Bread: Items like corn tortillas, English muffins, bagels, breads, and wraps can last in your pantry or your freezer. If you’re looking to be healthy, aim for whole grains and fiber.
  • Canned/frozen fruits and vegetables: When possible, aim for lower-sodium vegetables and fruit canned in juice or water. Frozen fruits and vegetables also are options, as are dried fruits and raisins.
  • Condiments: Light salad dressings, mustards, sauces, herbs and spices, honey, and other condiments can add flavor to dishes.
  • Fish: Tuna, salmon, sardines, and other types of canned fish can add protein to a meal and last in your pantry.
  • Grains: Cereal, instant oatmeal, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, and more all are examples of long-lasting, high-grain options.
  • Juice: Aim for 100 percent juice or lower-sugar options. There are refrigerated, frozen, canned, or boxed options.
  • Nuts: High in protein and low in saturated fats, nuts and other types of seeds can be used as a snack or be added to other dishes. Nut butters have the same benefits and can be used for sandwiches, as a dip, and more.
  • Sauces: Pasta sauce and sodium both can last in your pantry, with heart-smart options available.
  • Soups and broths: There are many different varieties, including canned, frozen, or boxed, many with lower-sodium options.

Eating Fresh Foods During COVID-19

Fresh foods may not have the same shelf life – literally – as nonperishable items. But some types of produce can last longer than others and can even be frozen. The same goes for meat and other fresh food you can find in the store.

Cheese: It can come in many varieties – sliced, cubed, shredded, and more – and can last for weeks in your refrigerator. Cheese carries key nutrients like calcium, protein, vitamin A, and vitamin B12.

Eggs: Eggs are a good source of protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Cartons of fresh eggs should carry an expiration date to let you know how long they can last. You also can buy cartons of egg whites, which can last months while refrigerated.

Fruit: Look for fresh fruit with a longer life, including apples and citrus.

Meat and seafood: Many types of meat and seafood can last for months in the freezer if you don’t plan to eat them right away. To keep healthy, look for lean proteins like poultry and seafood, or lean ground meat.

Vegetables: Beets, broccoli, cabbage, celery, onions, potatoes, pumpkin, and squash all can last for weeks – or even months.

How to Shop During COVID-19

With concerns over large crowds, cleanliness, and food availability, you may have concerns about shopping for food during COVID-19. Here are some tips you can follow.

  • Go early: Many stores are closing earlier at night in order to restock for the next day. Visiting soon after it opens makes it more likely you’ll find food you’re looking for.
  • Make one trip: Try to get everything you need in one trip to the store. Don’t make multiple trips during the week.
  • Stay sanitary: Bring disinfectant wipes with you or use ones the store provides. Wipe off the handle of your shopping cart and anywhere else you might touch before using it. Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean.
  • Wash off your foods: There is no current evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through consuming food or through food packaging. However, it doesn’t hurt to clean foods or packaging if you are concerned. When you return home from the store, clean fresh produce with water and dish soap. If you’re worried about your food containers, you can wipe those down with disinfectant wipes. Wash your hands and wipe down your counters after putting food away.
  • Use online resources: If you are worried about visiting the supermarket, you can consider a grocery delivery or pickup service. This may be especially important for people in high-risk groups, including older adults and people with underlying health conditions.
Making Health and Nutrition a Priority During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic. American Society for Nutrition. How to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus When Grocery Shopping. Consumer Reports. Dairy Council of California. Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Chart. Food and Drug Administration. 7 Vegetables That Stay Fresh for Months. Time.

About UPMC Nutrition Services

Nutrition is vital for maintaining your overall health. UPMC Nutrition Services offers comprehensive diet and nutrition counseling on a variety of topics, including eating disorders, weight management, and heart disease. Our team provides medical nutrition therapy for chronic conditions such as celiac disease, cancer, and diabetes. UPMC’s network of registered dietitians is available to help guide all patients toward a healthier life.