Intermountain Healthcare

Pandemic Highlights Benefits of Home Meals


Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/29/2020 --When quarantine is over and life returns to a new normal, it will be easier to see the benefits of the COVID-19 pandemic. One positive health benefit of quarantine may include a substantial increase in the number of people cooking at home, becoming more confident in the kitchen, and eating healthier all around.

"Quarantine is the perfect opportunity to practice and establish an at-home meal preparation routine," said Christie Benton, registered dietitian nutritionist at the Intermountain LiVe Well Center St. George, Utah. "Dietitians have always been big proponents of people doing their own cooking. Fresh, simple meals prepared at home have always been the healthiest option."

Studies have also shown that meals at home have additional benefits. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse says teens who have frequent family meals were not only are much less likely to drink, smoke, or use drugs, but also more likely to have strong emotional support systems to deal with stress and anxiety. Other studies suggest teens have better academic performance, higher self-esteem, less likelihood of developing eating disorders, and lower rates of obesity.

Eating at home also helps individuals eat healthier foods, learn potion sizes, develop cooking skills, practice socialization, and save money.

"People always use the excuse of not having enough time," said Benton. "Now there is plenty of time at home to learn this healthy habit."

Benton goes on to map out a process to help find joy in cooking during coronavirus cocooning.

Make a Plan
"Start by writing down some basic ideas for meals for the next two weeks," said Benton. "Check in your pantry, freezer, and fridge, to see what you already have. Plan around what you have, and make a list of what you may need to make it into meals."

"Also plan to cook without wasting food by planning to repurpose or eat leftovers. Let the entire family be part of the planning process – they'll be more likely to eat it if it's their idea." She says when meal planning, think about cooking more of something for one meal, and repurposing it for another. For example, plan to use part of Sunday's pot roast meat for Tuesday's beef enchiladas. Or when heating the oven to roast a chicken on Wednesday, roast two chickens and repurpose the second by shredding the meat, adding BBQ sauce, and serving it on a bun on Saturday.

Go Shopping
"Mask-up, wait in line, and practice social distancing when you head out to your favorite grocery," Benton said. "I recommend one person do the shopping because it's more efficient and safer. Be sure to bring your list and stick to it. A list will help maximize your food dollar and avoid panic and impulse food buying. Explore online shopping and pick-up as smart alternatives."

Canned fruits and vegetables are good selections, especially when shopping every 10-14 days. Frozen fruits, vegetables, and meats are also good choices to maximize food dollars. She also says to look for whole-grain breads and cereals, and not to waste money on empty calories. Avoid processed foods as they aren't as healthy, and more expensive.

Prep Meals
"Get the whole family involved in the cooking and baking process," said Benton. "Young children can wash fruits and put away groceries. Teenagers can help chop and stir. Learn to make bread as a family. Get out the slow cooker or the pressure cooker and learn how to use them again. Make some comfort foods, but also try making something new like a meatless meal or breakfast for dinner. Cooking together can be fun."

Eat Meals Together
Eat together as a family. This is a great time to talk and discuss thoughts and feelings as well as future cooking adventures. There are also great mental health benefits of sharing mealtime together. Get everyone involved in all stages from planning to clean-up and enjoy family togetherness.

Need Help with Meal Planning?
"Even though we can't meet with people face-to-face, dietitians at the LiVe Well Center are still available via virtual appointments to help with menu planning or any other dietary concerns," said Benton. The Intermountain LiVe Well page also has some great resources to Eat Well.

Benton reminded families that just because we are in quarantine, doesn't mean good nutrition is out the window. Now is the perfect time to practice and start a routine of planning and prepping healthy meals. Healthy, home cooking is a great way to keep the immune system at its best and able to fend off diseases such as COVID-19. Plus, you can develop aa healthy habit to keep long after quarantine.

About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see Intermountain Healthcare or the Intermountain Healthcare Blog.