Five Steps to Creative Cooking During COVID-19

A young woman cooking at home.
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As the spread of coronavirus continues to disrupt our usual routines, eating choices at your house may be suffering. Whether you’re cooking for one or five, it’s still possible to enjoy healthy, satisfying meals at home without breaking the bank or needing master chef-level skills. Consider these ideas to help bring fulfilling meals into your kitchen during quarantine.

Find Healthy Options
Especially now that we’re home all day, every day during coronavirus quarantine, reaching for snacks like chips and cookies may be even harder to resist than usual. Boredom results in overeating for some, so it’s important to choose healthy options while stocking your pandemic pantry. Instead of potato chips, try hummus and whole wheat pita bread or carrots dipped in ranch dressing. Instead of unhealthy sweets like cookies, think about fresh fruit with natural peanut butter.

When you’re looking for mealtime recipes to prepare, it’s important to check for nutritious ingredients that will fill you up but not weigh you down. Simple changes, like adding unsweetened vanilla almond milk to your oatmeal, rather than brown sugar, can leave you feeling energized for the day instead of ready for naptime.

Involve the Kiddos
Your kids may need a little more entertainment at home right now, so it’s a great time to let them help with the prep work. Younger kids may enjoy helping (supervised, of course) by:

  • Mashing vegetables, such as potatoes
  • Pouring ingredients into a bowl
  • Setting the table
  • Sprinkling salt or garnishes
  • Stirring batter or dough

As your children get older, they can take on different tasks, like:

  • Forming patties
  • Grating cheese
  • Peeling fruits and veggies
  • Thread veggies onto skewers to make kabobs
  • Using a can opener or garlic press

When the whole family is involved, even the pickiest of eaters may be more willing to try something they helped create.

Make a Double Recipe
What’s easier than hitting the drive-thru? Heating up leftovers. Big batches of chili, soups and sauces are great to make in bulk and freeze for later on.

Soups can usually also be made with canned, non-perishable items that you can keep stocked in your pantry. For a dish like black bean soup, you could use just a few ingredients — like beans, garlic, onions, tomatoes and seasoning — to prepare dinner for tonight and tomorrow or freeze for later in the week.

Think Ahead
Nutrition may not be top-of-mind right now with so much going on in the world, and that’s ok, so this is where planning in advance can help you still make healthy choices.

Whether you’re feeling extra busy or extra bored these days, meal planning can help you and your family resist unhealthy take out or snacks. Set aside one day of the week, such as Sunday afternoon, to plan out meals for the days ahead. If you’re new to meal planning, start with one meal per day and build from there.

If you have a family who likes (or is at least trying) to spend dinnertime together, pick out a handful of healthy dinner recipes so you can shop and prepare at one time. This alleviates that “What’s for dinner?” stressor and helps avoid multiple trips to the grocery store.

Try Something New
Is your family getting a little tired of pasta or tacos every night? You don’t have to feel pressured to take this time to turn into the next top chef, but it may not be a bad idea to try out new recipes. Don’t be afraid to get creative and use what you have on hand.

Instead of the standard taco dish, try using lettuce wraps rather than tortilla shells. For the filling, try canned corn, red peppers, avocado slices and top with cilantro and crumbled cheese. If you have tomatoes, toss some of those in too. This fresh, yet unexpected, meal is healthy and can usually be made with things you have on hand. No avocado? That’s ok, use onion slices and other veggies instead.

Convenient, healthy and delicious meal options don’t have to be impossible. By following a few simple steps, your family might not even miss takeout.

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