Choose fresh ingredients and prepare meals that can be frozen so they last longer. Pic: Supplied
Choose fresh ingredients and prepare meals that can be frozen so they last longer. Pic: Supplied

How to shop smart and stay healthy during COVID-19

By Partnered Content Time of article published May 11, 2020

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Now more than ever, every South African needs to do their part to make sure we keep ourselves and each other safe and healthy. Don’t buy the whole store. Here’s how you can choose healthy food that will keep, and store it correctly to avoid waste.

Discovery Vitality dietitian Terry Harris shares advice on how to shop smart, buy healthy food that lasts longer, and store food correctly.

Buy only what you need

“While it’s important to plan ahead and think what food you will need in the next few weeks, buying more than you need can mean others will be left without,” Terry explains. “It can also lead to unnecessary food waste. We need to be considerate and responsible with how we shop.”

Buy a mix of fresh, frozen, dried and canned foods to add variety. Do NOT empty the shelf of certain items. You’ll be depriving someone else of food and you’ll end up losing most of it if there’s load-shedding.

Buy a variety of different foods within the same food group. For example, buy various types of wholegrains (such as brown rice, bulgur wheat, barley, quinoa, wholewheat pasta, oats, popcorn kernels) instead of buying plenty of the same item.

Choose fresh ingredients if these are available and prepare meals such as stews or soups that can be frozen so they last longer.

How to choose healthy food that lasts longer

Choose a variety of food within the five food groups for a healthy, balanced diet. The following are all types of food that will last longer than others:

Dairy

Fat-free long life milk

Fat-free milk powder

Freeze fresh milk

Protein

Eggs: check the expiry date and keep in a cool place

Canned fish, for example tuna canned in brine, pilchards and sardines

Canned or dried legumes like beans, lentils and chickpeas. Remember to rinse canned legumes to remove excess salt

Freeze healthy proteins like fish and skinless chicken

Fruit and vegetables

Fresh fruit and vegetables if available. Choose a few unripe fruits that will take longer to ripen

Choose fresh produce that tends to last longer, for example apples, unripe pears, beetroot, carrots, onions and butternut

Canned tomatoes without added sugar or salt

Frozen plain fruit and unseasoned vegetables

Grow vegetables at home. Veggies that need little space and can grow quickly are: lettuce, rocket, spinach, carrots, beans and Asian greens such as pak choi

Carbohydrates

Various single dried wholegrains like oats, brown rice, wholewheat pasta, barley, popcorn kernels and quinoa

Wholegrain or wholewheat bread can be frozen

High-fibre, wholegrain cracker bread and rice cakes. These are great to use as a snack with a healthy topping

Healthy fats

Healthy oils like olive oil, avocado or canola oil

Unsalted nuts and seeds, or nut butters with no added sugar or salt

Avocados: choose a few harder ones that will take longer to ripen

If you’re unsure what to do with these ingredients, visit  Vitality at Home for some recipe ideas.

Store food correctly

“Having more food in the house can lead to more waste,” Terry says. “Store food correctly to extend its shelf life, prevent food poisoning and to save on limited fridge space.”

Here’s five ways to do just that:

- First in, first out. Check the expiry dates and use older food first.

- Refrigerate or freeze food high-risk foods like meat, poultry, fish and dairy. Fridges should be kept at 5°C or below and the freezer temperature should be at -18°C.

- Some fruit and vegetables need to be kept at room temperature such as avocados, unripe bananas, potatoes and sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic and squash -- they’re best kept separate since some of these foods naturally release ethylene gas, which can cause other fruit and vegetables to ripen or spoil more quickly.

- Remember to store raw food below cooked food to avoid contamination.

- Cool down leftovers as quickly as possible, within two hours. Freeze to last longer, or store leftovers in the fridge and eat them within two days.

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