No matter where you live, the coronavirus, or COVID-19, is becoming more of an immediate reality by day. First detected in Wuhan, China in December, the virus has spread at a rapid pace—and has affected more than 101,500 people worldwide, including more than 200 in the U.S.
It’s understandable to be concerned about coronavirus; it’s new and unfamiliar—and there’s currently no vaccine to prevent it. Infectious disease physician at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, Amesh Adalja, M.D., predicts COVID-19’s spread will be similar to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic.
Like other viruses, COVID-19 spreads from person to person by way of breathing in infected droplets of the virus or touching surfaces with the infected droplets and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose, explains The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, R.D.N. The main symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, which occur two to 14 days after exposure.
Because of coronavirus’ 14-day incubation period, two-week quarantines have already gone into effect in certain parts of the world—and here in the U.S.—where the virus has been identified. As the virus continues to spread, so may the need for vulnerable communities to stay home for extended periods of time.
Coronavirus Quarantine Essentials To Stock Up On
As the idea of being quarantined at home feels more and more possible for people across the U.S., it’s important to make sure you’re stocked up on easy-to-eat, nourishing foods and health-supporting nutrients, says Washington state-based dietitian Kristin Koskinen, R.D.N.
Here are the coronavirus quarantine essentials experts recommend stocking up on:
1. Canned Foods
“Canned beans are a great source of protein and fiber that you can use to make meatless meals or to stretch your meat when you start to run low,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., dietitian and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.
Read More: 4 Things That Can Happen If You Don’t Get Enough Protein
She also recommends loading up on canned fruit and veggies, which are just as nutritious as fresh produce because they’re canned within hours of harvesting. “Just look for fruits packed in juice instead of heavy syrup,” she says. Load up on canned veggies like tomatoes, carrots, peas, corn, green beans, asparagus, and water chestnuts.
2. Frozen Fruits And Veggies
“Frozen berries are amazing sources of polyphenols (antioxidants) and fiber,” says Harris-Pincus. “Since fresh berries spoil so quickly and they are not generally available in cans, frozen berries are a must for muffins, pancakes, smoothies, overnight oats, and more.”
Vegetables can also be bought frozen (and stored for up to a year, depending on the variety).
3. Greens Powder
In addition to canned and frozen produce, consider shopping for a green food supplement, which typically contains a blend of dried veggies, fruits, and grasses, and offers extra antioxidants and fiber. “It’s an especially good option for those who know they don’t eat enough fruits and veggies,” says The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Rebekah Blakely, R.D.N. (We recommend Organifi’s Coconut and Ashwagandha Infused Green Juice or Green Vibrance’s Plant-Based Superfood with 25 Million Probiotics.)
4. Cold Cereal And Oatmeal
Shelf-stable oats make for a hearty breakfast (or breakfast-for-dinner). Harris-Pincus recommends opting for a canister of rolled oats and making oatmeal with your frozen berries for sweetness.
Cold cereal is another shelf-stable staple. “Stick with whole-grain varieties that are lower in sugar, like Fiber One or Barbara’s Puffins,” she says. “I usually recommend a minimum of three grams of fiber and a max of six grams of added sugars per serving.”
5. Shelf-Stable Milks And Dairy Alternatives
Since regular milk (and anything that contains it) may not last more than a week in your fridge, stock up on shelf-stable milks or nut milks. “Since they are available in quarts or single-serve containers, you can pick up several varieties to keep it interesting,” says Harris-Pincus.
Read More: What’s The Best Plant-Based Milk For You?
Eggs, meanwhile, can last for a few weeks in the fridge (and are an inexpensive source of high-quality protein). You may want to grab a carton or two of those, too.
6. Vitamin C
To support your immune system throughout a few weeks holed up at home, keep vitamin C handy, suggests Blakely. This impressive antioxidant can help boost your natural defenses. (We recommend The Vitamin Shoppe brand’s Vitamin C Soft Gels 1,000 mg.)
Since yogurt will only last so long, keeping probiotic supplements on-hand can help ensure you get your fill throughout a quarantine period. “These live microorganisms populate the gut and help maintain a good balance of the right bacteria that is important for immune health,” explains Blakely. (We recommend The Vitamin Shoppe brand’s Ultimate 10+ Probiotics.)
8. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased autoimmunity and susceptibility to infection, according to Blakely. Since our main source of vitamin D is the sun, many of us fall short during the winter time, so supplementing with 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day may help support healthy levels when you’re stuck inside around the clock. (We recommend Nordic Naturals’ Vitamin D3.)
Also known as sambucus or black elderberry, this plant has been used to support immune health for generations. “Elderberries are naturally high in the antioxidants vitamin C, flavonols, and anthocyanins,” says Blakely. It’s another power immune-booster worth loading up on. (We recommend Nature’s Way Sambucus Gummies.)
Another (often overlooked) immune-boosting nutrient is zinc. If your daily multivitamin doesn’t provide at least 100% of the daily value, Blakely suggests adding a zinc supplement to your routine in times of immune susceptibility. (We recommend MegaFood’s Whole Food Zinc.)
11. Protein Powder
If your freezer is already stuffed with bags of fruits and veggies, a quality protein powder is a convenient, shelf-stable way to keep your muscles (and other tissues) healthy and strong throughout an extended stint at home. Stock up on a tub and mix it with plain water—just in case your milk spoils or you run out of your plant-based alternative. (We recommend BodyTech’s WheyTech Pro 24 in Rich Chocolate.)
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