By Amber Charles, MSPH, RDN
May 4, 2021
Lockdowns and rollbacks on lifted restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic is a common measure to control rising cases, and to reduce community spread of the virus.
This week, it is no different here in Trinidad and Tobago.
With employment and financial stability an increasing issue for many, nutrition often gets placed on the back burner.
However, a nutritious diet supports a healthy immune system and plays a role in how well you prevent, fight and recover from infections (1).
Nutrition also plays a key role in the management of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer - common co-morbidities associated with the coronavirus (1).
Here are 5 ways you can maintain budget-friendly nutritious eating during a lockdown.
Largely plant-based: save money for better health
"Largely plant-based" is a flexible approach to eating where most of your foods come from plant sources, but may also include meat, poultry and fish.
Therefore, "plant-based" is not the same thing as "vegan" - where no animal products are consumed or included in the person's lifestyle.
In addition to these numerous health benefits, plant-based nutrition is more budget-friendly and affordable compared to eating meat daily.
Peas & Beans - the core of a healthy diet
Whether or not you go plant-based, peas and beans, also called legumes, are the most budget-friendly, nutrient-dense foods you can stock up during a lockdown.
They're also loaded with fiber, folate (the naturally-occurring form of folic acid), iron and are low in fat.
You may choose dried beans, canned beans or a combination of both. If purchasing canned beans, choose low-sodium options or drain and rinse the beans before use.
Aim to eat beans at least three to four times per week - everyday if you can.
How to use them:
Soup: split peas soup, black bean soup, 3-peas dhal
Stew: stewed lentil and black-eye peas, stew kidney beans
Hummus: use as a dip for chips, carrots or celery, or to top salads
Salad: chickpea salad
Tacos: black bean
Whole grains are the preferred choice of grains in your diet. These include foods such as oatmeal, whole wheat flour, farro, buckwheat and quinoa, for example.
Make sure that the first ingredient on whole grain bread says, "whole wheat" or "whole grain". Some brown breads are just that - bread with brown coloring but no whole grain ingredients and benefits.
Ground provisions are starchy vegetables that confer many of the health benefits of whole grains since they are high in complex carbohydrates, fiber and essential nutrients.
These complex carbohydrates slow digestion to make you feel full for longer, but also support good blood sugar control and regular bowel movements.
Maybe you get one serving of whole grains per day, maybe none.
If some whole grain products are out of your budget, here are some low-cost options:
Popcorn: purchase the whole kernels and pop at home for a high-fiber snack. If buying microwaveable popcorn, opt for lite and low-sodium.
Corn: corn is a whole grain, starchy vegetable - purchase fresh or canned. Boil, add to salads or roast corn to your delight.
Flour: if you have the time to spare, you can purchase whole wheat flour to bake at home. Save money and gain control over what goes into your products.
Combine them: rice and beans
If this is all you can access, rice and beans are a nutritionally complete and balanced meal - don't let anyone tell you otherwise (#theculturaldietitian).
Of the 20 known amino acids, 9 of these are essential, which means that they must be obtained from your foods.
When combined, the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) found in rice and beans complement each other and provide you with these 9 essential amino acids.
Although whole grains are more nutritious, if you only have access to refined products such as white rice and white flour, use what you have (#guiltfree).
Canned and frozen foods fit a healthy lifestyle
These processed foods have a longer shelf life, can reduce food wastage, and they're just as nutritious as fresh foods.
Canned tuna and mackerel may contain high levels of mercury and pose risks for pregnant women, so be cautious of the amounts consumed.
Stock up on canned or frozen fish, beans and vegetables - just be sure to choose low-sodium varieties.
Alternatively, you may purchase fresh foods, prepare them at home and store them from fresh or after you've cooked them for quick and easy reheating later on.
If you're going into quarantine, check out this article.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ... WHO says maintaining a healthy diet plays a crucial role in how well people recover from covid-19.
Resources in Trinidad and Tobago
If you, or someone you know, has difficulty acquiring foods during this lockdown/pandemic, here are some local resources that may aid in filling this gap:
Food Support Programme is a short-term food assistance programme provided by the Ministry of Social Development and Family Affairs.
Food Bank TT is a project of the No One Left Hungry Foundation, an NGO in Trinidad and Tobago that is addressing rising household hunger on the twin isle
Living Water Community is a faith-based organization
If there are other resources that may be beneficial to someone in need, please leave the information in a comment.
This information is intended for nutrition education purposes only. Always consult with your medical team and Registered Dietitian on a one-on-one basis to determine what is best for you and your health goals.
6: Black Beans, Fiber, and Antioxidant Capacity Pilot Study: Examination of Whole Foods vs. Functional Components on Postprandial Metabolic, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation in Adults with Metabolic Syndrome - PubMed (nih.gov)