A person looks in their cupboard for a meal to cook.
Living through this pandemic is kind of like being on a cooking show every day, figuring out what you can make from the ingredients on hand. {For Spectrum Health Beat)

When West Michigan residents learned of the coming shelter-in-place order, many raced out to supermarkets to stock up on an array of items. Among those, toilet paper, paper towels and sanitizer topped the list.

As a registered dietitian and a mom of three hungry little people, I focused on food when it came to my list.

Curious if other dietitians felt the same, I began to ask several of my fellow Spectrum Health dietitians their take on top nutrition during a pandemic.

Check out what they had to say about the nutritious (and delicious) items to pick up the next time you need to stock up.

Produce, produce and more produce

When it comes to maintaining a well-balanced diet, more matters when it comes to produce—and all forms count.

Cathy Monsma prioritized fresh produce with a longer shelf life.

“Carrots, onions, spinach, cabbage and potatoes for vegetables,” she said. “Apples, citrus and bananas for fruit.”

Other shelf-stable options include winter squash, sweet potatoes and onions.

Marta Johnson noted:  “I haven’t hoarded anything … but find it interesting there are always plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and fat-free milk available in the grocery store.”

If you are stocking up on fresh produce, only take what you need. This will ensure there is plenty of food available for everyone in our community. Out of the food you do bring home, use it wisely.

“It’s important to obtain a combination of fresh and frozen or canned foods,” Lindsay Schulz said. “Eat the fresh foods first and restock, not more than weekly, if needed. Save the frozen or canned items if you run out of fresh foods or are short on time.”

Stephanie Patterson is being “very sensitive to not wasting any food or components. Peels, cores, coffee grounds (and so much more) all go directly to the compost that is going to be great for my garden this spring.”

Cans get you cooking

Fresh produce may be a prized possession right now, yet canned goods are still superb.

Hilarie Dreyer opted for canned fruit over fresh.

And Cait Melamed purchased a fair amount of canned beans and dried lentils “since they’re an excellent source of fiber and protein and can easily be added to any dish. I also wanted to have canned tomatoes on hand (especially fire-roasted) since they add a lot of flavor to dishes.”

She is finishing off her meals with quinoa over other grains, “since a little bit goes a long way and I love that it has more protein than rice.”

Kim Abel chose salmon from the canned good section to squeeze in more of those heart healthy omega-3 fats.

She also stocked up on “dried fruit (especially blueberries), almonds and cashews, frozen vegetables and dark chocolate chips.”

Health experts need chocolate and, if you are going for a treat, you may as well make it count with antioxidant-rich dark chocolate to fight off stress-induced inflammation.

Finally, fill your freezer

Nichole Anguilm is all about the smoothies as a way to use fruit from her freezer.

She is using these frozen goods to ensure she is still eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.

She also loves that frozen fruit allows her to not worry about having fresh fruit go bad. She opts for frozen vegetables for the same reason. Choosing frozen over fresh allows her to limit trips to the grocery store but still have vegetables for meals.

Of course, as your fresh produce begins to turn, you can prolong its life by freezing it as well.

The bottom line? Whatever foods you choose to stock up on, be sure to include fruits and veggies, no matter what form.