Six tips for low-carb COVID-19 preparedness
With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe and regions imposing travel bans and even quarantines, it helps to be prepared for anything that might unfold in the days and weeks ahead. Some people are self-isolating for two weeks to try to help break the chain of coronavirus transmission.
TV coverage shows people stocking up on pasta, rice, and beans, and other high-carb, shelf-stable supplies. (And, yes panicked purchases of toilet paper.)
But if you are eating low-carb or keto, what do you need to do to keep you and your family safe? What food should you have on hand in your pantry, fridge and freezer?
Here are Diet Doctor’s top six recommendations for COVID-19 preparedness:
1. Adopt social distancing now
Don’t wait for governments or local health authorities to impose restrictions and quarantines. Do your bit now to help stop the spread of the virus and flatten the curve of spread. That means:
- constantly practice good hand hygiene, either washing your hands well with soap and water, or using hand sanitizer often
- don’t touch your face
- avoid any large gatherings
- keep travel to essential trips
- keep a 3-foot distance (1 meter) from others
- stay at home if you are sick
- consider working from home if at all possible
- avoid public transit when possible; walking is safer
- consider self-isolation if you have been traveling or if you feel you may have been exposed to the virus.
If your country or region has any confirmed cases of COVID-19, assume that the novel coronavirus has quietly been circulating for days or weeks now.
At Diet Doctor, we’ve made decisions to do our part to break the chain of disease transmission. We cancelled all international travel, cancelled our presence at Low Carb Denver 2020, and have instructed all employees to work from home for two weeks.
Such social distancing will flatten the curve of geometric increase in the number of cases, will reduce the chance that our hospitals and ICUs get overwhelmed, and will help reduce the need to adopt more drastic emergency prep and actions later.
2. Stock your fridge with low-carb options
Since the pandemic is unlikely to cause disruption to power, you can stock your fridge and freezer to get your family through a few weeks of voluntary self-isolation or an imposed quarantine.
Some reports show people stocking up on products like Spam and canned meat products, but remember, there is no need to buy food you don’t like and would never eat in normal situations just because the coronavirus is circulating.
Shop as normal for your fridge. Considering using the Diet Doctor meal planner, with shopping lists for two weeks of recipes as your guide.
In general, it helps to pick up these low-carb staples:
- eggs — eggs can last in the fridge for at least five weeks (click through for egg recipe ideas)
- cream — heavy cream, table cream and sour cream
- cheese — cheddar, mozzarella, and cream cheese are particularly handy for recipes.
- longer-life vegetables — pick up lettuces and leafy greens to use first, but hardier low-carb vegetables like kale, rutabaga, zucchini, celery root, celery, fennel, broccoli, cauliflower can actually last a few weeks if stored properly in the crisper drawer.
- meat and/or fish — ground beef, bacon, hard sausage, chops and steaks, fish filets
If any of the items in your fridge are near their expiration dates, considering portioning them into smaller sizes and storing them in the freezer.
Broccoli and cauliflower florets can be blanched and frozen. Zucchini can be spiralized or grated and stored for months in the freezer for use as a base for pasta sauce, or as an ingredient in soups or casseroles.
3. Stock your freezer with low-carb options:
Consider buying any of the following:
- Pre-made frozen low-carb vegetables — frozen cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, zucchini noodles, peas, mushrooms — even cauliflower rice is now available as a freezer product in many stores.
- Meats — any fresh meat, bacon, fish or seafood can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Pick up chicken legs, hamburger meat, steaks, chops, stewing meat etc. In the freezer aisle, a number of ready-prepared but unbreaded products with no additives are convenient: hamburger patties, individually wrapped fish filets, chicken breasts, shrimp or prawns.
- Cheese — you can freeze most cheese. Consider slicing it into usable portions. Wrap it in parchment paper, then store in airlocked freezer plastic bags. Use within two to three months. Cream cheese can be frozen, too, but it may have a grainier texture after thawing.
- Cream — any type of cream can be frozen, even heavy whipping cream. Just shake it well before freezing to avoid separating the fat from the liquid. When thawed, shake well again. While sour cream can also be frozen, like cream cheese it will turn grainy. Thawed, it is best used as an ingredient in cooked recipes like casseroles and soups.
- Eggs — yes, you can freeze eggs (though there’s hopefully no need to do this). If you want to freeze eggs, either crack each egg into the wells of a muffin tin, or an ice cube tray, or separate into yolks and whites into the same muffin tin or ice cube tray containers. Wrap well in plastic and store in an airtight freezer bag. They will last frozen for up to a year.
For ease of use, portion anything you want to freeze into common recipe or serving sizes so you can thaw and use as needed.
As well, every time you make a Diet Doctor casserole recipe, consider freezing some extra servings to thaw for later use.
4. Stock your pantry with low-carb options
A number of shelf-stable items are handy to have in good supply. You don’t need them all, but think of the ones you might like to use based on your personal preferences.
- canned and glass goods — salmon, tuna, flaked chicken, shrimp meat, crabmeat, clams, smoked oysters, whole tomatoes, tomato paste, olives, artichokes, and roasted peppers
- nut flours— almond flour and coconut flour
- psyllium husk — this low-carb thickener is very useful in baking recipes and pizza crusts; chia seeds also have thickening qualities
- nuts — walnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, and almonds are the most low-carb friendly (see our guide to low-carb nuts)
- jerky — beef, pork, bison, venison, even salmon, are all now being dried and sold as jerky products with long shelf lives; look for the brands with no sugar or the lowest amount possible
- miscellaneous dry goods — don’t forget olive oil or other cooking oils, ghee, salt and pepper, dry spices, onions, and garlic
5. Track and manage food expiry dates.
It is frustrating and wasteful to have to throw out good food, especially if it becomes difficult to shop for more.
A simple trick is to make a list of all food items in your pantry, fridge and freezer and note their expiry dates. Tack it to your fridge. Then as you are planning your meals, aim to incorporate items before they expire.
As you cross off the list of items, you then easily know what you need to replenish when you can shop again.
As noted above, you can also plan to freeze items as they approach their expiry dates, but do remember to note new freezer items on your expiry date list so you eventually use them, too.
6. Make sure you have personal essentials
You will need to think about what non-food supplies you must have on hand. These could include:
- extra supplies of medications
- pet food and pet supplies
- coffee and tea
- toothpaste, shampoo, and other personal care products
- laundry soap, dish soap, hand soap and hand sanitizer (if you can find any)
- a good first aid kit for minor injuries
- and yes, toilet paper — but don’t hoard and leave some for others
Fortunately, COVID-19 is not likely to disrupt power supplies or contaminate water, so unlike most emergency prep kits, you don’t need to stock up on bottled water or water purifications supplies.
There is also no need for flashlights, batteries, candles, matches, a battery-operated radio and other essentials for power-grid disruptions. But do note that for future emergencies, it is always wise to have these items on hand.
Stay calm, stay safe and stay healthy!