By Jessica A. Wegener RD, CSSD, LMNT | Owner Positive Nutrition of Omaha LLC

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has shifted many of our daily routines, including the ways we eat. We are living in a time in our lives where it feels like we have lost control over many things in our lives. There are many restrictions around what we can and cannot do right now, but we do have autonomy over our food choices and decisions. It is important to focus on what we do have control over vs. what we do not have control over and take things one day at a time.

Proper hand hygiene is the first and most important prevention method we can use during a pandemic. It is important to wash hands before and during cooking, after using the restroom or smoking, and right before eating food. Be mindful of how often you are touching your mouth, face and nose while eating and in general throughout the day.

Food safety is another way of avoiding unwanted illness during a pandemic. It is enough to have to worry about getting COVID, let alone to deal with the possibility of a food borne illness. Keeping a clean kitchen and cooking surfaces, along with checking your inventory of foods for expired dates and storing foods in the correct temperature zone can also prevent the spread of bacteria that could lead to food borne illness. Here is a quick guide to proper handwashing, surface cleaning and food safety techniques.

Hand Washing:  

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds… count or sing the ABCs song all the way through to the end to fulfill the 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

Kitchen Cleaning:

  1. Clean all surfaces of the kitchen using an all-purpose cleaner after each cooking session.
  2. Deep clean sink and frequently used kitchen areas as often as possible.
  3. Use a food safe disinfecting wipe or spray to significantly decrease the bacteria that could be lingering on the counter.

Food Safety:

  1. Store cold foods cold and hot foods hot to avoid the temperature danger zone that allows bacteria to grow.
  2. Cook foods to the correct internal temperature to avoid food borne illness from under cooked meats and reheated food items.
  3. Store raw meat at the bottom of the refrigerator to avoid juices dripping onto other foods or into other storage areas of the refrigerator.

Focusing on nutrition during a pandemic can be hard, as there are many other things taking your attention away from nutrition and body movement. Because COVID is an illness, it is recommended that your nutritional efforts focus toward choosing foods that support the immune system. The nutrients that benefit our immune system include are Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and minerals iron, zinc, and selenium. The list below identifies foods you can focus on adding to your diet to increase your intake of these immune fighting nutrients.

Vitamin A: sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and carrots.

Vitamin B: whole grains, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, almonds, dark leafy greens, citrus, avocados, and bananas.

Vitamin C: oranges, strawberries, grapefruit, clementine oranges, tomatoes and tomato juice, and broccoli.

Vitamin D: salmon, herring, canned tuna, egg yolks, and mushrooms.

Vitamin E: sunflower, safflower, and soybean oils, sunflower seeds, spinach, peanuts, almonds, and red peppers.

Zinc: pumpkin seeds, oysters, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, oats, cocoa powder, Swiss cheese, Oats, egg yolk, lima beans, kidney beans, peanuts, lamb, almonds, cashews, crab, chickpeas, and yogurt.

Iron: spinach, red meat, broccoli, dark chocolate, quinoa, wild caught salmon and halibut, baked potato with skin, pumpkin seeds, chicken liver, cashews, blackstrap molasses, lentils.

Selenium: eggs, cheese, mushrooms, oats, Brazil nuts, chicken, beef, pork, wheat, tuna, whole grain Rye, sunflower seeds, salmon, brown rice, turkey, soybeans, shrimp, oysters and crab.

As you can see there are many foods that have multiple vitamins or minerals in them according to the list above. The easiest thing you can do for yourself is to add these foods to our diet to increase your immune system going into flu season and to decrease your bodies response to COVID symptoms. A pandemic can be incredibly stressful. If you are experiencing depression, anxiety or disordered eating patterns related to this stress, we can help you. Please feel free to reach out for support by emailing

Written by: Jessica A. Wegener RD, CSSD, LMNT owner of Positive Nutrition of Omaha, LLC.

This advice is not to be used in place of a licensed mental health provider, please visit the Nebraska Eating Disorders Network About page for professionals who can help you work through the difficult world of mental health, body image and eating disorder recovery.