Below you will find tips for grocery shopping, healthy eating and answers to common questions related to food and nutrition and COVID-19.
If possible, try to shop for groceries once a week or less, preferably alone. Limiting the number of people in the store can help keep shoppers physically distanced through the space.
Grocery Shopping Tips
- Plan ahead and make a shopping list to be able to get what you need in a short amount of time. You may also want to consider alternatives if items on your list are not available.
- Shop alone and leave children at home, if possible. Children are more likely to touch products and then touch their faces. They also might have difficulty following physical distancing and mask guidelines.
- Help pick up things for those self-isolating or people who are more vulnerable.
- Check store hours for times reserved for older adults or people with compromised immune systems.
- Wash or sanitize your hands before and after shopping. Many stores and businesses have hand sanitizer available on the way in.
- Wipe the grocery cart handle with a sanitizing wipe, if available. Many stores are sanitizing their carts and baskets before given them out for customer use.
- Keep a 2 metre (6 foot) distance from others when shopping and standing in line.
- Follow all in-store protocols, such as one way aisles and checkout procedures.
- Touch only what you need to touch. Commit to buying the food or products you have touched.
- Be mindful not to touch your face, mouth or eyes while shopping (e.g. licking your finger to open plastic produce bags).
- Practice proper cough etiquette, especially in areas where food is not in packaging, such as the produce or bakery section.
- Wear a mask or face covering, unless you are exempt for health and safety reasons.
- Use touchless payment when possible.
- Avoid standing around and chatting with friends.
- Be prepared to bag your own groceries if you bring your own bags. Don't place your personal bags directly on the checkout counter.
- Place your grocery bags on the floor at home to unload them, rather than on the counter. Wash reusable bags after each use.
- Wash your hands as soon as you arrive home and again after unloading groceries.
Is there a certain food or product that can boost my immune system?
- There’s no evidence that a particular food, vitamin supplement or herbal preparation can improve the immune system of a healthy individual to the point that they have extra protection from infection.
- A balanced eating pattern, including a variety of nutritious foods, is recommended to keep one’s immune system working well. Eating a variety of nutritious foods regularly will provide the nutrients needed for maintaining a strong and healthy immune system.
- Drink adequate water to maintain hydration.
Do I need to take supplements?
Members of the general public do not need to take nutrient supplements since an adequate amount of nutrients can be obtained through foods. The only exception is for those who are deficient and are unable to obtain the nutrient of concern through food alone.
Here are some things to consider:
- Supplementing more does not necessarily mean better immune health. Imagine a car that has a full tank of gas. Adding more gas, will not make the car go any faster or perform better.
- Supplementing can actually be more harmful in some cases and may increase one’s risk for over consumption and toxicity. It can also lead to gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e. diarrhea and nausea) if not used properly.
- Certain groups of people, such as people with heart conditions, older adults, or those who are food insecure, may need supplementation. For example, Health Canada recommends that people over the age of 50 years take a daily Vitamin D supplement of 400 International Units (IU), which is equivalent to 10 micrograms (mcg).
- Supplementation should always be supervised by a qualified health care professional.
There are a number of nutrients that are currently being researched to see if they can help with preventing or treating COVID-19. The main nutrients of interest include vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc. However, to date the research has not indicated that supplementation of these nutrients provides any added protection against COVID-19. Therefore, continuing to obtain these nutrients through food sources is recommended. Individuals who have been recommended to take supplements by their health care provider should continue to follow that advice.
To date, there is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 virus is transferred through food. The main method of transmission is through the respiratory tract, not the digestive tract.
Practicing basic food safety is sufficient to reduce the risk of exposure to pathogens, including COVID-19. This includes:
- Washing hands and sanitizing counters after putting away groceries.
- Thoroughly washing all fresh produce under fresh, cool, running water.
- Properly storing foods to decrease risk of cross-contamination and spoilage.
- Cooking foods to the proper temperatures to kill any pathogens.
Washing foods with vinegar, soap or bleach is not needed, nor is it recommended. Some foods have porous surfaces and washing with soap or bleach can lead to absorption of chemicals that can be dangerous if eaten. Washing with warm or hot water can cause fresh produce to wilt, become soggy or spoil faster. To further reduce the risk, produce can be peeled and/or cooked, or use frozen or canned vegetables and fruits.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is not stable at cooking temperatures. Cooking and reheating food to recommended internal temperatures for beef, poultry, pork, etc. should inactivate this virus. Use a thermometer to ensure food has reached the proper temperature. The virus is more stable at refrigeration temperatures; therefore, proper food handling, hand hygiene and environmental cleaning practices are important to follow.
For more details, check out the article called "How Should I Handle my Fruits and Veggies during COVID-19 Pandemic?"
Washing Food Packaging
The most effective way to stop potential contaminants that may be on food packaging from entering your body is to wash your hands prior to handling food and to practice proper food safety.
Remember that any cleaners or sanitizers used in the kitchen or on food preparation areas or utensils, should be food safe. Disinfectants can leave residues that are unsafe for consumption. Check product labels to ensure your cleaning/ sanitizing products are food safe.
In order to maintain physical distancing, many emergency food access programs have changed their service availability. Food bank buildings are closed, however, efforts are being made to provide emergency food hampers. For the latest information, call 211 or visit 211north.ca.
- TBDHU Healthy Eating
- COVID-19 and Food Safety (Public Health Agency of Canada)
- Guidance for Food Banks During COVID-19 - TBDHU (PDF)
- Basic Food Safety Handout - TBDHU (English PDF)
- Maintaining a Healthy Diet during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Food and Agriculture Organization)
- Advice for the General Public about COVID-19 (Dietitians of Canada)
- Involving Kids in Planning and Preparing Meals (Canada's Food Guide)
- COVID-19 Resources (HalfYourPlate.ca)