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Nutrition During COVID-19

Local dietician discusses the importance of nutrition for boosting the immune system during times of crisis

“If you don’t take time for your wellness, you will be forced to take time for your illness.” ~ Joyce Sunada

   For Naples dietician Betsy Opyt, this is a mantra. Throughout this COVID-19 pandemic it’s even more impactful. 


   Indeed, Opyt says it is more important than ever to seek a healthy lifestyle. Here, Opyt explains why it’s so important and what you can do to enforce nutrition. 


èB: Why is it important to maintain a nutritious diet during the pandemic?
During this time, it is even more important to look deeper into our physical and mental well-being. A pandemic like this puts a lot of stress on our emotions because of the fear of the unknown, financial and economic tension and distancing from loved ones. Stress can trigger hormones in the body, which can lead to lower quality food choices.
   Now is the time to optimize the diet, as our bodies’ immune system needs to be strong to ward off diseases. 


   Convenient snacks such as cookies and chips are not high-quality foods and are pro-inflammatory, which could harm the immune system. My

recommendation is to strive for at least 5 to 7 servings of fruits and veggies a day and load up on foods high in antioxidants (berries), vitamin C (peppers and oranges), zinc (shellfish, legumes, nuts and seeds) and probiotics (yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut). 


èB: How can people resist the urge to snack on foods all day while being stuck inside?
The key to this starts in the grocery store. Whatever you put in your cart goes in your house and, later, in your mouth. If you tend to mindlessly munch on snack food all day, it’s best not to bring them into your home, especially since you are stuck there. 
   The second tip I will give is to keep a food journal. It is important not to journal at the end of the day. You should journal at the beginning of the day and set your intentions, then follow through with the plan. Having a schedule of what to eat and when to eat will keep you more mindful about your food choices. 
   The third tip is to take a photo of the food on your plate. We often tend to “eat with our eyes” rather than our stomach. Taking a visual look at your plate from a different perspective might help you determine if you are eating the proper portions. 

I use my hands as guides: 

  • Two fists together should be the serving of your vegetables. 

  • One fist should be a serving of your carbohydrate. 

  • The palm of your hand should be the serving of your protein. 

  • And the size of your thumb should be the serving of your healthy fat.

èB: What are some diet tips to help build the immune system?

The most important thing to help build the immune system is to reduce your stress. Finding ways to relax is key, such as mindful meditation, exercising,


reading a book and getting good sleep. 
   When the body is in a state of stress, the first defense is to stop the immune system in order to focus on the fight or flight (response). You can eat as healthy as you want, but if your body is dealing with stress, your immune system will certainly be compromised.  
   Also, avoid alcohol. Most people think alcohol will help you relax but it is a pro-inflammatory food, so you will have to weigh out your risks. 
   Beyond eating a healthy functional food diet, as mentioned above, it is also important to reduce inflammation in the body. There are foods that can stimulate inflammation such as sugar, nitrates, hydrogenated foods, white flour, dairy, nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant) and other processed foods.  
   Adding an additional defense through certain supplements can also help. Taking products such as elderberry, camu camu (high in vitamin C), green tea, Reishi mushroom, probiotics, turmeric, ginger, garlic, astragalus, ginseng and lysine are some additional lines of defense. 

èB: Additional thoughts?
Other than our frontline workers, those of us who are stuck at home should be taking this opportunity to really invest in our health. The world is forcing us to slow down, and there is a reason for it. 
   If there’s anything I have learned, our health is our most important investment. As we can clearly see by this pandemic, it doesn’t matter how much money you have or how powerful you are. 
   You cannot buy back your health. We must constantly invest in it. Every day, we should take measures to do something to benefit our mind, body and spirit. If your excuse has always been “I don’t have the time,” there’s no excuse now!


Use What You Have

Supercook app can help you whip up dinner without having to leave home 

   Using ingredients you already have on hand to make a delicious dish isn’t as hard as you think. Maybe you have a recipe in mind, but you don’t have all the ingredients, and don’t want to risk another trip to the grocery store.


   There’s an app for that.
   With the Supercook app, you can indicate the ingredients you have on hand, then click on the app’s

“See Recipes,” for an abundance of dishes you can make with what you have. 

   The app also recommends add-on ingredients to recipe options, a great way to learn how to combine ingredients you never thought would marry well together. 
   When you find a recipe you’d like to try, take a look at the full recipe. Some even offer videos to guide you through the process.  
   Consider it an alternative to running back to the store.

Stop Stress Eating

Tips to avoid emotional eating during crisis

   As more people stay home during the coronavirus pandemic, many are turning to emotional eating to cope with stress, boredom, fear and loneliness. 
   Mindfulness expert Julie Potiker, author of, “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos,” urges people to invoke healthier coping strategies.
   Here, she offers tips to help “regulate and rebalance,” supporting emotional and physical health during this unprecedented moment in 
modern times:


Practice the Pause

Practice paying attention to the moment you reach for food. When we’re stressed, eating can become automatic, but the truth is, it’s always a choice. Pause and ask yourself, “Am I hungry right now, or is that stress I’m feeling?”


Listen to Your Body

What foods would most help your body feel healthy and strong right now? Make a list of your favorite healthy, nourishing foods and have it on hand. Next time you reach for a snack, choose something from your list.


Eat Mindfully

Be the observer, and pay mindful attention to the way you prepare, serve and eat your food. Slice and dice mindfully. Put your fork to your mouth mindfully. Taste and chew mindfully. It’s also lovely to consider the source of the particular food: where and how it was grown, the farmers who produced it and the distribution chain that allowed you to enjoy your meal. This leads to moments of gratitude. 


Be Kind to Yourself

Mindful eating is not about depriving yourself or chastising yourself because of your food choices. If you want to order a pizza or have some chocolate, that’s up to you. The idea here is to allow yourself a little more space around eating so that it doesn’t become thoughtless and automatic. Be present, treat yourself with loving kindness and choose what feels best for you in this moment.
   “To make an upward spiral, pat yourself on the back that you created a healthy meal,” she says. “Notice the colors and textures and savor the flavors as you slowly consume your food. Putting together a healthy meal, even with limited items, is something you can control. Having agency right now, when there is so much that is unknown and unknowable, is helpful. We need to take our power where we can get it. And the kitchen is one of those places.”

Staying linked to authoritative sources
For FDA food safety measures, visit
Need ideas for a sturdy grocery list? Here is a good place to start:

Cooking in Captivity


The basics of shopping, cooking and eating in these pandemic times

Being cloistered at home and stockpiling food can easily lead to what’s now known as the “Quarantine 15” — coming out of social isolation 15 pounds heavier.
   On a more serious note, social distancing is one of the most important things people can do for community health, the Centers for Disease Control admonishes, and cooking at home is a good way to avoid unnecessary trips out in public.
   Mindful nutrition is vital for overall well-being, and times of crisis are no different. In fact, eating well now is be more important than ever, as a nutritious diet helps boost the immune system. 
   Here are some things to keep in mind for cooking during COVID-19.


Establish healthy food routines

Yes, that means not having cookies for breakfast. Adopting routines is a top way to reduce stress, and one way to do that is by having set times to eat a nutritious breakfast, lunch and dinner. The American Society of Nutrition suggests eating healthy meals that emphasize whole grains, vegetables and fruits with whoever you live with to get much needed social time.


Adopt best supermarket practices

There is no evidence that a person has developed COVID-19 from touching food or food packaging, but it is known that the virus can survive on surfaces and objects for varying amounts of time, reports the New England Journal of Medicine. This is about three days


on hard surfaces, such as metal and plastic, and about one day on soft surfaces, such as cardboard.
   Wiping down carts or any surfaces you touch in the grocery store and sanitizing hands frequently while shopping are good practices to adopt. If available, wear disposable gloves while in the store, but be sure not to touch your face while wearing them and maintain a six-foot distance from other shoppers, reports the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). 
   To avoid unnecessary trips to the store, HSPH recommends buying foods with a longer shelf life, thus opting for canned or frozen items. If you prefer to buy fresh (or if frozen/canned items are in short supply), stick to foods that freeze well, like breads and starchy vegetables such as carrots and broccoli. 
   Read more in this issue of èBella Extra for some simple recipes and other tips for nutrition-focused dining during this unprecedented time.

Handy Helpers

Shopping services are especially beneficial for seniors and vulnerable populations

   Before the pandemic, shopping services were booming in our harried, too-busy-to-stop lives. They were also an enormous boon for people with injuries, chronic illness and other restrictions.
   Today, folks who’d never considered dropping $100 a year to have groceries delivered to their doorsteps are trying these services for the first time. It’s part of the new normal, we suppose, as we brave a new kind of existence.
   The following resources were shared with us, and because this edition of èBella Extra focuses on nutrition, it’s the perfect time to give you some links and tips you might not have known about. If some services are not available in our area, don’t despair; there’s plenty to choose from.

   Wishing you wellness,

   ~ The èBella Extra Team



• Delivery to your home: 

Go to Shop through departments. Mark favorites to make it easier to shop next time. 
Reserve delivery time. 
$30 minimum order. Delivery memberships are $12.95 per month/$98 annual. Single use fee is up to $9.95. Prices are the same as in the stores. $10 off first order of $50 or more. Use code WOWFRESH 

• Drive-up option: Purchase is delivered to your vehicle in the parking lot. 

Select your store. Choose pick-up time. They will text you when your order is ready. Drive to store. Park in designated spots. Call number on sign. They will load everything into your car. Notes: They email you if they need to make substitutions. If a substitution they made is not acceptable, just tell the person loading your car and they will remove that item and adjust your bill. No charge. No tipping permitted. 
$30 minimum order. Prices are the same as in the stores. 

• In-store shopping for seniors: Tuesdays March 24 -April 28, Walmart stores will open one hour before regular hours for seniors aged 60 and older. Pharmacies and Vision Centers will also be open during this time. 



• Delivery to your home: 

Go to to shop. (Facilitated by Instacart.) select your items. Check out & and select delivery time. 
Prescriptions cannot be delivered. 
The Instacart “shoppers” will text you if product or quantity substitutions are necessary due to availability. 
You will be texted an estimated arrival time when the delivery is on the way. 
Yearly membership $99 or $3.99 per delivery. First delivery fee is waived. 
Minimum purchase $10. (Note: Instacart prices are slightly higher than in-store prices.)

• Drive-up option: 

 Order at Choose a pick-up time. Drive to Publix at selected time, park in the designated Publix Curbside parking space, and call the store using the number on the sign. Give the Publix associate your name, and they will bring out your order and load it into your car. 

• In-store shopping for seniors: Publix will be opening for seniors ages 65 and older 7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays until further notice. The pharmacy will also be opening at 7 a.m. on those days. 


Winn Dixie 

• Delivery to your home: 

Delivery through Shipt. Membership required. $99 annually or $14 monthly. over $35 are free with membership. Smaller orders are welcome but will incur a $7 service fee. Prices are the same as in the stores 
Prescriptions cannot be delivered. 

• In-store shopping for seniors: Winn Dixie has a “suggested” seniors-only shopping hour from 8-9 a.m., but it may not be enforced. 



• Delivery to your home: 

Go to (Delivery facilitated by Instacart.) 
Check out and select delivery time. 
The Instacart “shoppers” will text you if product or quantity substitutions are necessary due to availability. 
You will be texted an estimated arrival time when the delivery is on the way. 
Yearly membership is $99 or $3.99 per delivery. Free delivery on first three deliveries of $35 or more. 
Minimum purchase $10. (Note: Instacart prices are slightly higher than in-store prices. Also, availability is the same as in the stores.) 

• No dedicated hours for seniors at this time.


Fresh Market 

• Delivery to your home: 

Go to (Delivery facilitated by Instacart.) 
Check out and select delivery time. 
The Instacart “shoppers” will text you if product or quantity substitutions are necessary due to availability.
You will be texted an estimated arrival time when the delivery is on the way.
Groceries and prepared foods are available.
Yearly membership $99 or $3.99 per delivery. Free delivery on first order of $35 or more. 
Minimum purchase $10. (Note: Instacart prices are slightly higher than in-store prices. Also, availability is the same as in the stores.) 

• Drive-up option: 

 Order at

• In-store shopping for seniors: Monday through Friday, first hour of business. 



• Delivery to your home: Have purchase shipped to you using Shipt or Go to Select “Same Day delivery” on the red bar near top of page. Then select Grocery or other subtopic. 


• Drive-up option: Purchase is delivered to your vehicle in the parking lot. 

NOTE: Drive Up is NOT available for perishable food, flowers, adult beverages and other select items. 
Shop using the Target App; select Drive Up at checkout; wait for notification that order is ready for pick-up; tell them when you’re on your way; park in the designated spot & let them know you’re there so they can load up your car. 

• In-store shopping for seniors and other vulnerable guests: First hour Wednesdays. 
• Order ahead to pick-up quickly in store: They'll have it waiting at store for you. 


Whole Foods/Amazon 

• Go to

Free 2-hour grocery delivery (Food comes from Whole Foods Market) with Amazon Prime membership $12.99 per month / $119 annual membership. *Prime membership also includes video/music/reading services. First 30 days of annual subscription free. Grocery prices are a little higher than other markets. 
Not available to all locations. 


Until further notice, Costco warehouses will open from 8-9 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for members ages 60 and older, and for those with physical impairments. Only members who meet these criteria will be able to shop during these hours. The pharmacy will be open, but the Costco Food Court will be closed during these hours. Guests of members will not be admitted.
   Costco will allow no more than two people to enter the warehouse with each membership card. Guests of members will not be admitted.
   The warehouse closes at 6:30 p.m. weekdays. Costco gas station hours in Naples are 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.
   Costco works through Instacart for orders delivered to you. You can also go online and order to have items shipped to you. (239) 596-6404


BJ’s Wholesale Club Instacart 

• Delivery to your home: 

Go to (Delivery facilitated by Instacart) 
Instacart Yearly membership $99 or $3.99 per delivery. Free delivery on first order of $35 or more. 

• Drive-up option: Shop through Instacart. Purchase is delivered to your vehicle in the parking lot. 


Dollar General 

• Daily, first hour of business. 


Big Lots 

• “First hour each day reserved for senior citizens and those most vulnerable to this virus.” 

• Delivery to your home : Order non-perishable foods and other items at


Restaurant Deliveries 

Check for availability in your area.
   Multiple delivery services will allow you to order from local restaurants that wouldn’t previously have had delivery service. (Fast food restaurants, full-service restaurants, etc.) 
   Here are 5 similar delivery services. (While each service does multiple restaurants, and most restaurants are served by more than one of these delivery services, not all restaurants are serviced by all services, so check to see which service your favorite restaurants.) 
   Note: Delivery fees combined with service fees can add up; check before you order.

• Service fee (15% of order) + small order fee ($2) on orders under $10 + delivery fee (varies based on distance/time of day, but is currently $0 on many restaurants) + tip. Fastest delivery time.

• Delivery fee (based on distance from restaurant) + small order fee on orders under $10 + tip. 

• Delivery fee + service fee (percentage-based), + small order fee + “blitz pricing” during busy periods + tip.

• The standard delivery fee is $5.99. This can go up as high as $8 depending on distance or the agreement DoorDash has with the restaurant. 
• During certain promotions, you can get discounts on delivery orders over $15. 

Order fee and delivery fee 
• delivery fee: $5 when paid in cash and $7 paid by credit card. 
• This service does NOT have you pay in advance. The delivery driver accepts your payment and usually has the Square card reader.To order: 
• Go to the selected Delivery Service site. 
• Enter your zip code or address to see what restaurants are in their database in your area. 
• Select a restaurant. It will indicate the minimum order- each restaurant is different. 
• Delivery fees are additional (and may vary depending on time of day and demand), and tips for the driver are highly recommended. 

Simple Show Stoppers

These nutritious, kitchen-tested recipes are easy go-to meals for the hungry homebound

From the editor: I love what I call “collage cooking:” opening the pantry and seeing what I can make from what’s in there. The recipes below are a lot about that, some requiring meat or other ingredients you might have to acquire. Once done, these simple recipes can be used over and over again.

But Wait! There’s More!

Five-ingredient summer meals
Visit my foodie friends’ favorite go-to site:


Instant pot users 
Find great recipes by following these two sites
recommended by èBella followers:

Stop Eating
Use What You Have
Handy Helpers
Simple Show Stoppers
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