Food & Fitness After 50: Has COVID-19 Changed Your Shopping and Cooking Habits?

1200px-Colourful_shopping_cartsAs we continue to stay close to home and practice social distancing, is COVID-19 having an impact on how we shop and cook? How has it affected you? A new survey from the International Food Information Council, asked about food purchasing, eating behaviors, and perception of food safety in this unique time. For the entire survey, click here.

I want to dig around the data to see what the over-50 adults are saying in response to some survey questions. The data are broken out into age groups of under 45 years, 45-64, and 65 and over, so I’ll focus on the 65 and over. While the 65 and over responses are close to the average for all groups, there are a few differences.

About 50% of survey respondents say they are shopping less in person and that jumps to 55% for those over the age of 65. That makes sense as older adults are at high risk for contracting the virus and having more serious complications if they do get the virus. For those who are concerned about shopping in person, remember that many stores offer special, early morning hours for older adults and that is when the store is likely to be the cleanest. The hardworking grocery store workers restock and thoroughly cleaned the store before it opens. Wear gloves and a mask and take a list to limit browsing but be willing to make substitutions if your preferred item isn’t available.

hand washingWhen it comes to food safety, we all know hand washing is a key preventative behavior yet only 63% of those surveyed say they wash their hands after grocery shopping. The good news is that number jumps to 73% for those of us over the age of 65. In almost all the categories on food safety, older adults are practicing good behaviors; from minimizing touching surfaces to washing fresh produce. With age, comes wisdom!

As for eating habits, 24% of older adults say their eating habits have not changed yet only 6% say they are eating more healthful foods than they usually do. That is a number I’d like to see higher. Eating healthfully can support the immune system so now is a good time to evaluate the quality of the nutrition in the foods you eat.

While many us of are buying more packaged foods (sometimes called “processed” foods), good for the over 65 adults who recognize that these foods are part of a healthy diet. Foods like canned tuna, canned beans, and tomatoes, as well as frozen fruits and veggies, are healthy, staples that can be put to good use for nutritious home cooked meals.

Mix_Nuts-1-minAbout 1 in 5 older adults say they are snacking more than they did before stay at home orders took effect. Many of us turn to food when we are bored or out of our usual routine, but this is an opportunity to fill nutrient gaps in your diet by snacking on healthy foods. Apple slices with peanut butter, a handful of nuts like walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or peanuts, or a stick of string cheese with whole grain crackers are nutrient-rich snacks that are also filling to keep hunger away.

 

For more resources on food safety and healthy eating behaviors, check out these resources.

And, for an interesting commentary on how the pandemic is helping some of us create healthy habits, such as cooking at home and walking, click here.

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.