If you are sheltering in place as a result of the threat posed by the current COVID-19 virus, the National Nutrition Month (NNM), an annual campaign by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to get Americans to eat right might seem beside the point. But you are missing a great opportunity to improve your diet. As shelves empty of meats and sweets, take advantage of the canned and frozen foods such as beans and vegetables remaining in your local stores and improvise a diet that just might transform the way you and your family eat.

The National Nutrition Month campaign encourages people to focus on the importance of developing the kinds of eating and physical activity habits that promote good health. For those who are hunkered down in their communities and being asked to shelter in place, this can become an opportunity to change how you eat. What better time to improve your eating habits than a moment when we have less to think about and find supermarkets with their occasionally empty shelves requiring more thoughtful shopping. So though diet may seem inconsequential in light of a global pandemic, it's worth seeing it as another line of defense, and one you may find easier to put into practice as you self-quarantine at home.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. It also doesn’t mean eating from a restricted list of foods.

This year’s NNM theme is Eat Right, Bite by Bite, and the focus is on eating a variety of healthy foods daily and planning and creating healthy meals for the week and that is something you can do no matter what is on the shelves near you.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t require that you eat from a restricted list of foods. Simply setting small goals for yourself and making small changes over time — bite by bite — can add up to big health benefits.

The NNM campaign focuses on four areas to get you started on the path toward a healthier diet and lifestyle:

  • Vary your diet. Don’t get stuck in the rut of eating the same foods over and over. No one food or food group provides all of the nutrients your body needs for good health. Make it a habit to eat foods from all of the food groups. Explore more plant-based meals, and expand your food choices by choosing a new fruit, vegetable or whole grain when you shop for groceries.
  • Meal planning. Taking the time to plan your meals ahead of time can save time and money, trips to the store and also reduce food waste. Wherever your lifestyle takes you during the day, it helps to have a plan for what you are going to eat and drink. When eating out, study the menu for healthy options or look online ahead of time to determine the best options for you.
  • Cook and prep. If your cooking skills are limited or the idea of cooking healthy leaves you feeling clueless, there is no time like now to learn. Keep healthy ingredients on hand in the kitchen, and be open to trying new foods and flavors. Whenever possible, include the whole family in the cooking process and eat together as a family.
  • No one food or food group provides all of the nutrients your body needs for good health.

  • Consider a visit to a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). Should these tips make you feel overwhelmed, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian nutritionist or look for an RDN who works in your community. He or she can guide you through the process of making changes by providing recipes, cooking tips and meal preparation tips. For people with chronic health conditions, medical nutrition therapy provided by an RDN can help with the management of conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Many health insurance plans cover the cost of seeing an RDN.
  • “Developing healthful eating habits does not mean undertaking drastic lifestyle changes,” said Jerlyn Jones, RDN, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, in a statement. “Registered dietitian nutritionists help their clients develop individualized eating and activity plans with simple steps that can help them meet their health goals. These simple steps are developed to become lifelong habits.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has over 100,000 credentialed practitioners and is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition experts.

    So if you are stuck at home protecting yourself and your family from the COVID-19 virus, You can follow National Nutrition Month online, on Facebook and Twitter using #NationalNutritionMonth or visit the Academy’s website to get more information.