Just because you’re in self-isolation doesn’t mean you need to eat spaghetti Bolognese every night. And nor should you! There are other, more nutritious food staples out there that haven’t flown off the shelves and that appeal to parents and kids alike. 

As a nutritionist, a chef and a mum of 3 small children, I have high expectations of the ingredients on my self-isolation shopping list. Importantly, they need to taste great. Isolating yourself from family and friends is tough. Small pleasures like enjoying a delicious meal go a long way to making this distancing more bearable, so I’m choosing foods we love.

I’m always mindful of supporting my family’s good health with the foods I buy, but this is even more of a consideration at the moment. Ingredients rich in the vitamins and minerals benefitting both good immune function and mental health go straight to the top of my list. Certain nutrients, like vitamin C and magnesium, make us more resilient to stress (yes, please!) so I’m making sure to add these to my day. 

I also need my pantry staples to be All Stars that lend themselves to LOTS of different recipes. This gives me a variety of options when I’m menu-planning for the week ahead, helps us eat a larger range of nutrients and prevents the boredom that comes with another pasta dinner. If you’re trying to keep your grocery shops to a minimum, multi-purpose items make this a lot easier.

So, here are my top 5 ingredients that tick ALL these boxes:

Pumpkin seeds – these little green seeds are nutritional powerhouses, packed with essential fatty acids, fibre, zinc (essential to healthy immunity) and magnesium for improved mood. They are delicious raw or roasted as a snack, mixed into muesli, added to smoothies or scattered over a feta, spinach and pumpkin salad. You can put them in a trail mix or raw chocolate bark – is there anything these seeds can’t do? 

Quinoa – the poster child of health foods in recent years and deservedly so. It has more fibre than brown rice, some resistant starch (so good for gut health and immunity) and a variety of antioxidants and minerals. Quinoa is also gluten-free and a plant-based protein containing all nine essential amino acids. It’s as easy to cook as rice and incredibly versatile. Make a quinoa salad, a mushroom quinoa risotto, this delicious Bircher or porridge. Stuff it into vegetables, add it to stews or make vegie burgers with it. If you’re not sure how to use quinoa, check out these confidence-building recipes here.

Cauliflower flour – my eldest son is a coeliac and so I’m always interested in trying different gluten-free flours, especially ones which offer extra nutrients. PomPom Paddock have made this easy with their cauliflower flour. It’s an excellent source of magnesium, calcium and iron and you simply substitute it cup-for-cup in your favourite recipes – genius! I particularly like the amount of iron in this product. Perfect for smuggling nutrients into your picky eater or to help address the low iron levels that are common to newly-diagnosed coeliacs.

The PomPom Paddock website has a whole bunch of tried and tested recipes but my favourite is the corn fritters – a winner with my kids. Hot tip: serve them with guacamole and cherry tomatoes for a quick lunch.

Frozen strawberries –  1/2 cup of strawberries contains almost half of your daily recommended dose of vitamin C, an essential vitamin for good immunity. Vitamin C also makes us more resilient to stress, reducing the amount of stress hormone in our blood. 

Throw strawberries into a smoothie, on top of porridge, into ricotta strawberry muffins, make a chia berry jam or mixed through yoghurt. 

Cacao – not to be confused with cocoa or hot chocolate powder, cacao is made from the cold-pressed paste of unroasted cocoa beans and has no added sugar. Because the cocoa beans aren’t roasted, raw cacao powder is much higher in beneficial antioxidants and minerals.

Cacao can be used just like cocoa powder in hot chocolate, bliss balls, chocolate bark, chocolate black bean brownies, healthy chocolate mousse and smoothies. I’m planning on making this nutty, seedy cacao bar with my kids this week – perfect for a morning snack.


Kate is a holistic nutritionist, chef, media expert, published recipe writer, eating disorder survivor and a global advisor for IWBI’s Well Nourishment concept.

Kate has a unique skill-set born from very different experiences of food and health and she is passionate about helping women overwhelmed by food. 


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