Maggie Neola typically sees patients at the Barnard Medical Center in Friendship Heights, where she counsels them on maintaining good nutrition to prevent and manage disease. But during the past weeks of the pandemic, Neola has started seeing her patients virtually as she works from home.
These days, Neola is relying more on pantry staples and frozen foods when making her own meals, but she’s still making sure to choose options that are nutrient-dense. “During stressful times like the coronavirus pandemic, eating naturally colorful, antioxidant-rich foods can help support our immune function and overall health,” says Neola.
She’s also a big advocate of planning out meals to make at home in advance instead of winging it. Each week, Neola takes stock of what she already has in her fridge and pantry, plans out her meals to make sure she’s getting all the nutrients she needs, and then heads to the grocery store only if she needs to.
“Many of my patients tell me that they are struggling with deciding what to eat while at home,” says Neola. “Having a plan in place can help us feel more in control and stay on track with eating healthfully, even if we sometimes have to be creatively flexible.”
Here’s what she eats in a day as she works from home:
“I like to start the day off strong with a filling, nutrient-packed breakfast—bonus points if it has a veggie in it. This morning, I combined the best of both worlds: overnight oats and a green smoothie. I find it hard to make decisions when I’m still trying to wake up. That’s why I like breakfasts that can be prepared the night before. I prepared the oats last night by making a green smoothie (using fresh spinach, frozen blueberries, oat milk, turmeric, and cinnamon) and then mixing it with rolled oats. [Then] I let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. This is a great option for those of us who recently stocked our freezers with frozen fruit and our pantries with staples like oatmeal. I like to prepare a few days’ worth of overnight oats at a time, so to keep it from getting boring, I customize it each morning with different toppings. Today, I had granola, hemp seeds, blueberries, and mango. This meal is rich in vitamin C and vitamin E, which are both antioxidants that support the body’s immune response.”
“I had a busy day seeing patients via telemedicine, so I planned for a healthy lunch that I could prepare quickly. I opted for a sweet potato topped with the ultimate pantry-staple recipe: a plant-based chili made with just three ingredients—a can of low-sodium black beans, a jar of my favorite flavor-packed salsa, and frozen corn, all heated on the stove for five minutes. After microwaving my potato, I layered some arugula on top and then added the hot chili with some fresh cilantro and lime juice. Kudos to zinc in the beans and vitamin A in the arugula for an immunity boost.”
“I love to cook, and it’s a hobby I’ve enjoyed spending time on while at home. For dinner tonight, I made a ginger-marinated tempeh stir-fry with red bell pepper, mushrooms, and garlic over brown rice. For some added color and flavor, I garnished it with fresh cilantro and lemon zest. This meal is packed with fiber from the brown rice, probiotics from the tempeh, and vitamin C from the bell peppers. The great thing about stir-fries is that you can swap out any ingredients if you prefer others or can’t find some of these. For example, you could do a variation of sesame marinated tofu stir-fry with shredded carrots, frozen thawed broccoli, and red onion over quinoa with orange zest and basil.”
“I finished the day with homemade strawberry applesauce topped with a lemon wedge and pecan garnish. Applesauce can be made with more than just apples. Try adding a variety of fruits, citrus juice, cinnamon, or whatever you fancy. I had apples and strawberries that were going bad, so I cut off the bad spots, left whatever skin on that I could, and made this dessert by blending it all together after it simmered on my stovetop for about 10 minutes. It might be tempting to reach for packaged sugary snacks and processed foods during this stressful time, but I have found that a homemade fruity treat like this can be just as delicious and satisfying.”