Maintaining Healthy Nutritional Habits During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Maintaining Healthy Nutritional Habits During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During this time of COVID-19 outbreak, it is important to maintain regular eating habits, along with practicing physical distancing, to keep our immune system in top condition. Here, we offer strategies to help you stay safe when you have diabetes, plan balanced meals, implement healthy eating habits, and practice healthier grocery shopping.

Disclaimer: Although some information was extracted from global resources to develop this page, many of the resources used are Canadian as this is a Canadian-based website. Please refer to the references for a full list of resources.

Table of Contents

Diabetes and Dehydration

Grocery Shopping 

Healthy Nutrition and Meals

Practicing Healthy Eating

Diabetes and Dehydration (1)

Children and youth with diabetes and sick or at risk of dehydration should maintain hydration by drinking adequate amounts of fluids with minimal sugar. If blood glucose level is normal or high, water is the top recommended choice of drink. Other alternatives include herb infused or carbonated water. However, if hypoglycemic, consider the following options:

  • Soymilk
  • Almond milk
  • Electrolyte replacement solutions (such as Gastrolyte®, Hydralyte®, and Pedialyte®)
  • Clear soups or broths
  • Diet soda (such as ginger ale)

If you or your child cannot eat, try the options listed below to prevent hypoglycemia. Each contains about 15 g of carbohydrates:

  • 1 cup of milk (avoid this if you are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea)
  • 1/2 cup juice
  • ½ cup regular Jello-O
  •  ½ cup flavoured yogurt (avoid if experiencing vomiting or diarrhea)
  • ½ cup ice cream or sherbet (avoid if experiencing vomiting or diarrhea)
  • 2/3 cup regular soft drink (but avoid caffeinated drinks)
  • ¼ cup pudding or ½ cup sugar-free pudding
  • 1 twin popsicle

Most importantly, if you or your child is using insulin, remember to check your blood glucose more frequently, and you may need to adjust the amount of insulin you normally inject.

Grocery Shopping

During this public health emergency, it is advisable to reduce your chances of being exposed to the virus. For this reason, you can check with your government agencies, other programs/organizations, stores, friends, or family for alternative ways to get food delivered to your home. 

If you do choose to go grocery shopping, plan ahead with a grocery list and consider adding non-perishable food items to avoid the need to go shopping if you become sick. When shopping, gradually build up your supply instead of making a single, large-scale purchase as it is easier on the supply chain. The reason for stocking up on non-perishable food and other essential goods is not necessarily because you will need to self-quarantine. Rather, these supplies will ensure that you can avoid leaving your home at the peak of the outbreak or if you become ill. (2)

In general, when grocery shopping, try to fill your cart with as many colours with vegetables, fruits, whole grain foods, and protein foods. Avoiding certain aisles, freezers, and instant food sections can also prevent you from buying processed and prepared foods high in sodium, sugars, or saturated fat. More expensive perishable foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and fish, can also be consumed with other more affordable, natural or minimally processed foods, such as rice, beans, and potatoes. Check the nutrition labels as well to compare products and choose the healthier option. (3,4)

Healthy Nutrition and Meals (4–6)

Healthy nutrition is a vital part of diabetes management. Especially with decreased physical activity and more time spent indoors under current circumstances, it is important for children and youth with diabetes to eat a varied and balanced diet to keep their blood glucose levels stable and their immune system strong. Note the following general guidelines when planning your meals:

Foods with a low glycaemic index such as vegetables and whole wheat pasta or noodlesNatural or minimally processed foods, such as fresh or dried fruits, yogurt, or nuts, which have higher nutrition content and provide great satietyHealthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) such as through olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, and certain types of fish which are important for your brain and hearLean proteins such as fish, meat, eggs, milk, and beansFibres from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to help you feel fuller longer, control blood sugar, and lower cholesterol levelsExcessive consumption of fried foods and processed foodsUltra-processed foods such as instant noodles, packaged snacks, and soft drinksFoods high in sodium, sugar, carbohydrates, and trans-fat commonly present in processed and prepackaged foodsReplacing dishes that require culinary preparation with pre-prepared products

To learn more about balanced eating and proportioning your plate, refer to the Eat Well Plate developed by Canada’s Food Guide. According to the Eat Well Plate, you should fill ½ of your plate with fruits and vegetables, ¼ of your plate with whole grain foods, and ¼ of your plate with protein foods. Below are examples of how to use the Eat Well Plate for various meals:


For healthier snacks with limited sodium, sugars, or saturated fat, try the following ideas recommended by Canada’s Food Guide:

  • Whole grain toast with nut butter and banana
  • Green leafy salad with orange sections and almonds
  • Low fat yogurt topped with frozen berries and walnuts
  • Low fat cheese and whole grain crackers with cherry tomatoes
  • Sliced cucumber and red pepper with hummus or lower fat yogurt dip
  • Whole grain crackers topped with lower fat cottage cheese and peach slices
  • Whole grain English muffin topped with apple slices and melted lower fat cheese
  • Whole grain cereal with fruit slices and milk or unsweetened fortified plant-based beverage (7)

Drinks (8)

If not interested in eating and blood glucose level is normal or low, drinks containing carbohydrates can be consumed every three to four hours. Consuming an adequate amount of carbohydrates is necessary to take insulin and diabetes medication and avoid hypoglycemia. Examples include:

  • Fruit juices
  • Sports drinks
  • Regular soft drinks

If hyperglycaemic, drink carbohydrate-free fluids to flush out ketones when present and maintain hydration. Examples include:

  • Water
  • Broth
  • Popsicles
  • Sugar-free soft drinks (such as sugar-free lemonade and carbonated water)

Practicing Healthy Eating

            Practicing healthy eating habits is crucial to develop your food skills and support your child’s interest in food. Despite current changes in your daily life, make sure to eat meals and snacks at regular times and keep up with a regular routine. Now is also the perfect time to have more family meals. During mealtime, focus on spending time together and put away toys and screens. Try to encourage conversation by using food as a conversation starter. Discuss how food is grown, how nutrition can impact your health, and the role of food in culture and traditions. Another great way to engage in food, regardless of age, is by getting involved in cooking, planning meals and snacks, and other food-related tasks. (9)


For more meal planning aids for diabetes management visit:

For healthy recipes and cookbooks for children to try with adult supervision visit: 


1. Stay safe when you have diabetes and are sick or at risk of dehydration. [infographic]. In: [internet]. [place unknown]:; c2020. Available from:

2. Canada PHA of. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Being prepared [Internet]. aem. 2020 [cited 2020 Apr 4]. Available from:

3. Canada H. Healthier grocery shopping [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2020 Apr 4]. Available from:,

4. Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian population. :152.

5. Make healthy meals with the Eat Well Plate – Canada’s Food Guide [Internet]. [cited 2020 Apr 4]. Available from:

6. International Diabetes Federation – COVID-19 and diabetes [Internet]. [cited 2020 Apr 4]. Available from:

7. Canada H. Healthy snacks [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2020 Apr 4]. Available from:,

8. Coronavirus – JDRF [Internet]. [cited 2020 Apr 4]. Available from:

9. Canada H. Healthy eating for parents and children [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2020 Apr 4]. Available from:,

10. Daly A. Choose your foods: exchange lists for diabetes. Alexandria, VA: American Diabetes Association; 2008.

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