My PV Diet - COVID-19 Edition

I just received a call regarding my curbside pick-up from the local grocery store. There are no eggs available for my delivery this morning... again... ugh. I know in the scheme of things, with this unprecedented pandemic, this is minor. However, it does make me miss the time when I could wander through the store and select whatever I wanted.

In “My PV Diet” story I wrote a couple of months ago, I went into detail on what I was eating to help counteract my polycythemia vera (PV) symptoms and improve my overall health. At my last visit to the hematologist a month ago, right before all this COVID-19 stuff happened, my blood counts, weight, and blood pressure were perfect. The medication and a rather strict diet were helping me feel almost as good as I did before cancer.

COVID-19's impact on my diet

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and my best-laid diet plans fell by the wayside. We were actually very proactive from the start going into what I like to call “hurricane-prep mode.” Sam’s Warehouse was one of our first stops, picking up a lot of essential stuff (including toilet paper). However, my husband and I differed on key subsistence items. The cases of sodium-laden ramen noodles and sugary Pop-Tarts were definitely not on my grocery list.

On the night they canceled the NBA season, we decided we needed to get serious. My sons and I made a beeline to our local grocery store and bought food, including my favorites (salmon, avocados, nuts, vegetables, assorted berries, etc.) to sustain a family of four. Unfortunately, most of the perishables were gone by the second week.

Since the PV makes me immune-compromised, going to grocery stores - surrounded by the overzealous crowds - is not recommended. Therefore, we are now relying exclusively on grocery curbside pick-up. Because of limited availability, getting curbside pickup times can be a challenge. I was delighted when I recently procured an 11:30 pm slot (yes, you read that right). In addition, some items are simply not available, like my eggs today.

Amazon Prime has been my best friend! I’ve been able to get most of the healthy items that I can’t find on the grocery store’s website. Things like my sodium-free almond butter (really…it tastes better than it sounds), my gluten-free oatmeal, and salt-free mixed nuts. This is working great as items arrive at my house within a couple of days of ordering.

Orthorexia?

This current situation is stressing me out because of my slight obsession with eating healthy. Until last week I didn't realize this had a name, orthorexia. I think my fixation on a healthy diet has a lot to do with the cancer diagnoses and my perceived loss of control. Food choice (at least until this last month), was something I could control. With eating healthy, I not only saw positive results, but I was back in power again.

How I eat healthy now

So how can someone continue to eat healthy during this crazy time?

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society recently posted a few suggestions and I’ve added a few of my own below.

  • Stay out of the stores. Many stores currently offer free on-line, no-contact ordering or delivery. If you’re in a location that does not have that option, see if a caregiver, family or friend can go get groceries for you. If not, use a mask, maintain social distancing and wash your hands thoroughly after your return.
  • Try new recipes with the foods that you have available.
  • Use leftovers wisely.
  • Buy bulk items and then separate into smaller portions and freeze . This is particularly practical for meats.
  • Replace fresh vegetables and fruits with frozen or canned. Most are just as nutritious as fresh and last a whole lot longer.
  • Incorporate foods with longer shelf life like rice and beans to the mix.
  • Use minimally processed foods to augment fresh foods.1

Although I’m making light of this situation, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank everyone in the food chain including the farmers, factories, distributors, and the grocery store personnel for continuing to ensure we have food on our table. There are no words that can relay how appreciated you are!

Since it appears that eggs are off the table for the moment, I guess I’ll have to cave and open those Pop-Tarts and have those for breakfast instead.

Editor’s note: This article was published on May 6, 2020. Further developments in what we know about COVID-19 are continuously emerging.

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