Coronavirus Question: Is Produce Safe During the Pandemic?

As a holistic nutritionist, I’ve been fielding questions from clients and friends about the pandemic. I will be sharing my answers here on my blog. Here’s the first one.

Question:   I’ve become afraid to buy fresh produce in fear it could have the virus on it.  I don’t know how to wash it to make it safe.  Do you have any info to help in that regard?

Answer: The most important thing to remember is that eating fresh produce is going to help boost your immune system more than anything else you can do. The vitamins, minerals, and bioflavonoids in fruits and vegetables are complex and can’t be completely replicated in supplement form because scientists are still discovering the intricate interactions.

So buying and eating fresh produce is essential now more than ever.  The benefits of eating it far out-weight the risks.

How does the virus spread?

The CDC has no documented cases of the coronavirus spreading through contact with surfaces (like food). So far, the documented cases have been spread through respiratory droplets. This is why the social distancing (staying 6 feet away from people) is so important. However, they are still recommending that we disinfect surfaces.

According to WebMD, Coronavirus doesn’t seem to spread through exposure to food. Anytime you cook a food you will we killing the virus completely. And as long as you are not touching your face and properly washing your hands for 20 seconds after handling food, you should be safe.

But the packaging that food comes in can be contaminated and without disinfection can survive for several days on these materials:

  • Plastic – 3 days
  • Cardboard – 24 hours
  • Glass – 5 days
  • Paper – up to 5 days

So to ease your worry, it’s a great idea to wipe down all packaging with a Clorox wipe or spray with disinfecting spray. Normally, the surface needs to remain wet for 30 seconds to kill viruses.

How should I wash my produce?

The produce itself can be washed with a 1:1 white vinegar to water solution. I keep this in a spray bottle and spray my produce, let it sit for about a minute, and then rinse it with regular water. Alternatively, you could fill a large bowl or sink with ½ white vinegar and ½ water and soak your produce and then rinse and dry it before putting it in your fridge.

I’m still too nervous!

If all this information is increasing your anxiety, the easiest solution is to buy frozen fruit and vegetables. The nutrient content is identical to fresh vegetables. You can wipe down the bags before placing them in your freezer, or just let them sit for 3 days in the freezer before use.


Creamy Any Veggie Soup

Trying to get veggies into my toddler can be a challenge.  One day, out of sheer exhaustion and guilt that I wasn’t feeding him “right”, I served him a handful of frozen peas.  The line of thinking was kind of like, “Frozen peas, do they need to be cooked? Fresh raw peas are delicious….he loves frozen blueberries…what the hell.”    And guess what, he loves them! I haven’t tried frozen corn yet only because I keep forgetting to buy it at the grocery store.

So serving my kid frozen vegetables is the absolute easiest way that I’ve found to get him to eat his veggies.  But this recipe for Creamy Any Vegetable soup may be the second easiest way.  I serve it to him in a coffee mug and he gulps it down.  It’s a super fast recipe that is dairy-free!  You can use almost any veggie although I don’t recommend combining them.  I used broccoli in the batch in the picture, but you could use:  carrots, celery, asparagus, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, butternut squash, peas, corn, pumpkin, spinach or whatever you have on hand.

The oats add a velvety, creamy texture.  This soup pleases kids and adults alike.  And only takes about 20 minutes to make.

Yields about 6 cups of soup.


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion chopped

dash of nutmeg (about 1/8th tsp)

1/3  cup old fashion rolled oats (Rob’s Red Mill makes gluten free oats)

4 cups chicken stock (use vegetable stock to make it vegan)

1.5 pounds broccoli (or vegetable of choice)

salt and pepper to taste


1. In a large sauce pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the onion, cook until softened and translucent about 5 minutes.  Add the nutmeg, cook until fragrant, less than a minute.

2. Add stock, oats, broccoli, and 1 cup water.  Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until broccoli is tender.  5- 10 minutes.

3. Puree soup in batches in a blender. (Don’t fill blender more than 1/2 way or it could come out the top and burn you.) Return soup to the pot, taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve immediately.

Kale & Quinoa Salad

Quinoa & Kale Salad

This salad is easy to put together and if left undressed will store easily in the fridge since kale is sturdier than lettuce. Make it the night before and bring it with you for a quick lunch. The quinoa, green beans, kale, sesame seeds, and apricots are all good sources of fiber containing plant lignans.

Yields 2 Servings


  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup blanched green beans
  • 1.5 cups curly kale – chopped
  • 1/2 cup cooked diced chicken
  • 2 tbs sesame seeds
  • 2 tbs dried apricots, chopped
  • 2 tbs sliced scallions

For the dressing combine:

  • 4 tbs EV olive oil,
  • 3 TBS lemon juice,
  • 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast,
  • ¼ sea salt
  • pepper to taste

Combine all the salad ingredients. Toss with the dressing and enjoy cold.

Recipe may be doubled or tripled and eaten through out the week.


Salmon with Carrots, Green Beans AND Peach Salsa

Salmon with carrots I was on the phone with my mother earlier this week, and somehow we started discussing aging. I think her doctor had recommended a book about how to live longer or age gracefully or something to that effect. As she described suggestions from the book, I could tell that they were overwhelming to her especially the sections about exercising.   But caring for yourself doesn’t mean you have to do a 180. Start with small changes and do them until you feel like they are no longer changes. For example, drink more water. Everyone seems to know that you need 8 glasses of water every day and that’s true if you are fully hydrated. I personally strive for 11 cups per day. And your liquid doesn’t need to be plain water. Unsweetened green tea is a great alternative. Check out my blog on cold brew green tea here.

So as I was talking to my mom, I only gave her one suggestion, “Everyone in that house could stand to eat more vegetables.” She agreed with me and then asked, “We’re having salmon tonight, should we have carrots or green beans?” And my response, “Both!”

I didn’t think that “both” was the most earth shattering response, but it definitely seemed like a novel idea to my mother. My mother is an avid cook. She makes delicious dishes, buys organic when she can, and prepares & eats many gluten free meals in support of my grandmother who has Celica’s disease. But I think growing up in the 50’s with the meat and potatoes mentality has clouded her (and millions of American’s) idea of what a healthy plate should look like.

Because of my nutrition education, I prescribe to Dr. Ed Bauman’s Eating 4 Health model which suggest 2-3 servings of leafy greens per day, plus 2 – 3 servings of crunchy vegetables, plus 2-4 servings of fruit. That’s like 8 servings of fruits & veggies per day. (Kinda like 8 glasses of water).

So I couldn’t have been happier when my mom texted my photos of the meal she prepared that evening.


It’s gorgeous colors radiate with happy nutrients! She even made a beautiful peach salsa to go along with the salmon, carrots, and green beans. I’m so proud of my mom that I wanted to share her recipe from her kitchen.

Grilled Salmon and Carrots with Green Beans AND Peach Salsa

For the Salmon & Carrots

Combine marinade ingredients. Rub generously over salmon & carrots. Grill over medium heat until salmon flakes with a fork and carrots are tender crisp. About 15 minutes.

1 lb wild caught salmon

4-6 whole carrots peeled


3 TBS olive oil

1 lime juice only

2 TBS fresh tarragon

2 TBS fresh cilantro

salt & pepper

Green Beans:

Steam 1lb of cleaned green beans. Toss with salt, pepper, and 2 TBS of butter.

Peach Salsa:

Combine the ingredients below:

½ cups red & yellow cherry tomatoes diced

2 peached diced

1 half of a small onion diced

1 jalapeno pepper seeded & minced

½ a lime juice only

1 TBS cilantro chopped

salt & pepper



Kale & Blueberry Smoothie

As a nutrition consultant, I’m often recommending that people eat more leafy greens. The health benefits are numerous from cancer protection to lowering cholesterol. They are packed with Vitamins A, C & K and good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. And the powerhouse of the greens is kale.

I enjoy kale almost anyway, but many people don’t. Or if they do like it, perhaps they can’t get their families to eat it – so it never makes it into a meal. I often remind people that as an adult, nutrition is a personal choice especially because everyone’s nutritional needs are individual. And since breakfast is often a personal meal, the morning is great time to prepare yourself a helping of leafy greens.

Today I made myself a delicious Kale & Blueberry Smoothie:

Toss all the ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth.

  • 2 cups frozen kale
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 bannana
  • 1 orange (peeled w/ some pith remaining)
  • 1 inch ginger root peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup organic plain yogurt
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp flax seeds
  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • handful of ice cubes

* Makes 2 servings. (If this is all that I’m having for breakfast I find I need to drink both servings myself to feel satisfied.)


In my kitchen, I love my freezer. And kale freezes like a champion. I buy giant bags of pre-washed organic kale at Costco. I use it fresh for a few days and then store what’s remaining in the freezer. Or if I have a bunch that I know will be going bad before I can get to it. I wash and dry it in my salad spinner and throw it in a Ziplock and freeze.

(Frozen kale has tons of applications. Use it in soups and stews, throw a handful or two into a rice dish, or a veggie lasagna plus it’s perfect for a smoothie! And smoothies are the perfect breakfast.)

The other ingredients in my smoothie are super healthy, too: Blueberries are famous for the antioxidants contained in the flavonoids in their skin. Pineapple provides fiber and sweetness. Banana is loaded with B Vitamins and potassium (which helps with muscle cramps including the monthly kind). Bananas also gives this drink a smooth creaminess that we all crave. I add the yogurt for the probiotic benefit, it needs to have live active cultures to promote a healthy gut. Also for gut health is the orange. I peel the orange with a knife leaving on quite a bit of the bitter pith because bitters signal your body to release gastric hormones that aid in digestion.

Ginger also helps with digestion and is an anti-inflammatory. Flaxseeds & Almond Milk for their omega-3’s. Finally, coconut oil has anti-viral properties and a bit of fat for energy.

*Note: leafy greens are high in oxalates, which can prevent the absorption of calcium. So it’s a good idea to eat calcium rich foods or take calcium supplements 2 or 3 hours after consuming them.


References: Van Duyn & Pivokna, (2000) Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 100, Issue 12, Pages 1511–1521.

Zelman, K. WebMD: The Truth About Kale. Retrieved from

The George Mateljan Foundation, Worlds’s Healthiest Foods: Bananas. Retrived from:

Waler JM. “The Bitter Remedy.” The European Journal of Herbal Medicine. 6(2):28-33

Gunnars, K. Authority Nutrition:10 Proven Health Benefits of Coconut Oil. Retreived from:

Sienera R. (2006). Oxalate contents of species of the Polygonaceae, Amaranthaceae and Chenopodiaceae families. Food Chemistry 98(2):220-224.