Pandemic Nutrition-Some Happy News!

2020 has so far been a rough year and while it has become commonplace to say: we are all in this together or, it focusses our minds on the values of life or, it exposes who is truly ‘essential’ to the workings of society, what we really want is for it to STOP.

Those sentiments are still nice, but they were nicer in April and May before all our holidays started disappearing and before we realized that all of this could keep happening well into 2021! So, what kind of upside can there be to this pandemic, well for this registered dietitian it has been the return to basics of food and thereby better health. There are many upsides, but let me highlight the 5 big ones.

  1. Take-out became tiresome after a while and gasp, people started to cook more meals at home, because sometimes it was just faster than lining up at a grocery store or waiting for a delivery.
  2. Television chefs-with the exception of maybe Jamie Oliver-were exposed as people who unnecessarily complicated food and worse, they could not cook. Take away the production crew and the poorly paid prep cooks in the background and all you have left is a spokesmodel with a spatula.
  3. People wanted to willingly exercise, a walk looks pretty good after you have spent the last 3 days in your home and the walls are starting to close in. And, if you could not go outside you finally found a reason to take the laundry off of that treadmill you’ve owned for years.
  4. People who do not have enough food or access to a decent grocery store became top of mind. Those of us who work in nutrition have always been aware of this fact but it is nice to see it as front-page news now.
  5.  And finally, my happiest upside to the pandemic—You Are What You Eat—my favourite saying, started to mean something to people. A well-nourished body can slay a virus and keep a mind in balance.

 Over the next few postings, I will be encouraging you to stay in this frame of mind, to nourish your body and mind with quick recipes and healthy eating tips. Starting with Cheating Jerk Chicken.

A great jerk chicken normally takes a bit of time, most home cooks buy a favourite jar of jerk marinade and leave the chicken in it for at least an hour to start to develop the flavour. But you’re getting hungry now and you may not have a jar of jerk marinade so here is a pretty good shortcut to get you that flavour in just under an hour.

 Cheating Jerk Chicken


  • 1 small jar of Thai Green Chili Paste (most large grocery stores have it)
  • ½ cup of Plum Sauce any brand will do
  • ½ cup of canola, peanut or grapeseed oil (plus extra for coating the pan)
  • 1 bunch of green onions, cleaned and sliced. (Save one for garnish if you like). Note: dicing up a small onion works too
  • 1 teaspoon of Salt and 1 teaspoon of ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of any hot sauce, chili sauce, siracha sauce that you have in the house. Note: 4 packages of Chinese take-out food- hot mustard of hot chili sauce works well too and I know you have them in the house!
  • ½ teaspoon each of ground Allspice and ground Cloves (if you want it to have that real authentic taste. If you don’t have these spices a teaspoon of pumpkin spice also works)
  • 2 ½ pounds of chicken pieces, any cut you like, skin on-bone in


  • Preheat oven to 375 F
  • Mix all the ingredients, except for the chicken, in a bowl and stir until well blended. I use my hands and blend until I have a smooth paste with bits of green onions sticking out
  • Rub the chicken pieces with the paste until well coated. I use chicken breasts, cut in half  
  • Line a large baking pan with foil and put it in the oven, let it heat up a bit then coat the bottom with some oil
  • Put the chicken on the pan spreading out so they have some space
  • Roast 45 minutes to 1 hour, turn once halfway through cooking, remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Before serving garnish with sprigs of the saved green onion
  • I like to serve with Baby Bok Choy that I split in half, rubbed with sesame oil, salt and pepper and put into the oven to roast and of course, your favourite rice dish

You will notice a number of my recipes are cooked in the oven on foil-lined pans. After you have eaten, peeling the foil off the pan and putting the clean pan back in the cupboard makes it feel as good as take-out!

Published by maisievanriel

Welcome to my website. My name is Maisie Vanriel and I am a Registered Dietitian. I am a graduate of The University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Food and Nutritional Science and a Diploma in Food Safety from the Guelph Food Technology Centre. I realized a few years ago that some of the best times I have had in my career as a Dietitian have been those times when I was writing. For many years I was part of the Editorial Advisory Board of Diabetes Dialogue Magazine (The Canadian Diabetes Association) which afforded me the opportunity to write articles and editorials on diabetes. I contributed to the first Ontario Healthy Eating Manual and recently reviewed the lesson plans in the updated version launched this March 2012. In May of 2011, I won the Toronto Star’s MoneyVille section Next Blogger’s contest beating out 265 other contestants for the chance to write on nutrition and sensible shopping. My winning Blog was entitled: 5 things your grocery store won’t tell you. Writing is one of my favourite ways of communicating and like cooking it relaxes me; so in some ways your allowing me to communicate with you will contribute to my health and I hope in return I can contribute to your health and wellbeing. The inspiration for this website is my grandmother who lived 97 years and enjoyed excellent health for almost all of those 97 years. She believed in healing power of herbs, a plant-based diet and in paying attention to the type of fuel (food) that she put in her body. So my postings will be less about the constant stream of research and studies around what and how to eat and more about reminding us that we have always known how to eat. We just need to get back in tune with our bodies and focus on providing it with the best possible fuel, quality foods.

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