Staying Healthy During Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The article below was first published mid-March 2020 at the outset of the Coronavirus outbreak. While many advancements and multiple vaccines have been developed to protect us against the virus, the health, wellness, and nutrition information and advice below still hold true for staying as healthy as possible during a global pandemic and any other times.

March 12, 2020

You’ve been watching the news and have heard the reports. While there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we’re still going to dealing with the COVID-19 global pandemic for a while. Until the majority of Americans have been vaccinated and we’ve achieved herd immunity, we need to stay vigilant and take care of ourselves physically and mentally as best we can. Our best tips and information on being smart, staying safe, and practicing self-care below.

First and foremost – take a deep breath. Repeat as necessary until a sense of calm washes over you.

You just practiced a little self-care! More on that below…

Now that we’re a little more centered, let’s talk about what we can all do to continue to stay healthy during this stressful time.


The best thing to do right now is to be informed. Contradictory updates and opinions on COVID-19 are coming at us from a variety of different sources, so knowing where to get reliable information is essential. We’re talking about science-based sources you can trust.

Cook for Your Life is actively monitoring updates from the CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the WHO: World Health Organization, as well as from our parent organization, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. We will continue to update this article and our community as we receive further guidance from these sources.

Fred Hutch News recently published Coronavirus: What Cancer Patients Need to Know, an extremely helpful article that gives vital information and advice for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers from two top Fred Hutch doctors, Dr. Steve Pergam, infectious disease clinician and researcher, and Dr. Gary Lyman, oncologist and health policy expert.


Yes, you are now well aware that continual hand washing is crucial and that you need to stop touching your face, which is easier said than done, but what else?

We turn to the CDC and their Steps to Prevent Illness roundup, which gives you tips on protecting yourself and others, including:

  • Details on avoiding close contact with others
  • When to stay home and when to get help
  • The proper way to handle sneezing
  • Wearing a mask whenever you leave home
  • How to properly clean and disinfect your surroundings

For the cancer-affected community, there are further, more specific guidelines you should follow, especially for those over the age of 70 and patients who are currently in treatment. The aforementioned Fred Hutch article does a great job of addressing these concerns, plus further information can be found at SCCA, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and their COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Update, a detailed FAQ for their patients and the general cancer community.


While Cook for Your Life is all about healthy cooking and following smart nutritional guidelines, your diet is only one defense against this virus.

You’ve already got the deep breathing technique down, now it’s time to add a few more immune system-boosting, stress-busting items to your repertoire.

Getting a proper amount of sleep – most adults require about 7-8 hours per night and children need more – will not only boost your immune system, it will also make you more mentally strong and help you remain calm during this stressful time. According to Dr. Gary Lyman at Fred Hutch, “If you’re not getting a minimum of six or seven or, ideally, eight hours of sleep a night, there’s demonstrable scientific evidence that the immune system may be compromised.”

The level of aerobic exercise that you can handle is individualized. For some it might be a short walk, for others, it’s a long, hard run. The point is to get up, get outside, if possible, get your blood pumping, and get those endorphins going. Not only does regular exercise help calm you down by dissipating stress, according to Dr. Cornelia Ulrich, a former cancer epidemiologist at Fred Hutch, now Executive Director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute, “it’s been shown that just a 30-minute walk can increase levels of leukocytes, which are part of the family of immune cells that fight infection.”

Dr. Lyman also weighs in on why now, more than ever, it’s important to eat well. “It appears that 70%-80% of our immune system is in the gastrointestinal tract and [it is] directly impacted by the food we eat and the microbes that thrive in our gut. A balanced diet, eating fruits and vegetables, is very important.”

Since 2007 our founder Ann Ogden Gaffney and the Cook for Your Life team have been teaching healthy cooking to people touched by cancer. With over 1,100 healthy recipes, 300 instructional cooking videos, and 400+ articles, we have just about covered it all.

Staying safe and cooking in the time of this Coronavirus outbreak introduces different challenges. Our best advice? Stock up your pantry, eat your veggies, and be sure to stay informed and up-to-date on the latest food and nutrition news by signing up for our Weekly Newsletter (enter your email just below in our footer on the right!).

For those who don’t feel safe or are unable to make it to the market, an online grocery delivery service is a great option. From any of our recipe pages, you can have your ingredients delivered directly to your home by simply choosing a store in your area. You also have the option to create a shareable shopping list that you can take to the store for a more efficient trip.

Once you’ve stocked your pantry, many great meals can be made from what you have on hand – no new groceries needed! Try our cancer-protective pantry-friendly recipe round-up and enjoy dishes like our Warm Chickpea Salad, Curried Brown Rice, and Salmon Cakes With Dijon Yogurt Sauce.

And while breathing deep, staying informed, trying to sleep, exercise, and get your daily recommended dose of nutrition all help with bolstering your mental and physical health, life is simply extra stressful right now. Our founder Ann shares her thoughts on how cooking helped her cope during several cancer diagnoses and the current pandemic. Learn her tips for cooking for comfort >>

Read more about COVID-19 and cancer from our parent organization Fred Hutch:

Treating cancer in the shadow of coronavirus

Answers to cancer, and now COVID-19

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Reviews & Comments

Rated 0 out of 5
May 27, 2020

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Dealing with anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Response from Cook for Your Life

Thank you! So glad to read that it's been useful for you!

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