Jen Hernandez RDN, CSR, LDN; Board-Certified in Renal Nutrition, recently shared her thoughts with The Beet on why she loves adhering to a plant-based diet. “I have always found great importance in following a plant-based diet, no matter our environmental situations,” she told us. “Increasing [your intake of] plants gives us so many more nutrients, with fewer preservatives and unhealthy fats, while providing more stable energy.”

For some of us, new-to-veganism (or, you know, mere mortals), sticking to a purely vegan diet can be tough. These anxiety-provoking times amid the coronavirus pandemic can make us want to speed dial a pizza. The upside of the scary times we live in is that they can also inspire us to double-down on our efforts to nourish our bodies and minds with wholesome, plant-based foods to weather the storm. To help us figure out how to best tweak and modify our plant-based routine during the coronavirus outbreak, we reached out to plant-savvy nutritionists for their best advice.

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1. They’re cooking more soups.

We’re all about following the lead of Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, co-author of The HealthSpan Solution, and making room for extra soups in our freezer right about now. “I have been batch cooking soups more frequently and storing them in the freezer. Soups are the ultimate healthy go-to meal as they make delicious templates for some of the most nutritious and health-promoting food groups—legumes, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices,” she shares. “There are infinite ways to flavor these ingredients to please any palate,” she adds noting that with certain items less consistently available when buying groceries, soups provide a great canvas to make your favorite recipe as you have ingredients handy and still be able to enjoy at a later time when the mood strikes, but grocery inventory may not.

2. They’re relying more on prepped food.

For many nutritionists, they went into the field because of a love of cooking and/or because the joy of meal prep is ingrained into their very DNA. Right now, they’re cutting themselves some slack, and we think we all should, too.“We are doing more prepped food, particularly bagged salads and stir-fry mixes. I have also been using pre-seasoned tofu and tempeh more frequently,” shares Jennifer Hanes MS, RDN, LD, a vegetarian nutritionist with a plant-based ethos. “Despite more time at home, we have less time to prep food because homeschool, and my own business pursuits,” she continues. On the rare days when she finds herself with time to spare, she’s relishing those hours to experiment with new cooking techniques and different types of cuisines.

3. They’re making their own plant-based milks.

The biggest change for me right now is making more homemade plant-based milks as options are decreasing at the grocery stores and going out may not even be an option. I prefer using oats because they are cheap (cheaper than cashews or almonds), require no soaking/prep time, and can be customized to be used as a flavored creamer for coffee,” offers Hernandez. Her signature oat milk: Combine one cup of oats with four cups of filtered water and blend in a high-powered blender for several minutes. Strain through cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or even a fine t-shirt. Serve and enjoy. Bonus: “You can use the pulp of the oats to add more fiber to oatmeal or mixed into baked goods as well,” Hernandez adds.

4. They’re cooking simply.

With it harder to track down ingredients than normal, now is not the time to channel your inner Julia Child. Instead, turn to the pantry to make the most of your kitchen inventory. “I’m looking at using more pantry staples and keeping it as simple as possible. For example, a box of dried lentil pasta and a can of crushed tomatoes with some Italian spices like oregano, basil and parsley can make a filling, high-fiber, high-protein meal in one bowl,” says Hernandez. For more ideas, check out the 5 best recipes to make at home using your pantry staples.

5. They’re eating less.

For many, we’re being far less active in our daily lives right now, even if we’re finding time to squeeze in workouts or make strength training adventures out of old textbooks. Since we’re not walking nearly as much as we’re used to, we’re also not burning as many calories as we typically do throughout the day (think of all those laps you do around the office or to-and-from the gym!).

“I am eating slightly less food overall due to a decreased appetite from being more sedentary than usual,” Hever admits. “Because of this, I am being extra conscientious about making my meals nutrient-dense so that every bite matters. This means prioritizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds in tasty combinations of soups, salads, sides, and sweets and minimizing intake of highly refined foods.” We’re with ya, with one exception: Always save room for vegan chocolate peanut butter cheesecake. Always.

6. They’re still making sure to eat their fruits and veggies.

Not only do fruits and vegetables provide you with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to protect your health, but they also provide you with plenty of fiber to keep digestion regular—and we all sure don’t want to deal with the added stress of constipation or other digestive woes right about now. “Don’t forget to use vegetables and fruits, whether they’re fresh, frozen or canned,” advises Hernandez. “If you have a local community-supported agriculture system (CSA), you may be able to get local produce delivered straight to your home! Plus you’re supporting local farmers, which is always a feel-good win,” she says.

7. They’re focusing more on their kid’s nutrition needs.

These trying times present an opportunity to spin some things positively. One such realm? The kiddos’ diets. If you reframe this period as a chance to expand your kids’ palates, you may be surprised about how their tastes and food interests evolve. “I have been working particularly hard towards broadening my son's diet. He's better than a lot of kids, but I would prefer him to have a much broader base of foods,” says Hanes. “This is because a greater variety in diet improves the gut microbiome which can help support the immune system more efficiently and also affect certain mood problems, such as depression and anxiety,” she says.

To work towards this, Hanes and her son have struck a deal in recent weeks: IIf he eats well, and without whining during the week, he gets to pick what the household eats for dinner on Sunday nights. “It has worked wonderfully so far! And his veggie intake has gone up as a result,” she adds.

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