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Advice for the general public about COVID-19

Updated June 3, 2020 
 
Dietitians of Canada and dietitians across the country have been asked a number of questions about nutrition and dietary issues related to the COVID-19 / Coronavirus outbreak.
 
It is important to receive information from credible, trustworthy sources during this time. Dietitians are regulated health professionals committed to providing evidence-based advice and information that is tailored to your personal needs and challenges.
 
We encourage members of the public to follow the advice issued by the Government of Canada and local public health officials. This includes following physical distancing guidance.  When physical distancing is not possible in public settings like the grocery store or on transit, a homemade facial covering/non-medical mask can be used. We can all do our part.
 

Public Health Authorities

 
Provinces and Territories        Website
British Columbia          www.bccdc.ca/covid19
Alberta www.myhealth.alberta.ca
Saskatchewan www.saskhealthauthority.ca
Manitoba www.manitoba.ca/covid19
Ontario www.publichealthontario.ca
Quebec www.quebec.ca/coronavirus
New Brunswick www.gnb.ca/publichealth
Nova Scotia www.nshealth.ca/public-health
Prince Edward Island www.princeedwardisland.ca/covid19
Newfoundland and Labrador www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19
Nunavut www.gov.nu.ca/health
Northwest Territories www.hss.gov.nt.ca
Yukon Territory www.hss.gov.yk.ca
 

We have created the following Frequently Asked Questions.


What can I do to support my immune system?

 
A healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables, protein foods and whole grains is important for a strong immune system as are other healthy lifestyle habits (e.g exercise, not smoking, adequate sleep, managing stress etc).
 
There are many nutrients that are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system and therefore we encourage eating a variety of nutrient rich healthy foods each day in order to support immune function.
 
You can find more information on nutrition and healthy eating at UnlockFood.ca, the Government of Canada's webpage on Healthy Eating during the COVID-19 Pandemic, or Health Canada’s, Canada's Food Guide.

There is no single food, supplement or natural health product that will prevent you from catching COVID-19. To date, the Government of Canada has not approved any product to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19. Selling unauthorized health products or making false or misleading claims to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19 is illegal in Canada. More information can be found here.


We also support the recommendations of public health officials that proper hygiene, such as hand washing, and physical distancing are the best ways to prevent COVID-19. When physical distancing is not possible in public settings like the grocery store or on transit, a homemade facial covering/non-medical mask can be used.


What nutrition advice would you give for someone who may have contracted COVID-19 and is self-isolating as a result?

 
At this time, there is no single food, supplement or natural health product that is authorized to treat COVID-19.

If you are self-isolating and especially if you have symptoms, it is important to maintain good nutrition and hydration. Make sure you are eating and drinking regularly, even if you have a low appetite.
 
You can find more information on nutrition and healthy eating at UnlockFood.ca, the Government of Canada's webpage on Healthy Eating during the COVID-19 Pandemic, or Health Canada’s, Canada's Food Guide.

If you have specific nutrition needs, it is important that you continue to follow the dietary recommendations made by your dietitian, doctor or nurse practitioner. This may involve asking a family member, friend or neighbour to get you specific foods so you can continue to meet your specific needs. Contact your dietitian, doctor or nurse practitioner by phone or email if you have any serious concerns.
 
Everyone is encouraged to be aware of people in their community that may have difficulty accessing food, and look for ways to support each other. 
 

What should I do to prepare, in the case my family or I need to self-isolate?

 
It makes sense to stock up on non-perishable food items so that you do not need to go shopping if you become sick, but avoid panic buying.
 
It is easier on the supply chain if people gradually build up their household stores instead of making large-scale purchases all at once. To do this, you can add a few extra items to your grocery cart every time you shop. Good options are easy-to-prepare foods like:
  • dried pasta and canned sauce
  • prepared canned soups
  • canned or frozen vegetables
  • canned beans (like chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils)
It is also a good idea to have extra stores of:
  • pet food
  • toilet paper
  • facial tissue
  • feminine hygiene products
  • diapers (if you have children who use them)
The reason for stocking up on these items is not necessarily because you will need to self-isolate. Having these supplies on hand will ensure you do not need to leave your home at the peak of the outbreak or if you become ill.

Visit the Government of Canada’s website for more information on being prepared.



Can Covid-19 be spread through food?

Currently, there are no cases reported of COVID-19 being spread through food. Researchers and food safety experts continue to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Canada and around the world.



What safe food practices should I be following when handling and cooking food?

  • Use soap and warm water to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and food packaging. Hand sanitizer can be used as an alternative.
  • Use typical cleaning and disinfecting methods on any surface that has come in contact with food.
  • Use running water to wash fruits and vegetables. Soap, chlorine or other chemicals are not recommended.
  • Cook your food to recommended safe internal temperatures and ensure you do not cross contaminate raw and prepared food.


What safe practices should I be following when grocery shopping?

Use the hand sanitizers, if available, at the entrance and exit of the store or bring your own. Some grocery stores are permitting the use of clean reusable grocery bags. Others are requiring the use of bags provided at retail. Maintain your physical distancing while shopping. You are also asked to avoid touching items you are not going to purchase. Wash your hands when you arrive home and again after handling food and food packaging.


What safe practices should I be following for home food delivery and online food shopping?

Use contactless options, if available, for delivery and payment. For example, online payment or tap and go payment options should be used when possible. Food can be dropped at the doorstep or maintain your physical distancing from the delivery person. Wash your hands after handling the items delivered and again after handling food and food packaging.
 
Visit the Government of Canada’s website or local public health authorities like BC Centre for Disease Control or MAPAQ for more information on food safety.
 

Should I continue to breastfeed my baby if I have COVID-19 or suspect I have COVID-19? 


The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) have released a statement on COVID-19 in pregnancy. Within this statement, they make the following postpartum and newborn care recommendations:
  • Women who choose to breastfeed should be allowed to do so after appropriate handwashing and while wearing a mask. It is possible that the mother can transmit antibodies to the infant through breastmilk; however, there is limited evidence of this transmission and the potential benefits are unclear.
  • Management in the post-partum period should be guided by a patient-centred discussion about the available evidence and its limitations.
  • We do not recommend universal isolation of the infant from either confirmed or suspected infection in the mother. However, depending on a family’s values and availability of resources they may choose to separate infant from mother until isolation precautions for the mother can be formally discontinued.
  • Women should practice good handwashing before and use of a mask while engaging in infant care. 
Please refer to the SOGC website for up to date information.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (United Kingdom) have also issued wide ranging advice relating to breastfeeding COVID-19 / Coronavirus and pregnancy. Within this they make the following recommendations:
 
“At the moment there is no evidence that the virus can be carried in breastmilk, so it’s felt that the well-recognised benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of coronavirus through breastmilk.
 The main risk of breastfeeding is close contact between you and your baby, as you may share infective airborne droplets, leading to infection of the baby after birth.
 A discussion about the risks and benefits of breastfeeding should take place between you and your family and your maternity team.
 If you choose to breastfeed your baby, the following precautions are recommended:
  • Wash your hands before touching your baby, breast pump or bottles
  • Try and avoid coughing or sneezing on your baby while feeding at the breast;
  • Consider wearing a face mask while breastfeeding, if available
  • Follow recommendations for pump cleaning after each use
If you choose to feed your baby with formula or expressed milk, it is recommended that you follow strict adherence to sterilisation guidelines. If you are expressing breast milk in hospital, a dedicated breast pump should be used.”
 
This guidance may change as knowledge evolves, so please refer to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website for up to date advice.
 
You can also visit Unicef’s website for additional information on what parents should know about COVID-19.
 
 

How do I find a dietitian? 

 
It is important to receive information from credible, trustworthy sources during this time. Dietitians are a regulated health profession committed to providing evidence-based advice and information that is tailored to your personal needs and challenges.
 
There are several ways to connect with a dietitian. When contacting a dietitian, ask if virtual appointments are available.
  1. Your family doctor or specialist may be able to refer you to an outpatient clinic with access to a dietitian. The dietitian in these clinics would be covered, or paid for, by your province.
  2. If you belong to a Family Health Team or Primary Care Network, ask to speak to the dietitian.
  3. Public Health Units and Community Health Centres offer counselling, free programs and workshops with access to a dietitian. Criteria to access these services will depend on the program and organization.
  4. If you receive homecare services, you can call your case manager to see if they can connect you with a dietitian. A physician's referral is typically not required.
  5. You can also see a dietitian and pay a fee for an appointment. Visit Find a Dietitian to find someone in your neighbourhood and search by postal code, city and/or specialty. Your employee benefits may cover dietitian services. Check your plan today.
  6. If you have diabetes or are at risk for diabetes, you can ask your doctor or self-refer to a publicly funded Diabetes Education Program.
  7. These provinces have Provincial Call Centres* where you can speak with a dietitian at no cost:
*Availability of dietitian services through some Provincial Call Centres may be limited during COVID-19
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