Foods that add pleasure but no essential vitamins and minerals

Preparing for coronavirus lock down and isolation: ESSENTIAL NON-ESSENTIALS

Time in isolation is tough enough without depriving yourself of favourite non-essential foods. These are foods that add pleasure, flavour and delight to a day, and ingredients that are important when cooking from basic ingredients, from scratch without packet mixes.

Others call these items junk, discretionary, forbidden and bad. I don’t.

In my book ‘this=that: a life-size photo guide to food serves’, I call them ‘red extras’. They are not brilliant sources of nutrition and do nothing to improve you physical health but they may have a role for pleasure and emotional health. In excess, red extras are detrimental for your health because they replace basic important foods - you have less appetite for and less room to fit nutrition-rich foods.

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this=that (adult's edition) "seconds"

Setting up for self-isolation

When setting up for periods of isolation, plan to include ‘red extras’ if you are used to having them. The trick is to include just enough, not too much to last two weeks. The challenge is not to eat it all before you enter isolation.

Last week when I shopped, I noticed people’s trolleys stacked with more non-essentials than essentials with more than enough ‘red extras’ for dozens of people.

Perhaps they had already bought the essentials. I will never know.

But in their haste and fear of missing out, these people set themselves up to over-eat.

Humans eat more when presented with bigger packs, bigger variety and easy access. Once packs are opened, very few people have the personal resolve not to eat more … and more … and more.

  • The bigger the pack, the bigger the handful, the bigger the pour, the more we eat.
  • The bigger the variety, the more taste intrigue, the more we sample, the more we eat.
  • The easier it is to see and get, the easier it is to eat, the more likely we are to eat it.

    Manufacturers know our weak points. While we are lead to believe manufacturers are doing us a service by packaging food into bigger bundles or multi-packs during this event, I firmly believe they have a hidden agenda and know customers will eat more and so buy more, much sooner than ever.

    ‘Red extras’ are the common fodder of emotional eating; eating when stressed, anxious, frightened, bored, lonely, or unhappy. Apples and carrots don’t make the grade as comfort foods.


    Here are tips to manage ‘red extras’ in readiness for isolation.

    1. Work out how much your household needs and what their preferences are. One person might like chocolate and lollies, another crunchy chips, and another likes cakes and biscuits.

    2. Check the pantry and fridge before you buy more. You may have more than enough already. If necessary, buy just enough spare for two weeks.

    3. Put the spare ‘red extras’ in a cardboard isolation box, sealed and away from the everyday pantry. Out of sight, out of mind works to reduce impulse eating. If it stays in the pantry, it will get eaten up sooner than expected.

    4. Avoid freezer items such as ice cream and frozen desserts because these stay in the mind’s eye every time the freezer is opened.

    5. Avoid sugar sweetened sweet drinks. There is no room for sugar-sweetened drinks in a healthy person’s life. Use two weeks of isolation to kick the sweet drink habit.

    6. Reserve a few bottles of wine, beer or your favourite drink. Turn the bar fridge into a temporary spare fridge for fresh real food. Chill small volumes of alcohol as needed rather than keep easy access to excess that might tip you into an all night session or binge.


    Take advantage of isolation and limited access to shopping to improve your health.

    • Make it easier and automatic to eat real food that adds health your body. The real food includes fruit, vegetables, breads and grains, meat and meat substitutes, dairy and non-dairy substitutes, and nuts and seeds. This is an opportunity to improve your health not let it slip.
    • Reduce how much and how many ‘red extras‘ are in your home.
    • Be ready for bouts of boredom. Outside time, creative craft time, musical instrument practice, reading, journal writing, cartooning, online courses … drag out the ‘one-day’ list or make a fresh list of things you would like to be able to do. Now is your chance to fill boredom with value. Take the time to discover how to manage emotional swings without food. There are free good online courses to help you. Contact me for links.
    • Do not reach to screens and social media feeds to fill boredom. Check emails, social media feeds and news feeds twice a day at the most. Turn off pings and alerts unless your business relies on them. At other times, be very structured. Free or paid courses to learn, do and make are great. Limit time spent searching for stimulation and ideas on photo sharing sites such as Instagram and Pinterest as they gobble your time and do not always boost mood or improve who you are and how you feel about yourself. Turn off background TV and radio; too often it is disturbing depressing distressing chatter that gets repeated over and over again.
    • Close the kitchen out of meal times to reduce risk of grazing and boredom eating. If necessary, move the water jug, kettle, tea and coffee to bench away from the kitchen to reduce repeated trips into the kitchen.


    If you are thrust into quarantine or isolation, do not go to the shops to pick up groceries. You need to be ready for no shopping for two weeks unless home deliveries to your front gate are available. Once you run out, you run out. Don’t buy more than you need and don’t let the spare ‘red extras’ get gobbled up before you enter isolation.



    1. ‘Red extras’ off supermarket shelves often have a long shelf life. Apart from a few fresh lines (such as bakery cakes, pies and slices), you can put them aside for months at a time without fear of them going off.

    2. Store packs in a sealed cardboard box (label emergency only) or container that you can not see in to. Keep the box away from everyday pantry items, perhaps in the garage or spare room.

    3. These are not essential foods. If you don’t usually have them through choice or medical need, do not buy them.


    How much to buy, swap and serve?


    Packets, cans and jars vary is size. These are approximate amounts that give you a guide when shopping.

    Check your pantry before you shop for these items. You may already have more than enough at home. Adding more to the stockpile is not going to help your health. 

    I don’t usually talk about food in weights but when buying for a couple of extra weeks, you need a better idea of how much to buy. There are also endless varieties of ‘red extra’ foods so this list is only a short example.


    One of these amounts is ample to last an adult 1 week*:

  • 175 g chocolate, OR
  • 180 g crispy snack food such as vegetable/potato chips, extruded cheese snacks, OR
  • 180 g cake, muffin or donut, OR
  • 280 g jubes, lollies and candy sweets, OR
  • 210 g biscuits, plain, cream-filled or coated, OR
  • 350 g pastry item such as pie or sausage roll, OR
  • 210 g dry popping corn

    Each of the following combo examples is 2 weeks worth for one adult:


    • 1 medium block chocolate (170 g) + 1 small pack biscuits (210 g), OR
    • 250 g bag jube lollies + 3 individual chocolate bars (165 g),OR
    • 360 g crisps

    The weights are not exact but they are close enough and based on typical pack size and weights of these foods available in supermarkets. 

    Based on an average of one serve daily. Any more than this amount displaces healthier nutrient-rich basic foods for a person who is confined to home and less active than usual. That will be the case during self-isolation due to Coronavirus. Less than this is recommended for many, including those who have had weight loss surgery, are actively losing weight, or have diabetes, heart disease or another medical concern that excludes or limits this style of food.

    Adjust the range to suit household preferences. Aim to limit the variety selected. Kids don’t need any more.

    It is up to you to decide how long the ‘red extra’ combo lasts you. It is your choice if you decide to eat a week’s worth in one evening while watching a movie.

    For more information about which foods are ‘red extras’, get my award-winning book 'this=that: a life-size photo guide to food serves'.