Cooking and shopping information for people with cystic fibrosis who are shielding

We have worked with cystic fibrosis (CF) dietitians to produce some useful information for people with CF and their families who are shielding during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Take a look at some information on useful foods to have on hand, foods that last for a long time, how to make sure you eat enough food, keeping down costs and tips on meal planning.

Last updated: 1 July 2020

For many people with cystic fibrosis (CF), coronavirus (COVID-19) causes a huge amount of concern, with families worrying about their health and the health of their loved ones. We know that many people are finding it difficult to order food, and are having to wait longer between shops than they normally would. We also know that many people are experiencing financial difficulties, and buying enough food to keep up their calorie intake is proving challenging.

Because of this, many people will be experiencing anxiety, stress and some may find it harder to manage pre-existing mental health conditions. We are also aware that many people with CF will be finding it difficult to keep up their vital physical fitness when they are self-isolating. We’ve put together some useful information for supporting your mental and physical health, using information from reliable sources like Mind, the World Health Organisation and CF physiotherapists and dietitians.

Store-cupboard essentials 

Tinned foods are store-cupboard essentials. As well as being made into nutritious meals themselves, they can be added to meals for extra protein and fat. 

Tinned beans and chickpeas are a great source of protein. Tinned oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon are rich in protein and omega 3 fatty acids. These can be used cold in sandwiches, salads or pasta dishes, or cooked as part of a warm meal.

Dried goods like dried beans, pulses and grains such as lentils, split peas, rice, couscous or quinoa are also nutritious, long-lasting options that are tasty, affordable and filling. Rolled oats cooked with full-fat milk can serve as an excellent breakfast option, and can be spiced up with yoghurt, chopped fruits or dried fruit. 

Sticking to meal and snack patterns

Let’s face it, our entire life routines have changed. However, that doesn’t mean your usual eating pattern has to. Stick to a normal eating pattern of three meals per day and snacks in between to avoid any weight loss. 

Knowing when you’re hungry 

Imagine a scale from 1 to 10: 1 being so hungry you feel physically ill, and 10 being so full you feel sick to your stomach. Aim for between 4 and 7. Any time you feel slightly hungry, eat. Get to a place where you aren’t hungry but are comfortably satisfied. Rate your hunger on this scale before, during and after a meal or snack to help guide your intake. 

If you are a parent, you will be used to watching out for the signs that your child is hungry. Some people find sticking to set meal and snack times mean their children don’t get hungry in between, but others have a more flexible approach. If your child is getting tired, twitchy, tearful, angry, frustrated or argumentative, these could be signs that they are hungry. If it’s not coming up to a mealtime, you could offer them a snack. 

Clever use of ingredients

Use fresh ingredients and those that have a shorter shelf life first. If fresh products, especially fruits, vegetables and dairy, continue to be available, use these first before using up your longer-lasting foods, like those that are tinned, dried or frozen. Frozen and tinned fruits and vegetables can be used over longer periods of time and will be as good for you as fresh foods and sometimes even better, as they will have been frozen when they were picked. To avoid food waste, consider freezing any leftovers for another meal. 

Keeping down costs

If money is an issue you can keep costs down by thinking about low-cost alternatives. Instead of buying ready-made hummus, puree a drained can of chickpeas to make your own. Try a meatless meal, like chilli with beans instead of beef. If fresh fruits and vegetables are too costly, remember that tinned and frozen fruits and vegetables can provide the same nutrients as fresh.

Nutrition-packed foods

Stock up on nutrition-packed foods that will stay fresh for a week or longer. Here are some useful items:

Store-cupboard staples

  • Grains – oats or rice
  • Pasta, couscous or noodles (including instant noodles)
  • Soups and broths – tinned or long-life cartons
  • Juice – long-life 100% fruit juice cartons 
  • Beans/legumes – tinned (black beans, chickpeas, red kidney beans), or dry beans
  • Fruits – dried and tinned 
  • Breakfast foods – cereals, oats, muesli
  • Baking items – flour (self-raising, plain or strong bread flour), fast-acting yeast for bread making, pancake mix, baking powder, sugar, honey, jam. Try your local bakery if you are having trouble getting hold of these products.
  • Dairy – powdered eggs, long-life whole milk
  • Tinned foods – tinned tuna, salmon, mackerel or sardines, tinned tomatoes (chopped or whole)
  • Ready meals – tinned meatballs, curries, chilli con carne or stews
  • Sauces – tomato sauce, pasta sauce
  • Snacks – cereal and protein bars, biscuits and cookies, crackers, chocolate bars, crisps, nuts, pretzels, dried fruit, popcorn kernels
  • Nuts and seeds – bagged, tinned
  • Spreads – nut butters, chocolate spread
  • Desserts – condensed milk, custard, rice pudding, syrup puddings
  • Hot drinks – hot chocolate, coffee, tea
  • Flavourings and dressings – dried herbs and spices, vinegars, mustards, salad dressings, salad creams and mayonnaise

Foods that can be frozen

Remember to freeze foods in suitable containers.

  • Breads – including corn tortillas, muffins, bagels, pittas, wraps, pizza bases
  • Dairy – sliced, cubed or grated hard cheese, butter, plastic bottles of milk and milk in ice cubes to put in tea and coffee
  • Ready meals – pizza, chicken goujons, nuggets or kievs, breaded fish, fish fingers or fish cakes, pies, soups
  • Vegetables – sweetcorn, peas, mixed vegetables, chopped onions, sliced vegetables
  • Potatoes – chips, sweet potato fries, mashed potato
  • Pastries – croissants, frozen waffles, scotch pancakes
  • Sauces – ready-made or home-made pasta and curry sauces
  • Meats – chicken, minced beef or pork (pre-made frozen lean ground patties or meatballs), bacon
  • Seafood – frozen ready-to-cook fish fillets, frozen prawns, fresh fish
  • Meat alternatives – vegetarian mince, pieces, sausages, nuggets, fillets, burgers
  • Deserts – ice cream, frozen fruit

Fresh foods

Some fresh foods last a little longer than others. Here are some examples:

  • Fruits – sturdy fresh fruit such as apples and citrus
  • Vegetables – sturdy fresh vegetables such as celery, broccoli, onions, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, swede, yam, plantain, cassava, turnip, radish, cauliflower and okra
  • Dairy – fresh whole milk, yoghurt, cream, butter and eggs make quick, high-calorie additions to other foods 
  • Meat – cured meats and hams usually have a long shelf-life
  • Cheese – long-life cheese that has been vacuum packed such as feta, halloumi or paneer
  • Dips – hummus, guacamole, salsa, full-fat cream cheese
  • Flavourings – hot/steak sauces, lemon/lime juice, dressings, honey or full-fat Greek yogurt

Ways to quickly add 100kcals

This information was adapted from our nutrition leaflets.

Avocado: half an avocado. Add to sandwiches and salads or make guacamole. 

Bacon: two fried slices. Add to sandwiches, burgers, macaroni cheese or crumble into salads. 

Margarine, butter or ghee: one tablespoon. Add to sandwiches, crackers, pancakes and breads or melt on hot foods such as potatoes and vegetables. 

Mayonnaise: one tablespoon. Use in sandwiches and salads or make a dip for raw vegetables, chicken strips, chips and seafood. 

Cheese: 30g or two tablespoons of grated cheese. Add to sandwiches and salad or melt into foods like scrambled eggs, potatoes, soups and chilli. 

Chopped nuts: two tablespoons. Add to cereals, ice cream, fruit salads, and puddings. 

Cream cheese: two tablespoons. Spread on breads, bagels and crackers or mix in food such as mashed potato, pasta and macaroni cheese. 

Double cream: one and a half tablespoons. Add to full-fat milk, hot/cold cereals, fruit smoothies, creamed soups and any recipe that uses milk. 

Chocolate spread or peanut butter: one tablespoon. Spread on toast, crackers, bagels and fruit slices. 

Syrup or honey: two tablespoons. Add to hot cereals/porridges, drizzle on pancakes or pour over ice cream. 

Meal planning

Here are some examples of foods that you could try for meals and snacks: 


  • Toast with jam and butter, chocolate spread, peanut butter or pâté.
  • Cereal with full-fat milk and added fruit and nuts.
  • Croissant, Danish pastry, muffin or crumpets with butter, jam, peanut butter or syrup.
  • Bagel with cream cheese, chocolate spread or salmon or scrambled eggs with cheese.
  • Milky coffee, latte, cappuccino made with full-fat milk, a glass of milk or a milkshake.
  • Bacon, sausage or egg sandwich.
  • Cheese and beans on toast with butter.
  • Bacon, sausage, egg, beans, toast and hash browns.


  • Sandwich made from thickly-sliced bread with butter, a full-size bagel or large tortilla wrap. Fillings could include tinned fish, egg, meat, cheese and sauce such as mayonnaise, seafood sauce, potato salad or coleslaw. 
  • Jacket potato with butter or olive oil and fillings such as cheese, beans, tuna with mayonnaise or chilli.
  • Ready meal such as lasagne, curry or macaroni cheese, served with naan bread, poppadoms or garlic bread.
  • Scrambled, poached or fried eggs with beans and/or cheese.
  • Pâté, peanut butter or chocolate spread on buttered toast, English muffin or tortilla wrap.
  • Additions to lunch could include sausage rolls, Scotch eggs, full-fat yoghurt, chocolate bars, crisps, nuts or a piece of cake. 

Evening meal 

  • Fried, grilled or roasted meat, fish or vegetarian meat substitute with vegetables and potatoes (add fortified mashed potatoes for more calories). 
  • Lasagne, curry or chilli with rice and garlic bread, naan bread or nachos. 
  • Pastry pie (crust top and bottom) with buttered vegetables and fortified mashed potatoes. 
  • Pasta with creamy sauce and additional cheese on top. 
  • Tortilla wraps with meat, vegetables or meat substitute with avocado, sour cream and cheese. 


  • Full-fat yoghurt or chocolate dessert pot. 
  • Cheese and biscuits. 
  • Individual crème caramel, trifle or milk pudding. 
  • Ice cream, cheesecake, gateaux, fresh cream cake or a slice of cake. 
  • Sponge pudding with ice cream or custard. 
  • Biscuits or cookies and a glass of full-fat milk. 
  • Pancakes or waffles with syrup, chocolate spread and cream. 


  • Chocolate bars, crisps, nuts, individual pizzas, chips, toast, biscuits, cake or individual trifles. 
  • Chocolate pots, individual fruit pies, cheese and biscuits, yoghurt, scones or Scotch eggs. 
  • Sausage rolls, mixed cured meats and cheese, sushi, doughnuts, Danish pastries, waffles or quiches.
  • Try to always have a good stock of eggs. Hard-boiled eggs make a quick protein-packed addition to any snack. Hard-boiled eggs with their shells still on can be kept in the fridge for up to one week.


Having a balanced diet that matches your needs has always been important for people with CF, and still is. Vitamin D helps to boost the immune system, and some evidence has shown that it can help to reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections, particularly in individuals who are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D can be made in the body from having sunlight on your skin for short periods of time each day, but we know that some people who are shielding will not have access to any outside space, and getting enough vitamin D will be more challenging.

There are some foods that contain amounts of vitamin D, but the best way to make sure you are getting this vitamin is to take your prescribed vitamin supplements. This will help ensure you are still getting the right amount even if you can’t be outside in the sunshine.

You can get extra vitamin D from the following foods, but make sure you remember to take your vitamin supplements as a priority:

  • Oily fish (mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines and pilchards)
  • Liver (avoid eating liver if you are pregnant)
  • Fortified margarine
  • Eggs

Some foods have been fortified and contain vitamin D; check the packages to see where Vitamin D has been added. These foods can include breakfast cereals, tofu, orange juice and milk alternatives such as soya, almond and rice milks.

Coronavirus updates and FAQs

Important information for people affected by cystic fibrosis about coronavirus (COVID-19), and the latest guidance on how to stay safe.

Financial support and welfare advice

Resources and information from the Trust, as well as useful external websites and services, that can provide financial and welfare support to families living with cystic fibrosis during this time.

Mental and physical health

Helpful advice on how you can maintain your emotional and physical wellbeing through a range of activities.

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