Cooking at Home While Social Distancing

With many restaurants now closed, an expert explains the importance of large scale social distancing and offers an easy recipe with common kitchen ingredients to make at home.

10:45 AM

Author | Jordyn Imhoff

Editor's note: Information on the COVID-19 crisis is constantly changing. For the latest numbers and updates, keep checking the CDC's website. For the most up-to-date information from Michigan Medicine, visit the hospital's Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage

Interested in a COVID-19 clinical trial? Health research is critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Our researchers are hard at work to find vaccines and other ways to potentially prevent and treat the disease and need your help. Sign up to be considered for a clinical trial at Michigan Medicine.

Monday, March 16, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the temporary closure of several public places, including restaurants. You may be wondering if this is all really necessary, but nurse scientist Sue Anne Bell, Ph.D, says it absolutely is, especially when it comes to dining out.

Communal eating, like serving yourself in a buffet line, could spread the virus because of the collective serving utensils, silverware and plates. In any restaurant or café, sitting in close proximity to others or coming in contact with an infected surface, like the counter or ketchup dispenser, also poses a risk for disease transmission.

"The CDC is recommending avoiding large groups and restaurants are filled with people that could spread illness," she says. "You don't know the health of the people sitting around you."

These public places often have shared bathrooms, which should be avoided as much as possible in a pandemic for the same reasons.

"It's good that we're practicing social distancing, but Governor Whitmer's order was crucial for prompting others to practice healthy social habits on a larger scale," Bell says, who is also a member of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation with expertise in disaster preparedness and response, community health and emergency care­.

MORE FROM MICHIGAN: Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Alternatives to eating out

While you can still get take out, this situation provides people the opportunity to instead focus on making nutritious, budget friendly meals at home.

"The great thing about the internet is that you can learn so much about creative cooking," Bell says. "If you're trying to make meals at home, there are websites where you can type in what ingredients you have and it'll give you recipes you can make, like SuperCook or MyFridgeFood."

Using grocery delivery services and preparing meals at home will make you a social distancing role model for your kids and present an opportunity to teach them how to cook alongside you.

"We have to take a society based approach to this virus. We have to think about others," Bell says. "Staying home is doing our part."

If you're looking for a quick recipe using common kitchen ingredients, try this chicken and pasta soup recipe, which feeds four to six people. 

Chicken and Pasta Soup

What you'll need

  • 1 cup orzo or pasta

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 medium onion, diced

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1 medium carrot, shredded (can substitute with a frozen vegetable medley)

  • 1 rib celery, peeled and minced (can substitute with a frozen vegetable medley)

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3 cups cooked chicken (can substitute with canned chicken)

  • 5 cups chicken broth, low-sodium canned or homemade

  • 1 bay leaf (optional for flavor)

  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (optional for flavor)


  1. Add salt to a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and boil, stirring occasionally until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta.

  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and salt. If using fresh ingredients, add the carrot and celery and cook for about 8 minutes until tender.

If using frozen vegetables, heat the mixture in a skillet over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook uncovered for 5-7 minutes and stir occasionally. Add this medley to your onion, garlic and salt.

  1. Add the fresh or canned chicken, bay leaf, thyme, and broth to the vegetables. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.

  2. Add the pasta to the soup just before serving. Soup can be made in advance and frozen, just omit the pasta and add when serving.

Like Podcasts? Add the Michigan Medicine News Break to your Alexa-enabled device or subscribe for daily updates on iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher

More Articles About: lifestyle Covid-19 Community Health Nutrition Digestive (GI) Conditions infectious disease
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

Explore a variety of healthcare news & stories by visiting the Health Lab home page for more articles.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]


Stay Informed

Want top health & research news weekly? Sign up for Health Lab’s newsletters today!

Featured News & Stories pills floating blue pink dark background physician in middle looking at chart white coat scrubs
Health Lab
Better medical record-keeping needed to fight antibiotic overuse, studies suggest
Efforts to reduce overuse of antibiotics may be hampered by incomplete medical records that don’t show the full reasons for prescriptions.
surgery gloves passing tool blue and yellow
Health Lab
A universal heparin reversal drug is shown effective in mice
The newest version of the heparin reversal drug, described in a recent issue of Advanced Healthcare Materials, adjusted the number of protons bound to it, making the molecule less positive so it would preferentially bind to the highly negative heparin, resulting in a much safer drug.
blue gloves in hospital hanging IV bag
Health Lab
Commonly used antibiotic brings more complications, death in the sickest patients
In emergency rooms and intensive care units across the country, clinicians make split-second decisions about which antibiotics to give a patient when a life threatening infection is suspected. Now, a study reveals that these decisions may have unintended consequences for patient outcomes.
doctor in white coat with dark blue scrubs touching hand of patient in grey sweater and baseball cap in exam room
Health Lab
Neuropathy common, and mostly undiagnosed, among patients in this Michigan city
A research team, led by Michigan Medicine and in partnership with Hurley Medical Center, finds that nearly three-quarters of patients at a clinic in Flint, Mich., a community that is predominantly Black and socioeconomically disadvantaged, had neuropathy — of which 75% was undiagnosed.
Health Lab
Too much iron can cause big problems for the immune system
A study builds on previous work that found depriving T cells of iron prevented cells from proliferating. The current study, published in PNAS, found that excess iron is just as problematic.
uti written on empty roll of toliet paper on a toliet paper holder with hot pink background
Health Lab
How E. coli get the power to cause urinary tract infections
Research published in PNAS examines how the bacteria Escherichia coli, or E. coli—responsible for most UTIs—is able to use host nutrients to reproduce at an extraordinarily rapid pace during infection despite the near sterile environment of fresh urine.