The long-term effects of COVID-19 and social distancing on our society are yet to be seen. But even in the short-term, many people are seeing pant sizes trending up. Maybe it’s the 24-hour pajama routine, maybe it’s the increased Netflix consumption, or maybe it’s the recent spike in people who list artisan bread baking as a passion.
If you’re one of the many people feeling stressed about your diet during isolation, the first thing you should do is take a deep breath. These are unprecedented times, its ok. To get some helpful advice, we reached out to Nicole Hahn, a clinical dietitian at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. She answered some of the most common questions related to diet during COVID-19.
This is the perfect time to start my new diet… right?
Do you want to start a diet? Then, sure! You’re cooking all of your meals right now, which means you have more control over your nutrition than ever. A proper diet can lead to better physical and mental health. With that said, just because you’re in self-isolation doesn’t mean that you have to make a major diet change. Continue to pick apples over Oreos and don’t stress yourself out more than you may be already.
Is it even possible to avoid unhealthy snacking?
OK, the pantry is always within reach and there are no coworkers to judge you for eating the whole bag of gummi bears. But of course, unhealthy snacking can be avoided. Hahn recommended meal prep as a great way to plan your day. Plan healthy, balanced meals that fill you up and make it less tempting to overindulge an hour or two later.
There’s nothing wrong with a snack every now and then. “Keep food that makes you feel good about eating nearby. Avoid excess sugar and fat and aim for fruits and veggies combined with lean protein and healthy fat,” advised Hahn. She lists peanut butter, deli meat, string cheese, yogurt and nuts as excellent options.
(By the way, it’s ok to eat the gummi bears. Just stick to the serving size.)
How can I improve my grocery game?
Hahn offered grocery delivery services or grocery pick-ups as great alternatives to wandering public stores. If you do walk the aisles, Hahn suggested following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s latest guidelines to wear a mask, wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.
During Coronavirus and social distancing, it’s never been more important to shop from a list. When preparing your list, pick recipes that include shelf staples (i.e. pasta, rice, beans and dried grains) that can be used in diverse dishes, with distant expiration dates. That’s not an excuse to avoid fresh food. Produce should be bought in appropriate portions for the planned recipes. “If you are worried about spoiling, frozen fruits and vegetables are also a good option,” said Hahn.
Enough about me. How can I encourage a healthy diet for my family?
We are now taking requests! Dedicate each dinner to a member of the family by preparing a meal of their choosing. There’s just one caveat (there always is) – the requester has to step in as sous chef. Hahn even recommended a family cooking class night that gets everyone involved. In the end, kids will love eating what they cook. And when you cook it yourself, you can keep a closer eye on the macros. With no soccer practice pick-ups to break up your evening, your family has more minutes to cook. Take your time and enjoy the moments you get to spend together.
What foods should I add to support a healthy immune system?
A diverse, rounded, plant-based diet will always serve you well, but an apple-a-day isn’t the one and only way to health. “A balanced diet is just one part of supporting a healthy immune system,” said Hahn.
Getting enough sleep can be a challenge for some night owls. The CDC recommends 9-12 hours each day for school age children, 8-10 hours for teens and 7 or more hours for adults.
Regular exercise goes a long way in building a strong immune system. Sure, your gym is closed. But before you flop to the couch, explore your other options. Online classes, many of them at no charge, are multiplying by the day and there are endless ways to exercise at home and in your backyard. Local parks and trails are popular choices for daily exercise. Try visiting these spots during off hours or explore trails that see a little less foot traffic. The CDC offers guidance on how to enjoy outdoor spaces responsibly.
No matter the circumstances, food should be fun, stress-free and nutritious. If you have questions or if you are looking for help creating a healthier diet for you and your family, reach out to a specialist at Banner Health. You have a lot of options and we’d love to find one that works well for you.