It’s hard to believe that COVID-19 has been wreaking havoc for more than a year, and yet, here we are. Even though the vaccines hold the promise of returning to a life of normalcy, the rollout is gradual and it will undoubtedly be slow going.
In the meantime, many of us have gotten used to spending more time at home. Working from home has become more of the norm. Not all schools are open and even if they are, some parents have decided to keep their kids home from school indefinitely. Going out at night to parties is less of an option, and even working out at the gym is fraught with risk.
Spending time at home isn’t necessarily bad. Many parents like avoiding the morning rush of getting the kids off to school. Many offices have moved their work to full-time remote. However, while it can be nice working at home in your PJs, there are some aspects that are not so nice.
While at home, it’s easy to munch around the clock. Some cookies with your coffee, chocolate, peanuts, more coffee, a dash of kahlua, pretzels, chips — you get the idea. There’s a reason that the “quarantine 15” has become a reality for many.
How to Stay Healthy During the Pandemic
More than weight gain, eating too much or eating junk food isn’t healthy — especially during a pandemic. A healthy diet has a lot of benefits, and one of them is that it’s good for immune system support. When viruses are flying around, having a healthy immune system is one of the best forms of protection. (In addition to washing your hands and maintaining social distancing.)
Here are 5 nutrition ideas you can implement during the pandemic.
Eat Real Meals
When you’re at home all day, it’s easy to snack, snack, snack. Resist this urge! Eating balanced, nourishing meals is a good way to help yourself feel full and reduce sugar cravings. Yes, it means spending some time in the kitchen, but it’s not like you’re in a rush to go out anyway. So instead of cereal and milk for breakfast, try eggs with whole wheat bread and a salad. The same goes for lunch and dinner: real meals always beat snacks.
Cut Down on Sugar & Sweeteners
If you’re hungry between meals and feel the urge to snack, choose something without processed sugar. Fruits, veggies, nuts, and plain yogurt all make great snacks. Sugar can cause cavities, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many other unpleasant complications, so it’s best to avoid it as much as you can. Similarly, sweeteners can actually lead to more sugar cravings, and even cause foods that are less intensely sweet, like fruit, to become less appealing. If you’re craving something bubbly, try flavored seltzer instead of regular or diet soda.
Create a Routine
When you have a routine (that includes mealtimes), you are more likely to focus on that and be less distracted by food. Moreover, research has shown that a routine is a good way to reduce stress and anxiety, especially during times of uncertainty. Stress and anxiety can often lead to overeating or indulging in too many snacks, so staying calm through a routine can help on that level.
The importance of drinking enough water cannot be understated. According to the CDC, drinking enough water (between 11.5 and 15.5 cups a day for adult women and men) can prevent dehydration, a condition that can lead to mood swings, overheating, constipation, and kidney stones. Drinking water can also help reduce your cravings for snacks by making you feel full.
Create a Meal Plan
One of the obstacles to healthy eating is a lack of preparedness. If you don’t know what’s for dinner, you’re likely to reach for a snack or processed food from the freezer as opposed to making healthy choices. Creating a meal plan can help avoid these situations. It can take just a half-hour to prepare a weekly menu, and then you don’t have to think about it for the rest of the week. If you have the budget, there are plenty of meal delivery services that deliver healthy, cooked meals to your doorstep. This can lighten your load of meal preparation.
Planning for the Future
It’s hard to imagine that COVID-19 will eventually be under control, but it’s only a matter of time. Until then, it’s important to maintain healthy eating habits so that we can enjoy our post-COVID freedom, whenever that will be. Even once COVID is manageable, good nutrition will always be vital.