A pandemic in the 21st century, are you kidding me? The reality has set in. The finish line keeps moving; we need to win the wait. How has the COVID-19 coronavirus affected you? On many levels, this virus is out of our control. But what we can control is how we look after ourselves during this challenging time and managing nutrition is critical to help get through this “challenge”. Conversely, has this pandemic had a positive impact on your lifestyle and/or health? Below are some of the pros and cons of living through the pandemic followed by COVID-19 nutrition tips and action items to help you personally manage COVID-19 related lifestyle concerns.
PROS of Pandemics:
- Less time spent commuting to school or work (since working from home)
- More time for yourself
- More efficient use of your time throughout the day – possibly more productive?
- No rush hour and fewer greenhouse gases emitted – saving the planet?
- Fewer purchased meals mean more home-cooking (better nutrition? Cost savings?)
- Less shopping overall (possibly, unless online purchases?!)
- More time with family and housemates – usually a good thing
- Your pets are happy that you are around!
Cons of Pandemics:
- Limitations around social events, exercising and, freedom to go where you want to – travel!
- A lot of unknowns and the finish line keeps moving!
- So many restrictions on so many levels
- Possibly less daily energy expended (i.e., less active than usual) & may impact body composition
On to Some COVID-19 Nutrition Tips
- If your daily energy expended is reduced (i.e., not as active), then prompt yourself to get up and get moving at regular intervals; some like to track their daily steps taken outside of training to monitor your activity level.
- Try to get out for some fresh air every day, whether that is a walk, hike, bike ride, or ski. Being out with nature is critical for our mental health. Take deep, oxygenating breaths to help energize.
- And if your daily energy expenditure is down (i.e., calories burned) then consider adjusting your calories consumed. Possibly reduce your dinner portions or evening snacks
- When working & studying from home establish a designated eating spot away from your study or work area. This helps dissociate studying or work AND food.
- When it is time for a meal or snack, portion your food, sit, taste & savour with few visual distractions while eating. This mindful eating process allows you to get the maximum satisfaction from your nutrition and you may be satisfied with consuming less food in the end.
- Before reaching for something to eat ask one simple question, Am I Hungry? If not, then consider what else could be increasing this urge to reach for food? What else can I do besides eat?
- Watch the boredom eating or eating to cope with other emotional triggers. It is common to reach for food when we are trying to feel better. But look to other activities that you can do besides eating. Make a list of these non-food-related activities, such as reading, complete a puzzle, play or listen to music, do some crafts, play cards or a game, go for a walk, take a bath, etc. It’s all about re-programming how you may naturally respond to non-hunger appetite triggers.
- Keep well hydrated for optimal mental and physical energy and to control your appetite. Sometimes we forget to drink water because our routine has been changed (i.e., not sitting in class or at the worksite).
- Limit the See-Food diet. Keep tempting foods out of sight = out of mind. Better yet, don’t bring “tempting” foods into your home.
- Load up with raw veggies for snacks and to add to your meals (especially when your meal portions are reduced). Why not purchase a tray of pre-cut veggies for ready-to-eat “filler” foods?
- If purchasing “food,” choose a restaurant or store that seems popular so that the food is more likely to be fresh. Food poisoning can occur when retailers hang on to “expired” foods to sell when these foods should be tossed.
- Make healthy choices to support a strong immune system. And that means avoid very-low-calorie diets as this puts stress on your body’s ability to keep healthy. Load up with protein-rich foods, fresh veggies, and fruits, plus just enough whole grains or legumes. Micronutrients to help your immunity include Vitamins C and D, along with zinc lozenges.
- Watch your alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a depressant, it prevents you from getting into deep REM (rapid eye movement) quality sleep and it may suppress your immune system. It is a source of calories and can make us more hungry. Plus, alcohol may lower your growth hormone level that is critical during your early sleep hours for optimal restoration.
Living through a pandemic is a true test of our ability to look after ourselves. Do the best that you can to take care of yourself by establishing new routines for optimal health and well-being. Hopefully, some of these COVID-19 nutrition tips will help.
By: Kelly Anne Erdman, MSc, RD, CSSD. Kelly Anne Erdman provides individual nutrition consultations, team and coach nutrition support and education, and corporate nutrition services.
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