Many experts are recommending meditation, yoga, and general exercise to cope with the stress COVID-19 has created. While those are important practices to consider, we should also make sure our nutrition habits are in check. It’s easier than you think.
Good nutrition really boils down to enjoying well-rounded, regular meals; avoiding binge-eating (and drinking); keeping healthy staples in the house; and staying hydrated. Follow these tips and you may be surprised at how much better you feel during this unsettling time.
1. Keep regular mealtimes
Let’s talk routines. Chances are you don’t need an alarm clock anymore. You likely don’t even know what the date is. That’s okay but eating at all different times is not okay. It will destroy your body’s internal clock. Researchers have found that when peoples’ mealtimes are all over the map, appetite, digestion and metabolism processes change in such a way that can raise your unhealthy cholesterol levels and lead to gaining a lot of weight even if you are eating the same amount of calories as you do when you eat at regular times.
Your family members likely wake at different times, but it’s important to set a breakfast time. Be reasonable—maybe 8 or 9 a.m. Set a midday lunch and an early evening dinner time. Try to keep the times within the same hour or so. When you are ordering takeout, keep in mind the wait times so that you don’t end up eating later than your scheduled hour. You can incorporate scheduled healthy snack times too, which is especially important for children.
2. Try to have a veggie and protein choice at every meal and snack time
During stressful times, it’s common for people to consume more sugar and refined carbs of all types (ice cream, cookies, candy, cake, crackers). You can help beat these habits by making sure you have a vegetable and protein at every meal and snack time.
Here are some suggestions for each meal and some snack choices:
- Whole grain toast with avocado
- Veggie omelet with peppers and onions or asparagus and mushrooms
- Add spinach or kale into Greek yogurt/ice/fruit smoothie
- Poached egg over sautéed greens
- Eggs with sweet potato hash browns
- Whole gran sandwich with turkey or chicken, romaine lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers
- Salad with mixed greens, Granny Smith apple, low-fat cheddar and walnuts
- Salad with romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, chickpeas, olives and low-fat feta cheese.
- Tuna salad or chicken salad mixed with chopped celery and red onions on whole grain toast
- Chicken stir-fry with peppers, broccoli, bean sprouts, and carrots over brown rice
- Traditional spaghetti and meatball dinner using spiralized zucchini or spaghetti squash for the “noodles” and using ground turkey or beans for the meatballs.
- Soups and stews are fantastic options.
- Celery with nut butter
- Carrots or peppers with hummus
- Roasted chickpeas
- Greek yogurt with berries (berries are not veggies but are very nutritious)
3. Eat mindfully
You may now have the time to binge-watch your favorite series, but do not choose to snack when doing this. If you do, portion out one of the protein/ veggie snacks. I suggest eating meals at the dinner table with your family. Chew your food slowly—it takes 20 minutes for your brain to inform you whether you are full or not. In fact, many studies have found that people who chew slowly lose more weight than people who do not.
4. Keep your pantry stocked
Here are some things I keep on hand so that I always have something to cook:
- Pantry: Vegetable and chicken broth, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, canned tomatoes, a wide variety of herbs & spices, oats, olive oil, vinegar, condiments, peanut butter, beans and tuna
- Freezer: Frozen fish fillets, frozen fruit & veggies and whole-grain bread
- Fridge: Low-fat milk, plain Greek yogurt, eggs and low-fat cheese
5. Stay hydrated
It can be so easy to neglect hydrating when you’re at home, but it’s so important. Did you know that water makes up 70% of your body and 80% of your brain? Water is critical for regulating circulation, body temperature, and digestion. Water also detoxifies the liver and kidneys by removing waste out of your body. If you are sick of water, try herbal teas. Keep in mind that soups are hydrating too. You can also eat foods that are loaded with water, including watermelon, cucumber, cantaloupe, strawberries, oranges, peaches, skim milk and romaine lettuce.
Be sure to check your hydration regularly. You can do this two different ways:
- Examine your urine: Light colored urine indicates that you are hydrated, while darker urine indicates that you are dehydrated.
- Pinch test: Your skin loses its elasticity when you are dehydrated. Pinch the skin on the back of your hand. If it immediately returns to the surface, you are likely hydrated. If it takes a while to go down (more than a second), you are probably dehydrated.
Kelly Springer is the founder of Kelly’s Choice nutritional company. She’s been featured in several magazines and has appeared on many television shows, including Good Morning America!