Staying at and working from home is new territory for a lot of us. Our routines have been disrupted and the world as we know it is constantly changing. In these uncertain times, it is easy to feel out of control. However, I am here to assure you there is one thing you can most certainly control, that will have long-reaching impact on the rest of your life: your diet. With a pinch of planning, a dash of discipline, and my three tips below, you’ll have a fail-safe recipe for nutritional success to survive social distancing without losing control of your diet.
- Control Your Home Food Environment
If you buy junk, you’ll eat junk. The single most important tip is to surround yourself with the foods you WANT to be eating. If you buy chips, cheez-its and chocolate, that is what you’ll eat. Do not purchase the items you know you have a weakness for. Let them be something you have to go out to get. This gives you the chance to assess whether or not you REALLY need it as well as the opportunity to talk yourself into something healthier instead.
Do not let your produce (and money) go to waste! If you buy fresh produce and promptly tuck it in the bottom-most drawer of your refrigerator, underneath a bag of shredded cheese, you can be sure you’ll fulfill your own prophecy of “all the fruits and vegetables I buy go bad!”. Instead, buy some plants, immediately cut and prepare them so they are ready to be eaten, and keep them in plain sight on a countertop, table, or the top shelves of your fridge so that you see and choose them. Example: Buy a bag of baby carrots. Portion all of the carrots by handful into small plastic bags. Stack all the bags of carrots in a container on the top shelf of your fridge for a quick and crunchy mid-day snack.
- Healthy Non-Perishables
Keeping fresh produce on hand might not be the best option at this time, since it requires more frequent trips to the store. Instead, buy your fruits and vegetables frozen, dried, or canned for longer shelf life. Vegetables are low in calories and packed with immune-boosting fiber, vitamins and minerals. And, they can be added to any meal you make! Some examples include: soups, chili, stir fry, macaroni & cheese, pasta sauce, casseroles, pizzas and quesadillas. The more vegetables, the more nutritional value and the lower the calorie content. Fresh or frozen vegetables are best, since canned often have salt added in packaging. If using canned, pour off the liquid and give them a rinse to get off some of the salt. You could even reheat them in fresh water to pull out even more sodium if desired.
As for proteins, plant proteins are a shelf stable, affordable, and healthier alternative to meat. On your next trip to the grocery store, stock up on nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. Beans and lentils can be bought dry or canned for longest shelf life. Replace some or all of the meat in your next meal with these to increase nutrition and cut cost. If you want to eat animal proteins without increasing your trips to the grocery store, buy large quantities that can be split out and frozen for later, buy already frozen, or try canned chicken, tuna, salmon, and fish.
Here are websites for healthier recipes of all of your favorite meals:
- Plan For Snack Attacks
Snacking is an essential stress-management tool you probably won’t be able to avoid while you are at home with food all around you. Bright side is that healthy snacks between meals are a great way to keep your metabolism revved and your appetite controlled so you don’t overeat at meals. The important thing here is WHAT you choose to snack on. Much like my first recommendation above, you need to set yourself up for success. Pay attention to your snack preferences and keep healthy plant options on hand to fill the voids between meals.
Keep these items out and available to you when you know you will need them most:
SALTY / CRUNCHY à nuts & seeds, dried fruit or vegetable chips, whole grain pretzels or crackers, olives, pickles, kimchi, popcorn, whole grain granola/trail mix/cereal, vegetable sticks.
SWEET / SMOOTH à dried fruit, fresh fruit, dessert-flavored yogurts, frozen fruit, fruit smoothies, granola with chocolate bits, cottage cheese, trail mix with dried fruit or chocolate pieces, guacamole or hummus with vegetables, nut butter & celery or banana.
If you would like to discuss your social distance diet personally, have any nutritional concerns or questions, OR just want to kill some of your new-found free time with a free and confidential one-hour consultation with me, please call (518)462-6531 to schedule an appointment. Also, please feel free to join me for a free virtual webinar on Mindful Eating Monday 4/6 at 12pm EST.
By: Alison Durand RDN, CDN, LDN, Capital EAP Nutritionist