As we approach the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find yourself wondering where these extra 19 pounds came from. Perhaps you haven’t gained the “COVID-19”, but you have lost track of your healthy eating habits between Zoom call after Zoom call and helping your kids with virtual school. Regardless of where your healthy eating habits went awry, or if they were never there to begin with, there is no better time than the present to start implementing some healthy changes to your nutrition.
Many of us are working from home, and that in and of itself can lend to a lot of poor eating habits. You may find yourself snacking more than you would in a traditional office or work environment since you have easier access to the pantry at home. Less structure to your day may lead to mindless snacking and extra calories. Here are a few simple tips that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine to encourage healthy eating habits:
Stock Sensible Snacks
One of the first things to focus on is what you bring in your home. Stocking your fridge and pantry with wholesome, nutritious food items rather than prepackaged, processed foods can help you stay on track with healthy eating. Processed foods can cause spikes and dips in your blood sugar which can make you feel more tired, rather than give you energy. Combining healthy carbs like fruits or vegetables with a fat like nuts or a protein like lean turkey or hummus will give you a good balance to avoid this blood sugar dip.
Instead of reaching for junk food, fill your fridge with fresh fruits, vegetables, hummus and Greek yogurt to have for snacks. Your pantry doesn’t have to remain bare, but try to avoid things that are processed, like chips, crackers, candy and cookies. Having individual size packages of heart-healthy nuts like almonds or walnuts is another great snack option. Just be careful if you buy them in bulk not to over indulge! Portioning out individual size portions into small Ziploc bags can help you avoid overeating.
Meal-Prep (Without Too Much Prep)
If you know your lunch hour is going to be busy and you won’t get a traditional lunch, having a meal pre-prepped can be a lifesaver. Because time is not always on our side, preparing a week’s worth of lunches at the beginning of the week may feel daunting (and may simply be unrealistic). One of the easiest ways to meal prep is to have extra servings portioned out of a previous dinner. For example, if you have grilled chicken with roasted potatoes and veggies on Monday night, you can have an additional serving set aside for lunch on Tuesday. It’s also a good idea to have some low sodium lunch meat, whole grain bread and sandwich fixings like avocado, tomato and mustard around if you need to prepare a quick lunch. A side of fruit goes perfect with this!
Water, Water, Water!
Be mindful of what you are drinking. The best thing to have by your side at your Zoom calls is a large water bottle that you can sip on during the day. Over time, consuming more water will not only keep you hydrated, but it can prevent over-eating (sometimes we mistake dehydration for hunger). Try to avoid sodas (even diet soda can affect your waistline), juices and other sugary beverages as they add up quickly and provide only empty calories. Sugary beverages can act like sugary snacks, causing a temporary energy burst and then a subsequent crash. If you drink caffeine, try to limit to two servings per day. Consuming caffeine too late in the day can affect sleep, which in turn can affect your waistline.
There are a lot of conflicting stories in the media about supplements that may help you if you were to get COVID-19. While the verdict is still out on many of these, many individuals are deficient in vitamin D at baseline, COVID aside. Low vitamin D can increase inflammation levels and cause issues with your bones. If you’re concerned you may be deficient in vitamin D, it is best to speak with your health care provider about supplementation to make sure you are on appropriate dosing. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that you can take too much of. An alternative is to go out in the sun for 15-30 minutes daily if you’re blessed to be living somewhere the sun is currently shining! Getting out in the sun not only gives you a dose of vitamin D, but can lift your moods, so it benefits not only your physical well-being, but your emotional well-being too.
If you’re eager to get started in changing your eating habits, try and implement a change or two at a time. Try not to tackle everything all at once, or it may become overwhelming. Set small, realistic goals, and provide yourself with some grace. These times are unprecedented, and allowing yourself some grace can go a long way!