The novel coronavirus has made ripples all over the world and has already changed our lives in so many ways. As we are being forced to stay at home for weeks because of the ongoing pandemic, most of our dietary plans have gone for a toss. What’s worse is that ignoring a healthy diet in this phase can lead to adverse health effects in the long run. Initially, with the fear and anxiety all around, it was impossible to expect people to follow proper diets. However, now that we are slowly accepting the reality of living in a world with the coronavirus as a part of our life, we must address our eating habits.
In these grim and depressing times, healthy eating habits can make a great deal of difference to your body and health. Hence, it is crucial that you chart out your diet plans during the COVID-19 quarantine and make sure the nutritional needs of your family are met. Here are some handy tips on how to eat wisely during the coronavirus pandemic and maintain a healthy diet.
1. Prepare a weekly meal plan
You would be surprised to see how beneficial this little exercise can prove to be. Getting up every day during this quarantine period and thinking of preparing a meal can be frustrating. It would be better, hence, to set up a weekly meal plan. At the end or beginning of every week, spend some time thinking about most of your meals for the week. It is equally essential to ensure that you have enough healthy food at hand to last you the entire week. You can take stock of all the food items that you would need to buy at the start of the week and then prepare accordingly.
Also, keep in mind that your meal plan shouldn’t be unnecessarily complicated. You can maybe add one day for ordering a healthy meal-kit delivery service to prepare dinners filled with veggies for most days in the week. Then, you can add when exactly you need to order your next set of groceries in your meal plan. Most of the days should include meals that have veggies, fruits, healthy snacks, and lean proteins in them along with frozen produce and fresh produce. You can even divide the days and plan something a little different for the weekends.
2. Stock up on healthy snacks
As we are holed up at home, we are bound to be gorging on a lot of unhealthy snacks. Even without the lockdown, snacking had become an indispensable part of our daily diet. While almost all of us know that snacking on junk food is unhealthy, we are still unable to keep ourselves away from them. However, it is important, now more than ever, to keep your cravings for unhealthy snacks at bay and instead start including healthy snacks in your diet.
Most of us like to eat a snack or two in between the meals. You can stock up on healthy snacks like roasted nuts, carrots, hummus, red bell peppers, kale chips, peanut butter, healthy cheese, dark chocolate, almonds, chia seed pudding, turkey roll-ups, olives, fruit yogurt, etc. Not only are these snacking options healthy, but they are also nutritious and filling. Make them a part of your daily diet during this quarantine period and you may end up having a healthy eating habit that will last you a lifetime.
3. Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet
This may sound so obvious. After all, we have all been told to eat more fruits and vegetables to lead a healthier lifestyle countless times. However, it is vital that you make a conscious effort to consume more fruits and vegetables in this lockdown period. If you start having more veggies and fruits at every meal it will not just be healthy but will also leave less room for any junk food. Furthermore, you will be adding essential vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients to your body while also keeping yourself hydrated.
Also, keep in mind that you must get more produce and less packaged and processed fruits or vegetables. Fresh or frozen produce will work well. You should try and add more colorful fruits and veggies to every single meal for the best results.
4. Make sure you are having the proper macronutrient portion sizes
Macronutrients are important for all of us, of course. They are the three basic components of every diet that includes carbs, fats, and protein. While it is important to make sure you have proper macronutrient portions in your diet during this phase it is also critical that you don’t go overboard with it. A basic hand approximation for portion sizes will be good for you.
For proteins, you can take eggs, chicken, steak, and tofu or non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, peppers, and tomatoes. For carbohydrates, small amounts of rice, oats, potatoes, and other starchy vegetables, and lentils will work. Lastly, for fats, you can select small portions of oils, nuts, and seeds in your meal every day. Remember, all of us have different needs and should hence take the macronutrient portions accordingly. Generally, palm-sized portions will work well for most of us.
Just ensure that half of your meal should ideally be covered with vegetables, a quarter with protein and the remaining portion can be packed with carbs and fat.
5. Eat slowly and mindfully
One of the best nutrition tips that dieticians can give you is not about what you eat, but about how you eat. We are often in such a hurry in our daily life these days that we end up rushing through our meals without chewing the food properly. This is an unhealthy habit that needs to be changed and now is the best time to start on it.
Instead of rushing through a meal or having it in front of your computer, try and spend more time with your food and slow down your consumption speed. Not only will this allow you to notice the taste of your food better it will also make you appreciate your food more and make you feel more satisfied at the end of the meal. Once you start doing this consciously, you will notice you are feeling much fuller and also digesting your meals better.
This lockdown interval will give you ample time to concentrate on eating slowly and mindfully.
6. Understand what suits your body
During this quarantine period, you must have seen plenty of people posting their diet accomplishments on social media. Many are opting for intermittent fasting or ketogenic diet these days as they are supposedly effective for faster fat loss. It is easy to be swayed by such fads but you must figure out what suits your body first. Some of us have sensitive systems, history of disordered eating or hormone problems and following a rigorous diet trend suddenly may be harmful to our body.
It would be better if you avoid following a specific diet and pay attention to what and when you are eating instead. Listen to your body properly and understand how it reacts when you eat certain foods. The best option is to organize your handbook of what works for your system during this lockdown interval and then see what happens when you follow it.
7. Reduce the intake of highly processed foods
This is easier than done right now. We are all aware that eating highly processed foods isn’t good for health. However, at a time when going out to the supermarket is fraught with risk and when fresh produce isn’t easily available in many places, people do opt for processed foods. Packaged snacks and desserts, ready-to-eat meals, processed meats, cereal, and colas are some of the general options most of us go for. However, these items are often high in saturated fat, sugars, and salt and are thus extremely harmful to your body if taken regularly. If you simply have to get processed foods, then it is better that you choose those items that are low on these substances. Also, drinking sugary drinks while at home is not a good idea. Instead, drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated or make some health drink at home like pomegranate juice, kombucha, coconut water, or simple lemon juice.
Lemon, lime, cucumber slices, berries, or herbs like mint and parsley can also be added to water to make it healthier and tastier.
8. Avoid alcohol
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that we should try and avoid alcohol consumption during this pandemic period as it weakens the immune system. People with a weaker immune system are more prone to COVID-19 and hence it would be prudent to stay away from any food item that may harm our immunity at the moment. “As a psychoactive substance, alcohol also affects your mental state and decision-making and makes you more vulnerable to risks, such as falls, injuries, or violence when under quarantine with someone else,” notes the WHO on its website.
Furthermore, regularly consuming alcohol may increase symptoms of depression, anxiety, fear, and panic. All of these issues can intensify during self-isolation and it could be extra damaging to you during this phase. Lastly, having alcohol with certain medications make them less effective and can intervene with your liver functions.