How To Actually Improve Your Diet During The Quarantine, Not Make It Worse
It’s no secret that the coronavirus quarantine has brought out the unhealthy eater in many of us. The sales of packaged snacks and treats have soared as we search for comfort and certainty in the bottom of dairy-free Ben & Jerry’s pints. It makes sense—this is a chaotic time—but we have to come out of this quarantine eventually, and we’ll be happier doing so if we haven’t sabotaged our health or tacked on extra weight.
All negative aspects aside, being sheltered in place presents a unique opportunity to hone our nutrition and clean up our eating habits. It may feel like the only foods worth stomaching are ones that quell our emotions (temporarily, of course), but by making a few small changes here and there, we can improve our diet during this stressful time instead of making it worse.
1. Add more fiber to your plate.
On a normal, quarantine-free day, statistics say that we don’t get as much fiber as we need. Add a sedentary lifestyle, less exercise, and decreased water consumption to the equation and your digestion is bound to slow its roll. Rather than settle for constipation, we can (slowly!) stock up on quality fiber sources like dried and canned beans, frozen greens, and rolled oats. Our emotions may be all over the place right now, but we can at least keep our blood sugar stable by eating more fiber. In times like these, we consider that a win.
2. Don’t give up on vegetables.
Do you know how parents try to sneak vegetables into their kids’ meals? Surprise—you can do that to yourself. Write down what you typically eat in a week and see where you can squeeze in more plants. Wilt a handful or two of spinach into any soup, chili, or saucy pasta. Add some canned or frozen mushrooms and bell peppers to your omelet. Put a greens powder (or more spinach, why not) into your smoothie. Eat some roasted vegetables alongside your dinner. Our health is being compromised in ways we can’t entirely control—especially with regards to movement—but we still have the ability to decide what we eat. Give your body a break. Eat something green.
3. Spice up your meals.
On a typical workday, your lunch is probably mediocre at best. A soggy sandwich, a lifeless salad, or a pricey fast-casual meal that tastes fine but not great. Working from home (if you’re fortunate enough to do so) allows you the freedom to make a fresh lunch and gives you access to all your kitchen staples, spices, and sauces. Plop a dollop of hummus in your salad or make a homemade dressing. Throw a little garlic powder or red pepper flakes in your chickpea stew (you can brush your teeth whenever you want at home). Trade that wheat wrap for some toasted sourdough. Can’t you see? The options are endless! Taking advantage of what you have in the kitchen can make your meal less boring and way more delicious. Plus, spices have tons of health benefits. For instance, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, and turmeric are all anti-inflammatory, full of antioxidants, and can help manage your blood sugar.
4. Stick to your regular diet as much as possible.
If you’re working from home, you probably aren’t commuting, getting dressed, or adhering to a strict schedule anymore. This lack of structure (and close proximity to the kitchen) can influence our eating habits—we’re prone to indulge frequently, buy foods we normally wouldn’t, and spend more time eating and thinking about food.
While it may not seem glamorous, defaulting to our everyday diet (assuming you eat a healthy, plant-based diet) is in your best interest. From a physical health perspective, we’re going to feel better eating plants, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates than we ever will eating excess sugar and processed foods. From a psychological perspective, having structure benefits our mental health, and we’re less likely to experience brain fog, low energy, and even depression when we steer clear of certain foods. Keep your routine tight during the week and on the weekend, loosen your grip a little.
The difficulty of this strange, unpredictable period of our lives cannot be overstated. The repercussions of this pandemic are devastating and unknowable. We’re all doing what we can to get by, keep it together, and feel our best. Sometimes that means eating a less-than-healthy snack, but more often it means eating food that strengthens our health.