Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic continues to rear its ugly head, but with the advent of multiple vaccines, we’re all feeling a little more hopeful at the start of this year that there will soon be light at the end of the tunnel. Doubtless, it’s been an incredibly difficult time for virtually everyone, but the health crisis has also provided an opportunity to reevaluate our lifestyle choices and our diet.

For many nutritionists, that means reflecting on the lessons the pandemic has taught them about eating healthy and prioritizing the lifestyle habits that keep them feeling at their best. Below, plant-based RDs weigh in on the most important takeaways the pandemic has taught them so far.

1. Return to simpler cooking

For Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT & Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, a.k.a. The Nutrition Twins, authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure and founders of and the 21-Day Body Reboot co-found, the pandemic was a reminder to keep things simple in the kitchen (or, to quote the Navy principle: KISS — Keep It Simple, Stupid.)

“Realizing we were in it for the long haul made us refocus on bringing everything back to the basics to make it easier to focus on health,” they share. “To prevent feeling overwhelmed, we kept it simple and focused on getting in at least one vibrantly-colored type of produce at every meal, some form of unprocessed, lean protein, and some healthy fat.”

Some examples: Roasted beets + lentils + avocados. Spiralized zucchini + tofu + tahini dressing. Veggie burger + sweet potato + olive oil. Dinner combos are looking pretty superb if you KISS it up like us.

2. Zoom in on the “why.”

Quarantine has shown Trista K. Best, MPH, RD, with Balance One Supplements the importance of remembering the reasons behind staying committed to a plant-forward diet. “I have to bring to mind daily that those health habits impact more than just physical appearance, but quality and quantity of life. When I don't have a routine I realize that I find myself losing focus and letting in more ‘cheat meals or days,” she admits.

If you need to recommit to the “why,” of vegan eating, check out the six surprising benefits of a plant-based diet.

3. Eat more frozen foods.

Katherine Brooking, MS, RD, has gravitated towards frozen foods amidst quarantine and plans on taking this habit with her when the pandemic days (praise be) are a thing of the past.  “Like many, I've been combating cooking fatigue as we're now many months into cooking at home,” she shares. “Most days I want to make meals that are healthy and easy to prepare. One of the keys for me to cut down shopping and prep time was to expand my use of frozen foods — fruits and veggies that are pre-washed, chopped, and easy to buy in advance and store without spoilage,” she continues, admitting that prior to the coronavirus outbreak, she would shop for fresh fruits and vegetables several times per week.

“Now I buy frozen foods in larger quantities, reducing the frequency of my shopping trips, and I always have them on hand. Frozen foods retain their vitamins and minerals — so you'll get all the nutrition without the hassle and spoilage of fresh,” she adds, noting that she's seen her consumption of fruits and vegetables go up in recent months.

4. Focus on supplementation.

“Quarantine has also taught me the importance of my supplement regimen. There are certain supplements that I take daily and intentionally; multivitamin, vitamin D, B12, and a probiotic,” says Best. “Going several days in a row ‘forgetting’ to take them has led to increased fatigue, more sugar cravings, and general unwell feelings.”

For more on supplements, read our guide on seven supplements to consider when starting a plant-based diet. Of course, before adding supplements to your routine always consult with a doctor, nutritionist, or other trusted healthcare professional.

5. Be grateful at every meal.

The coronavirus pandemic has also ushered in a hunger crisis. If you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen loaded with nutrient-dense, plant-based eats, don’t take it for granted. These days, The Nutrition Twins are sure to practice gratitude and take deep breaths before each and every meal.

“It helped to make mealtime more enjoyable. Stress, including pandemic stress, interferes with digestion, and disrupts the absorption of nutrients at a time when the body needed them most,” they say. “Just taking a few minutes to be thankful for what we have and stimulate the body’s relaxation center with the breathwork helps the body to make the most of the food it’s given.”

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