COVID-19 Healthy Living

Eating Properly During COVID-19: A Registered Dietitian’s Perspective

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of everyday life for Americans, including what we are eating. Steward Health Care Registered Dietitian Samantha Manero, MS, RD, LDN provides recommendations to help you and your family eat properly during this time of self-isolating and social distancing.

Grocery List Recommendations

As many individuals head to the grocery stores to stock up on bread, milk, and eggs, it is essential to keep in mind that a more extended period of quarantine requires purchasing ingredients for well-rounded meals. Well-rounded meals involve incorporating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthful fats.

To minimize food waste and maximize your budget, make a menu for the week and base your grocery list from the menu. Your list should include the following:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables as well as frozen as they have the same if not better nutritional value and will last for up to a year in the freezer. If purchasing canned fruit, opt for fruit canned in water as opposed to syrup.
  • Whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and oats. Whole grains will add more fiber to your diet and help increase the feeling of being full.
  • Proteins, including chicken, beef, and fish, which can last three to five days in the refrigerator and are easily frozen and thawed for preparation at a later date. However, options like canned tuna and beans pack a protein punch and will last for two to five years. Additionally, eggs can last three to five weeks in the refrigerator and are typically an affordable protein option.

Takeout Dining Recommendations

Ordering takeout during this time is a great way to help support local businesses. Before placing an order, call the restaurant directly and ask for contact-free delivery where the delivery person can leave your order at the front door to minimize person-to-person contact. When choosing takeout options, the best choices will be dishes that say “baked,” “steamed,” or “grilled.” Meals that are described as “loaded,” “battered,” or “crunchy/crispy,” means that they generally have heavy sauces or are deep-fried. If you opt for ordering a more substantial meal, find ways to lighten it up, split it in half, or add an extra serving of vegetables on the side.

Make Mealtime a Learning Opportunity

Many families are trying to balance continued learning and keeping their children entertained with school and childcare closures. Now is the time to make mealtimes an opportunity for learning by following these tips:

  • Have your kids help make a menu for the week, which will help with budgeting and grocery shopping.
  • Teach them about safety in the kitchen and how important it is to wash hands and tie up hair as well as oven and knife safety.
  • Allow meal preparation assistance by assigning tasks like rinsing beans or vegetables.
  • Talk to your kids about the nutrients in each component of the meal they are preparing.
  • End it all with a meal shared at the table.

Managing Stress Eating

Stress and anxiety can lead to overeating and reaching for choices that may be less nutrient-dense and filling. Practice mindful eating strategies at meals and snacks. Before eating, check-in with yourself and determine if your desire to eat is related to real hunger or is it because you are feeling bored or stressed.

During meals and snacks, try to eat in a quiet, relaxed environment and minimize distractions. During your meal, assess your level of hunger, pay attention to the way your food tastes, and how your body feels. If you tend to be a quick eater, use strategies like putting your fork down between bites, taking sips of water every few bites, or wiping your mouth with your napkin to help you stay more mindful.

In this uncertain and unprecedented time, we need to continue to strive toward consistently making healthful choices to promote overall health and wellness. Make sure to take time for yourself, manage stress, hydrate, maintain exercise routines, and stay connected with friends and family via phone/video calls.

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