As we forge ahead into another brave week of quarantine, we’re reminded of the familiar saying, “April showers bring May flowers.” It’s simple and light-hearted, but it rings true: what’s coming is so much better. We may be sheltering in place today – and it probably feels like we’re missing out – but it will pay off in the long run. Yet, while we wait, trying to be patient, it’s hard not to fill these long days and hours with frequent trips to our kitchens to snack. And even for those of us lucky enough to leave the house to get daily exercise, we miss the mental and physical benefits of going to the gym, our yoga studios, and other wonderful places to burn off energy. The cost of losing our routines and our hard-won focus on our health is real, but we will get through this! To help ease the frustration, which we promise is temporary, we’ve compiled a list of nutrition tips to help us find balance during the quarantine.
First: We’re Taking Comfort.
Mom’s pot roast. French Toast. Yummy pancakes. Ok, we know that probably doesn’t help. Consider this, though: there’s merit in comfort food. (Really! It’s in the name!) When we think about the dishes prepared with love, the meals that bring back good memories, there’s more to food than simple nutrition.Taking the time to prepare a special dinner, maybe once per week, can help build real, positive memories of this time. After all, if we can’t enjoy comfort food when we need it most, when can we?
Second: We’re Focused on Immunity.
In keeping with our goal of building balance, we also want to focus on maintaining a healthy digestive system and consuming the right vitamins and nutrients so our bodies can ward off illness. While we can’t know for certain if what we eat can protect us from colds, flu, or even COVID-19, for those of us who are immuno-compromised, keeping our bodies healthy is more important than ever. As always, we’re taking the advice of our doctors and primary care physicians first – and ask that you do too. Additionally, we’re eating foods that support our gut, and taking probiotics that aid in digestive health. As much as 80% of our immune system resides in the gut, so it pays to keep it happy.1
Third: We’re Giving Ourselves the Weekends Off.
We miss our routines, dearly. It may have been so much easier to skip mindless snacking when we could pack a healthy lunch for the workday, or spend hours outside of the house. But, it doesn’t do any good to punish ourselves for snacking more frequently or to feel bad because we’re off our normal schedule. We need to learn to be kind to ourselves. Some of our friends are adopting more reasonable tactics and declare the weekends as “free days” for food, drink, and snacks. Relax. Eat that pasta. Bake cookies. It will be ok, we promise. Get back on schedule Monday through Friday, and eat your healthy snacks then.
Fourth: We’re Planning Ahead.
Do you normally get ‘snacky’ at about 3 pm in the afternoon? Us too! But, it’s much easier to skip a scoop of ice cream when you’ve already set aside a healthy snack of apple slices, almonds, and peanut butter in lovely little packets in the fridge. For those of us with kids at home, having them help make their weekly snacks ahead of time makes it easier to grab something energizing and nutritious when the afternoon munchies strike.
Fifth: We’re Outsourcing.
We’re staying home to flatten the curve, but that doesn’t mean we have to do everything ourselves. We’re already taking on a lot. What a fabulous treat it is to order takeout from our favorite local restaurant once a week—and what a wonderful way to support local businesses. This is also a great time to consider meal delivery subscription services. Companies offer both cook-it-yourself or ready-to-eat options, and they’re really good. It’s hard to buy fresh food for long periods of time, but ordering in, having dinner delivered, or signing up for a subscription service can bring fresh veggies, meats, or even food-allergy sensitive meals directly to your door.
Six: We’re Making Meal-time More Positive.
Dinner and food can be serious triggers for many of us (this isn’t a joke). While we understand that snacking, eating more, and changes to diet can cause stress, it’s important to try to focus on the positive. One joyful way of looking at nutrition is to make meals “family time.” Setting the table nicely, playing music, taking time to put away our phones and pausing – this can be an opportunity for real connection. For those of us living alone, it can also be a time to reflect and relax. Scheduling a FaceTime call with a loved one, or checking in with friends, can make food more significant and can make us more mindful eaters.
Our daily lives have been disrupted by unprecedented circumstances. Adding stress and anxiety on top of everything that is happening to us will only make things worse. It is possible to find balance in our diets, while also enjoying the comfort of good meals with our loved ones. This will pass and we will return to our normal, hectic routines in time. And when we do, we’ll (hopefully) have fond memories of the meals shared with one another.
“The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art, one of the joys of civilized living…” ― Dione Lucas