Making healthy food choices during quarantine
Thursday, April 09, 2020
Many of us have become adept at social distancing, washing our hands regularly, sanitizing our groceries and packages, and using Zoom to stay in touch with family and friends. Perhaps many are even making healthy food choices, but given the level of anxiety and uncertainty, I know that lots of people are stress eating and drinking.
While sugary, high-carb foods and alcohol may offer a temporary feeling of relief, they wreak havoc on the immune system and over time contribute to feelings of lethargy, brain fog and exhaustion.
What to do? Let’s start with some basic principles:
1. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated or involve a bunch of foods that are unfamiliar.
2. You don’t have to be a chef or have fancy kitchen gear to get some good nutrition from your food.
3. There are lots of creative ways to make healthy eating not only delicious, but fun!
4. Healthy eating is the path of least resistance, meaning, for the most part, it’s super simple to do once you get the hang of it.
This all sounds great, except that there is a tendency, especially during a quarantine with no access to restaurants, to shop for a lot of grab-and-go foods. Prepared fresh foods put together by the grocery store are fine.
The problems arise when the primary foods eaten are processed food, particularly from the frozen food section of the supermarket. If you look at the ingredients, you’ll see lots of items that offer no nutritional value. For example, many frozen food or overly processed foods often contain sugar and a number of chemical preservatives.
To obtain the most nutritional value, you want to eat food as close to its nature state as possible. Ideally, this means that fresh vegetables and fruits will play a significant role in most, if not all of your meals. Following that, add nuts, seeds, beans along with moderate amounts of dairy products, meat, poultry, and seafood. It also means avoiding highly refined foods such as bleached flour, refined sugar, and processed oils.
To assist with digestion, drink lots of water throughout the day and minimize or avoid caffeinated, high sugar and alcoholic beverages. Keeping the body well hydrated allows for all of your body’s systems to run more efficiently.
If this feels overwhelming, start small. Make one simple change per week such as cutting back on sugar or drinking more water or adding a fresh salad to your menu each day. Instead of snacking on chips, eat a piece of fruit or better yet, make a delicious fruit smoothie.
If your habit is to drink alcohol in the evening to relax, try a healthy alternative such as alcohol-free wine or beer, kombucha, drinks with kava or other herbal relaxants in them. You can even experiment with mocktails — mixed drinks without the alcohol. To increase the health factor of baked goods, you can replace oils and sugars with mashed or pureed fruit such as avocados, bananas, unsweetened applesauce, pears, dates or figs, etc. Dates by themselves are a wonderful way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
There are many free resources on the internet to help you eat healthy and have fun doing it. YouTube has thousands of videos featuring people that will teach you pretty much any aspect of eating healthy you’d like to know.
Yes, I know life is difficult enough without having to make major changes to your diet. However, if you take small steps, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel, especially knowing that improving your health strengthens your immune system. This not only protects you, but also adds another level of protection between you and those that come in contact with you.
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