Eileen Dutter, R.D.
It is unsettled time in the world due to COVID-19. The fears of job loss and financial insecurity are common throughout the U.S. Compounding this uncertainty is an enemy that you are unable to see or hear, or know when it is about to strike. Many people are worried about their families, their health and if or when they could be exposed to COVID-19.
As a health educator, my role is to help patients maintain healthy lifestyle behaviors every day, including during a pandemic. Many fitness centers have temporarily been closed, routines have been turned upside down, and people have been directed to remain at home to protect themselves and others. Yet the key things to keep us healthy continue: exercise, eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight.
Here are some things to remember when snacking at home:
Plan your approach and pantry.
Now that many people are spending much more time at home, it is important to figure out your game plan on what and when to eat. The first step is to examine your thoughts. Think and plan. Don't react. A game plan will help you stick with the healthy habits that you followed in your previous routine. You may plan on enjoying snacks only during specific times or portion out healthy snacks so you don't overindulge.
Second, fill your home with healthy food choices, such as fruits, vegetables, low-sodium soups, whole grains and lean proteins. You should make the healthy snack options easy so you don't reach for unhealthier options. Also, remove toxic foods that you know will tempt you.
Track your progress.
If you are concerned about gaining weight, let's deal with facts. Your weight still is a calorie issue whether you are working from home or not. Adults need 10 calories per pound per day to maintain their weight. Keep track of what and how much you eat and exercise so you can control weight gain during this time.
There are several apps you can use to track eating and exercise, even if you are at home or have had changes to routines. When your schedule changes, problem-solve to figure out a different approach to accomplish the same task. Be kind to yourself and focus on the larger goal. Research has shown that it can take up to 66 days of consistently repeating a behavior until it forms a habit, so work toward progress, not perfection.
Snack for hunger, not stress.
When people are feeling stressed or bored, they often turn to food to cope with the strong feelings. Treat yourself with love and respect. Don't abuse your body by overeating, which can increase stress levels with the weight gain that often results.
If you start craving sweets — a normal response to stress — grab lean protein foods to reduce the cravings. This could be hard-boiled eggs, pouches of seasoned tuna, cheese sticks, cottage cheese, yogurt with no added sugar or soups made with lots of vegetables and legumes.
When you start to feel hungry, ask yourself, "Am I physically hungry or just stressed?" If you realize you are reaching for a snack due to stress or boredom, distract yourself by going for a walk, doing something creative, talking with a friend on the phone, playing a game or meditating on all the blessings you have instead.
Learn more about mindful snacking:
- Find out how to quit munching mindlessly and start snacking sensibly.
- Clean eating: What does that mean?
- Discover why you should keep track of bite, lick and taste calories.
- Take 3 steps to control your environment and weight.