Some people think that dietitians eat perfectly. Well, news flash! We are human and not perfect! We are all in this together and we all handle stress and change differently. Here is how this dietitian has been handling these changes and surviving during COVID-19.
1. Maintaining an enjoyable amount of comfort food.
Staying home has definitely increased the time in the kitchen, which is one thing I love anyway. Before this quarantine, that time decreased due to working full-time and kids. But now, I am back! This means more baking. So, we always have some kind of goodie on the counter. How do you feel about that? Since it is always around, the desire to have it constantly has decreased. Which means when I want that sweet treat, I really want it and I will eat it until I am satisfied. This actually translates into less portions and more satisfaction. If we do not have any goodies, I have a package of Vienna fingers on hand.
I also have French bread! Yes, white, low fiber bread. At first, the shelves were bare and this more expensive bread was the only thing available. Now, the shelves are staying stocked more, but I continue this purchase. Why? It is delicious and continues my comfort! Crusty on the outside and chewy in the middle. Toasted and smeared with salted butter and homemade strawberry rhubarb jam is a great snack with tea. To balance this, I continue my use of brown rice and whole grain pasta.
Another of my go-tos is iceberg lettuce. Most people think there is no nutrition. However, it contains between 94-98% water, vitamins A, C, K, folate and potassium. For me, picking up this type of lettuce when the stores were bare was a no-brainer. It adds a juicy, crisp, crunch to my sandwiches and salads that I cannot find in any other lettuce. It was the staple store lettuce I grew up on when we did not have our home-grown spring lettuce. Another satisfaction and comfort layer met, not to mention the additional water and fiber if has!
Then, finally coffee. Probably the single, most important staple I have depended on and require daily. Something I absolutely cannot run out of! The first thing I do after I wake up, I reach for the coffee; the aroma from a hot, steaming cup, lifting my spirits and awakening my mind. However, it is not just for the senses and emotional well-being. Coffee contains antioxidants, caffeine, potassium, niacin, vitamin E, and magnesium. It helps cognitive function, including mental performance, alertness, attention and concentration. I drink it with whole milk, increasing my intake of calcium, vitamin D, and healthy fats.
2. Focusing on movement.
It is easy to get into a routine of sitting on the couch or staying in bed. There is not a lot of work to do and the T.V. is right there in front of my face. Plus, the gym is closed and I cannot swim like I want to. In an effort to not become a couch potato, I include myself with my girls’ activities: jumping on the trampoline; dance parties, Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga; hula hoop competitions, and hopscotch. Or if it is just for me: jogging in place if I really want to watch a show and Quigong on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwlvTcWR3Gs (the chirping birds really help with relaxing). Just move! Every step counts. No major workout routine needed.
3. Catching up on odds and ends.
I have a stack of nutrition books I keep telling myself I want to get to, but, before corona, I have not tackled one. Now, I am reading and catching up on my professional nutrition growth, feeling accomplished. There is also more time to maintain household cleaning that usually gets put off. Additionally, since we have become accustomed to daily food shopping, we now plan more meals in advance to shop less which allows me to cook more intricate meals, like I used to. Last, this may not be considered catch up, but, staying on a consistent schedule of going to bed and waking up. The pressure of having to wake up at a specific time has been eliminated, however, keeping this similar schedule helps me maintain a sense of purpose and focus.
It can be very easy for some of us to go down a spiraling path, getting depressed, not moving around due to feeling like you are stuck and cannot freely go anywhere, and turning to lots of comfort foods. How each of us deal with this transition as individuals is OK. Seeking foods that bring us joy, bring back memories, and give us comfort are ways to help us cope with our current situation.
So, what do you reach for during stressful times like these? Try not to strictly focus on how healthy it is. Food gives us more than just nutrients. Eating gives us a connection to memories and helps us keep connected, even if it is not direct contact. It is easy to fall into the traps on social media right now that are telling us what is best to eat to help your immune system to stay healthy and reduce the risk of COVID-19. However, isn’t it just as, or even more important, to reduce the stress, depression, and loneliness we feel? Instead of worrying about not being able to purchase exactly what is best for you, not having the money for the healthiest options, or if that food is not on the shelves, how about enjoying foods that are easily accessible, comforting, and satisfying to get you mentally and physically through this? Focusing on the positives in our lives at this time can be more beneficial to our health then concentrating all of our attention and effort on what others tell us what we should be eating.