Whether you are working from home or not, your “normal” has probably shifted significantly in the past couple of months. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown us all into unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations. For some, this has meant homeschooling their children while also trying to be productive working from home. For others, it has meant business has slowed down. For all of us, it has meant a big change in our daily routines.
A common theme in the discourse about COVID-19 and self-isolation is food: how hard it is not to overeat when you’re at home all day, how much easier it is to order fast food instead of cooking, how much more tempting junk food is than healthier options.
The first thing to be clear on is that food is not “good” or “bad.” Food is food, and while some items offer more health benefits or lower calories than others, what is healthy for one individual might not be for another. When it comes to healthy eating, finding what works for you can be a long process of trial and error. Below are a few tips for addressing common issues which can cause overeating, weight gain, or unhealthy food habits!*
Problem: “I feel like I am CONSTANTLY hungry!”
We’ve all probably been here before. You JUST ate, and an hour later you’re feeling hungry again. You reach for a snack, but then the cycle continues: snack, wait, hunger, snack, wait, hunger, and so on. When you’re at work, this likely isn’t a huge issue, since you probably don’t have a pantry full of snacks at work. At home, however, you have significantly more snacking temptation.
Tip: Eat foods that help you stay fuller longer
The best way to avoid constant feelings of hunger is to eat foods that help you stay fuller longer. Foods rich in fiber and/or protein have been proven to do this. Some examples of foods to keep in your house that are rich in fiber or protein are: Greek yogurt, eggs, carrots, cottage cheese, nuts/seeds, and beans. There are PLENTY more foods that fit in this category, so do some research for yourself to see what other options are right for you!
Problem: “I always crave salty snacks like chips.”
Chips, crackers, and other salty snacks labeled as junk food are absolutely fine to eat in moderation. Unfortunately, these snacks are designed to be eaten in large quantities; as the Lay’s commercials say, “Bet you can’t eat just one!” The nutrition facts tell you a serving is “about 15 chips,” but how many of us actually count out a serving of chips when we eat them? Craving salty foods can indicate you are dehydrated; our bodies use this craving to signal use to drink more water.
Tip: Drink more water throughout the day
One of the best strategies for addressing salty food cravings without giving in is to stay hydrated by drinking more water throughout the day. If you find yourself facing a craving, drink some water and wait a while to see if it goes away. Keeping foods in the house with high water content, such as watermelon, celery, oranges, or cucumber can also help you stay hydrated. A simple Google search can help you identify more foods with high water content!
“Fast food is just so much EASIER.”
This has been the case since before COVID-19, and it seems to have become easier still, with restaurants closing their dining rooms and having to run more efficient drive-thrus. Luckily, grocery stores have also made their pick-up and delivery options more available. Though grabbing a quick bite from a fast food restaurant can be a good solution sometimes, doing it too frequently can negatively affect you and your family’s health.
Tip: Take advantage of grocery pick-up and delivery
It’s easier than ever to order delivery or pick-up from a grocery store – use that to your advantage! If you are working from home, you are probably finding yourself with some extra time, since you no longer have to commute to or from work. Use that extra time to cook wholesome, healthful meals instead of giving in to fast food temptation!
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that these truly are (as marketing commercials and emails keep reminding us) unprecedented and uncertain times. It is important to keep your health in mind right now, but it is also important not to put too much pressure on yourself to achieve things you’d be having an easier time with if we weren’t in a worldwide pandemic. Making strides toward your health goals IS possible, but physical health is only one part of our overall health. Many of us are more isolated than we’ve ever been, and the toll that can take on mental and emotional health can be detrimental. No, a cupcake is not physically healthy for you, but if it lifts your spirits on an otherwise dark day, should you really feel guilt about eating it? We do need to be careful not to develop reliance on food for comfort, but there is nothing wrong with enjoying treats every once in a while.
Be gentle with yourself, stay safe, and stay well.
*Please note: These are general recommendations and not individualized dietary advice. If you have food allergies, intolerances, or other health concerns, speak to your doctor about healthy food options for you.