Making Nutrition a Priority During the Pandemic

  • It isn’t just the foods we eat that are nutritious. Other areas of your life provide nourishment like our relationships, creativity, physical activity and others.  
  • When everything else in our lives feels so out of control, we can control what we buy at the grocery store. Keep your mind and body in balance with a well-prepared grocery list.
  • We all have cravings for certain foods for various reasons. For some, it can be feeling low or anxious, but for others it can be eating a food that provided comfort during difficult times in the past. Watch the reasons for your cravings. 

Content provided by Deirdre Conroy, Ph.D., who is certified in health coaching by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Our lives have changed dramatically since COVID-19 stay at home policies. This can lead to feelings of strong emotions like anxiety, isolation, and depression. These emotions can trigger poor eating habits and food choices. Keep in mind that adequate nutrition may include two sources of foods, primary and secondary foods. Primary foods might include our relationships, physical activity, career, spirituality, creativity, and others. Secondary foods are the foods we choose to eat. The time we are spending at home creates an opportunity to get in touch with many important aspects of nutrition including our food choices, how certain foods affect our body, and how much food we are consuming. Fortunately, grocery stores remain open during this time, so take advantage of this to improve your grocery list. With fewer restaurants open now you might even improve your cooking skills!

Here are some tips to stay healthy and strong during this time:

Create a well-crafted grocery list

Essential items:

  • Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and especially condiments and spices
  • Healthy daytime snacking food ideas:   
    • Crunchy: apples, veggies with hummus, plain popcorn
    • Sweet: organic yogurt with fruit, dried fruit, smoothies
    • Creamy: avocados, rice or chia seed pudding, pureed soups
    • Salty: olives, pickles, kale or seaweed chips

Return to breakfast

Spending more time at home may provide an opportunity to become reacquainted with the most important meal of the day. What breakfast options make us feel our best? Not sure what to eat? Conduct a breakfast experiment by eating a different breakfast every day for a week. Record what you eat and how you feel after eating. Record how you feel again two hours later. Note energy, mood, and physical symptoms. Here is a sample week:

  • Day one: eggs
  • Day two: scrambled tofu
  • Day three: oatmeal
  • Day four: boxed breakfast cereal
  • Day five: fresh vegetables
  • Day six: fresh fruit
  • Day seven: muffin and coffee

Monitor your cravings

Strong emotions and the need for security might trigger strong cravings for foods that can sabotage our diet or perpetuate an already low mood. Here are 8 factors that can be related to strong food cravings:

  • Food Mood Connection. Pay attention to your current mood state and emotions. Do you feel stressed? Try a soothing activity first instead of eating, like listening to music to calm yourself in the moment.   
  • Hydrate. Lack of water can send a similar signal that you are hungry. Be sure you are drinking sufficient amount of water but not too much, especially close to bedtime.    
  • Balance. Are you eating certain ‘types’ of food more often than others? Eating a diet too rich in sugar might cause a craving for meat or eating too many raw foods might cause cravings for extremely cooked foods or vice versa.
  • Tame your inner child. We can crave foods from our childhood because they are comforting. For example, if you crave boxed Macaroni and Cheese you might consider satisfying that craving with a healthier version (e.g. homemade?) of that Mac and Cheese and adding vegetables to the dish.   
  • Season’s greetings. The body can sometimes crave foods that balance the elements of the season.  For example, during the winter, many crave hot or heat-producing foods like meat, oil, or fat. In the summer months we might crave fruit.  Explore what foods you enjoy eating during the different seasons.
  • Body knows best. If your body is lacking in certain nutrients it may produce odd cravings. For example, salt cravings might reflect a mineral level deficit in the body. Listen to your body it might be telling you something.  
  • Hormones. Women are especially vulnerable to cravings during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause when fluctuating testosterone and estrogen might cause craving.
  • Are you eating enough?  Low blood sugar might result in mood swings and this can perpetuate less than optimal food choices.