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Healthy Eating During COVID-19

We’re living in a strange time when managing all aspects of life is difficult, and when it comes to healthy eating, things seem to have gotten especially harder. 

We’re all avoiding the grocery store and trying to make do with what’s in our pantries and freezers. There are new launches of free food delivery and the need for our local restaurants to be supported by their communities, making fast food and eating out easier. On top of these challenges, we’re trying to exercise while gyms are closed and stay sane without social interactions. It’s easy to snack on junk food while feeling isolated and lonely. 

Despite all this, it’s more important than ever to eat nutritiously right now. Our bodies need to be nourished to fight infection and disease, and an army of nutrients in the foods work together to protect and strengthen us when our immune system is under attack. 

If you’re struggling with meals or nutrition right now, you’re not alone. But the good news is that a positive attitude is the best predictor of healthy eating, so taking a moment to reframe the struggle and encourage yourself can shift your whole way of thinking. Instead of beating yourself up for an unhealthy choice or ignoring your pantry as uninspiring, remember the last time you made a healthy, delicious meal. Think about your favorite healthy menu items at your favorite restaurant or a post on social media that inspired you to eat well. Reminding ourselves of positive associations with healthy eating is the first step to making it feel easier, less intimidating, and achievable. 

Once you’re feeling inspired, here are 5 tips to eat well at home: 

  1. Set a schedule. Just like you’d add a meeting to your calendar, plug in windows when you’re going to take a break and eat every 3-4 hours, starting with breakfast. This is a great way to refresh your mind in between meetings or study sessions, and it’s an even better way to stay nourished throughout the day. Your mind needs food to stay alert and attentive, so give it the energy it needs before you find yourself hungry.
  2. Shop smart. Look at the meals and snacks on your calendar, choose a menu for each, and make your grocery list. Grocery shopping is serious business: you need a plan that gets you in and out as quickly as possible with food that stretches out the time between trips. The best shopping plan? Make a list. Check out our Ultimate No-Hassle Grocery List, which will get you through each section of the store without needing to double back. 
  3. Separate food and work. Don’t work in your kitchen. It’s easy to gaze over your laptop and into a pantry of snacks; it’s also easy to graze when food is close by. Eat when it’s time to eat; work when it’s time to work. Separating the two activities will help you enjoy eating more and prevent you from snacking unnecessarily out of boredom. When you need a break, take a step outside. Just 10 minutes of sunshine every day will activate the Vitamin D your body needs.
  4. Stay strong and hydrated with food. Water isn’t the only way your body stays hydrated. When you eat foods with high water content like fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen), your body spends a long time breaking down the water trapped inside the plant fibers. That water gets released into your body over time, keeping you hydrated for longer than chugging a glass of water quickly and rushing to the restroom minutes later. The best part? Focusing on fruits and vegetables increases your intake of vitamins and minerals that support your immunity. Think plants: bananas, asparagus, watermelon, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, and brussels sprouts. 
  5. Turn cooking into a household activity. As more of us turn to cooking at home, dinners can become a daunting task. Research shows, however, that home-cooked meals are more likely to be healthier and that households that regularly eat dinner together reap many positive rewards. Involve your housemates in the process: create menus together, set a time to stop working and meet up in the kitchen to cook, or alternate prepping dinner with doing the dishes to share the load. Living alone? Set up dinner dates and cook the same meal with a friend while videoconferencing. By reframing dinner as a shared experience, you can turn a chore into a way to spend time with those you love. 

Want to learn more about how nutrition can protect your health? Register now for the UT Nutrition Institute’s Nutrition Continuing Education Series for lifelong learners and hear the latest science directly from UT’s faculty researchers and experts. 

Published on April 15, 2020 in What's Fresh