Jamie Staley, NASM CPT, Pn1
How have your eating habits changed since quarantine started?
Loaded question, right? It’s safe to say most of us have experienced somewhat of a shift regarding what we eat, when we eat, how much we eat, or how much we care about any of those things.
Quarantine is a perfect storm to thwart any healthy eating plans. Your daily schedule has changed, you are most likely inside with food all day, stress is at an all-time high, grocery shopping is now a daunting task, some healthy food is nowhere to be found, and you’re trying to support local restaurants.
See what I mean? You put that all together and it’s no wonder why some of us have tossed a balanced diet to the wayside. What’s a person to do?
The following ten tips are simple ways that you can start gaining some control over your diet and feel more balanced in your approach to nutrition.
#1: Meal prep.
Meal prep to the degree you were pre-quarantine. This looks different for each person, but if you had a good system, try to get back to it. If you were not meal prepping prior, start with something small. Try prepping all your snacks for the week or making a veggie frittata to have for breakfast Monday through Thursday.
#2: Plan ahead for trips to the grocery store.
Grocery shopping is a weird experience these days. If you are trying to limit your trips to the grocery store, plan ahead. Make a comprehensive list based on the meals you have planned. Stock up on frozen fruits and veggies to have healthy options available between trips. Plan to eat the meals that require the most fresh produce the days directly following your grocery shopping trip.
#3: Keep consistent meal and snack times.
When schedules are disrupted, eating can become an all-day event. Try to stick to the same meal and snack times each day. This can help reduce mindless snacking.
#4: Keep food you don’t want to eat out of the house or behind a barrier.
To the best of your ability, keep the food in your house less-processed and more nutrient-dense.
Berardi’s First Law states:
If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it.
If a healthy food is in your house or possession, the above also applies.⠀Dr. John Berardi, PhD, CSCS, Co-Founder of Precision Nutrition
#5: Keep snacks/treats out of sight.
If someone in your household just HAS to have food in the house that you don’t want to consume, put as many barriers between that food and you. Examples: have the item stored out of your reach, keep it in a vehicle, store it in the basement, etc.
This is not to say you can’t have any. You can. But, you will have to get the step-ladder, go downstairs, out to the garage, etc. It then becomes a conscious choice and not mindless eating.
#6: Keep a food log.
Keeping a food log is not just a tool for beginners. I’m keeping one right now! Maintaining a basic log of what you’re eating can help you identify what might be lacking (protein, vegetables, fruit, grains, water, etc.) or what you may be getting too much of (salt, sugar, processed carbs, etc.). Be as detailed (full calories and macros, time of day, exact measurements) or not as you want!
#7: Focus on getting the good stuff in.
Instead of focusing on what you “won’t eat” or “won’t do,” try focusing on what you will do. Focus on adding more protein to each meal, hitting a certain number of vegetables per day, etc. Focus on the positive and adding instead of subtracting.
#8: Be aware of your emotions.
If you feel yourself reaching for something you don’t want to eat, ask yourself some questions:
“What’s my stress level like right now?”
“Am I hungry?”
“Am I feeling emotional about something right now?”
Taking stock of your emotions can help you start to identify when eating habits might be more related to something other than hunger. If you identify this, try to focus on healthy coping mechanisms to deal with the emotion. Call a friend or family member, journal, meditate/pray, take a walk, listen to music, etc.
#9: Prioritize your sleep.
The quality and quantity of your sleep has a direct impact on your hunger and fullness cues, but also indirectly impacts other things that can lead to changes in your eating habits. Prioritize 7-9 hours of quality sleep as much as you possibly can.
#10: Give yourself grace.
Let’s be real. This is a really hard time for all of us. This list is not meant to serve as a “diet shame” to anyone. On the other hand, I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t tell you that making small improvements to your nutrition could make you feel better. If you need to revisit these tips once life gets back to normal, there’s no shame in that either.
Which of these tips are you trying out this week? Let me know!