19 Ways to Avoid the COVID-19 Pounds

Many have asked me about how to control their eating and snacking during this time of social distancing and prolonged homestay. Just because you are quarantined, doesn’t mean that all of your progress goes out the window. We eat for so many reasons besides to nourish our body, such as boredom, stress, sadness, happiness, celebration.  Take this time to go back to the basics and take control. Before fancy gyms, and diet shakes and protein bars, people fared just fine, and some would even argue that they were healthier than many of us are today.  In a time of uncertainty, let’s treat our mind and body well.  Here are 19 ways to address this! Get back to the basics: eat three good meals a day. In what feels like an unstructured time, create a schedule around 3 meals and 1 or 2 snacks.

  1. Watch your portions!  Each meal should be 1 plate with ½ of plate of mostly non-starchy vegetables and some fruit, ¼ cup whole grain, ¼ cup lean protein and 1 T healthy fat (olive or vegetable oil, ¼ avocado, 10 nuts).
  2. Drink lots of water, and use tea, and coffee (limit cream and sugar) and limit sugary drinks. If you’re feeling hungry, chances are, you’re actually thirsty. Hydration is also vital for good health so always make sure you’re quenching your thirst with a healthy option.
  3. Try to stay out of the kitchen! Avoid temptation by avoiding your pantry when it is not meal time. 
  4. Distract yourself with other activities such as games, phone calls with friends, movie, etc. Use this time to reconnect with old friends, binge that TV show you’ve been meaning to, or read that book that’s been gathering dust on your shelf. 
  5. Limit snacking to one or two a day and try to break your snacking habits. Allow yourself 1-2 snacks per day in between meals, but set time aside for these snacks and make them intentional! Do not eat standing up (for example, in front of your fridge or pantry), and always plate your snacks.
  6. Eat any fruit, and at least 2 each day. I am using a lot of citrus these days because they are readily available and have lots of vitamin C.  But apples, bananas, and berries are all great snacks.
  7. Eat any non-starchy vegetable, with a variety of colors, and as much as you want – peppers, carrots, cucumbers, greens, string beans, broccoli, cauliflower to name some.  Potatoes, peas, and corn are starchy vegetables so use these in portions as you would whole grains (rice, beans, pasta, bread).
  8. Make some creative dips for your vegetables, using yogurt or oil and lemon (or vinegar) and herbs.  These will spice up what could otherwise be boring snacks. 
  9. Use seeds and nuts as snacks but not too much and mix with dried fruit or cheerios to make a healthy mix. Here is a suggestion for one portion: 10 almonds, 1 T raisins, ¼ cup of cheerios. 
  10. Mix fruit and nut butter, for example, apples and 1 T peanut butter. This adds some good fat and protein to your snack and will keep you feeling fuller for longer. 
  11. Limit dairy, especially cheese.  Although cheese has protein and calcium which are good for you, it also has saturated fats.  Too much saturated fats can increase your cholesterol and blood pressure and lead to heart disease.  So if you want cheese, use sparingly – 1 slice or 1 ounce with fruit or on a sandwich. Other dairy should be low in fat, such as plain, low-fat Greek yogurt.  Yogurt also has probiotics for good gut health.  
  12. Eat good whole grains!  Brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread.  Whole grains are better than refined (white rice, white bread) because they contain B vitamins and fiber.  Fiber is good for your gut helps to make you feel satiated and thus control your food intake.   
  13. Do not eat fried foods or creamy, cheesy foods. Some of these include French fries, fried chicken, lasagna, or macaroni and cheese.  These are high in calories and fats, can lead to weight gain and cardiovascular disease.  Find alternatives like baked chicken and baked potatoes.  
  14. Eat good lean proteins such as eggs, fish, poultry, beans, and limit red and processed meats, such as bacon and cold cuts. 
  15. Always choose the healthier option. Which is better – for example? 
    • White rice or brown rice
    • Baked potato or French fries
    • Fruit or cookies
    • Hummus or blue cheese dressing (with cut up vegetables)
  16. Be mentally active!  Try not to sit in front of screens all day.  Challenge your mind with puzzles and other activities, such as crossword puzzles, sudoku or Wordscapes, for example.  
  17. Exercise – if you have equipment at home – use it.  Otherwise, run, walk, do resistance exercises.  Go online for yoga and other classes!
  18. Stay in touch with people by having meals together via Facetime, Skype, Zoom!  
  19. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. This is an unprecedented time that can be scary and anxiety-provoking. Whether its friends, a doctor, therapist, or nutritionist like me, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I am accepting clients for remote sessions during this time. I take United Healthcare and Aetna and can be reached via my contact on this website.

Please see this link for a diagram of my favorite healthy plate image from Harvard School of Public Health: https://cdn1.sph.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/30/2012/09/HEPJan2015.jpg

Special thanks to Kate Bartick for her input on messaging this information!