Three months under lockdown or quarantine certainly caused unwanted stress and anxiety among many of us. However, these trying times also taught us what needs to change about ourselves in the long term, especially with regard to our health and lifestyles. Even now that restrictions are being eased across the country, it is time to apply every day what healthy habits we learnt while hunkering down inside our homes for months as part of our new normal.
With that in mind, Prevention listed the following dietitian-approved eating habits that you should follow even after quarantine:
Cook More, Dine Out/Take Out Less
A 2019 survey found that more than 55 percent of Americans who ate at restaurants or ordered take-out meals did so at least two times a week and another 10 percent ate out up to 6 times weekly. However, the closure of restaurants as a result of COVID-19 caused many of us to cook more while in quarantine.
“Not a big surprise, based on the limited options to get dinner on the table,” Joan Salge Blake, registered dietitian and nutrition professor at Boston University, wrote for Prevention. “But this trend toward more home cooking is a good thing, as research also tells us that when you dine out, you tend to eat more food and drink more alcohol. Restaurant meals, with their inflated portions, tempt you into ordering and consuming more calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.”
Blake suggested slashing your weekly dinner reservations in half post-quarantine, citing a recent Food Industry Association survey that found more than 35 percent of adults “plan to make cooking more at home their new normal.” “Cut back on your reliance on take-out by cooking once and eating twice. That is, make double portions of a meal over the weekend so that you automatically have leftovers for another meal during the week,” she said.
Focus On Produce
The pandemic saw a short-term reduction in processing meat and poultry due to closures in processing plants to curb the spread of the virus among employees. This resulted in a meat and poultry shortage at the supermarket, causing the price per pound to rise. The silver lining of this price increase? “It forced us to stretch that pound of meat and poultry by reducing the amount of protein on our plate,” Blake said. “This is a good thing, as most Americans need to reduce the amount of protein in their diet while simultaneously increasing the amount of vegetables.”
Her advice? “Keep the protein in your meal to a mere 3-ounce portion, which is visually equivalent in size to a quarter-inch-thick credit card. Fill extra the space on your plate with Mother Nature’s finest, low-calorie vegetables. Veggies are filled with fiber and water, so they will fill you up for fewer calories.”
Also, “look for the weekly produce sales at your local supermarket to get the most vegetables for your budget,” Blake added. “It doesn’t matter if your veggie choices are fresh, frozen, or canned. All are heart-healthy and waist-friendly.”
Eat More Earlier In The Day
Emerging research suggests that the time you eat may be as important as what you eat. “Many of us had the pre-quarantine bad habit of skimping on breakfast or lunch and ending the day with a hefty, late-night dinner,” Blake said. “But your body’s natural circadian rhythms (which regulates your body’s sleep-wake cycle) may play a role in your metabolism, according to another study, by influencing the activity of its regulating enzymes and hormones.” She added that eating much of your daily calories later in the day can “foul up” your body’s circadian rhtyhms, potentially causing “higher-than-wanted” blood glucose levels and increased body fat storage.
“Your new normal eating mantra should be ‘eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.’ In other words, downsize your evening meals and increase the number of calories you eat earlier in the morning,” Blake said.
When dining out, she advised taking half of your meal home to have it as your lunch the next day. “If you are returning to an office soon, plan your breakfast in advance and pack your lunch at night to get a jump-start on the morning commute.”