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Tips for Managing Nutrition During COVID-19

by Lauren Trocchio, RD, CSSD, CSOWM, LD

 The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new world in the span of a few weeks. More time at home, while necessary for personal and global health, has led to other challenges, in particular with food – everything from trying not to graze all day to figuring out how to make another dish with canned beans. Additionally, uncertainty can lead to more anxiety and stress, which can affect food behaviors.

You can take care of yourself — and you’re not alone. Lean into your support network and know I am part of it.  Take in the following tips and don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Stick to a Routine
If you normally work from home, this may not be as big an issue now.  But if it’s new, you may benefit from putting some parameters in place, such as having roughly the same times for going to bed, getting up and eating meals. Why does that matter? Routine tends to be helpful for sticking to an eating plan, in particular if you have wellness goals. So set some reminders, continue with your bulk cooking on the weekends, and keep yourself moving forward.

Practice Your Pause
Eating can be a way of coping with emotions, and unlike, toilet paper, there are no shortage of emotions right now.  If you find yourself wanting to graze more at home, practice implementing a pause before eating. This helps you identify the trigger. Is it hunger or something else?  If you are actually hungry, grab your meal or snack. If not, do a quick check to see if something else is going on. Did a work email just set you off or did Mom just send you a picture from her favorite cafe? If it feels unrelated to physical hunger, have a list of other activities you can do to help distract yourself (or cope with the feeling). Examples may be FaceTiming with a friend, stepping outside for fresh air and/or dancing. (Maybe now is the time to do some outdoor dancing with a friend via Facebook!) The CDC offers additional tips for managing stress and anxiety at this time.

Try New Things
You likely have more time in the kitchen and more staples in the cabinet, so use this time to try out new meal ideas. The Bean Institute (Don’t you just love that there is an institute for beans!) is packed with bean-based recipes. With Fridge to Table, you enter your ingredients on hand and it gives you a list of recipe options.

Keep Yourself Prepared
Keeping a stock of non-perishable and freezer items may be helpful right now. We may not be able to shop as freely and CDC recommendations suggest having supplies in the event you are unable to leave the house for two weeks, including things like medications and foods.  Be conscious of –and respect –store restrictions on quantity as they try to ensure as much access to as many people.

Foods to Buy

  • Frozen vegetables and fruits
  • Frozen meat/fish
  • Eggs (fresh lasts awhile, or try frozen liquid eggs)
  • Canned tuna/salmon
  • Canned chicken
  • Canned fruit (100 percent juice)
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned soup
  • Broth
  • Canned beans
  • Nuts/seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Bread/English muffins/tortillas (can be frozen)
  • Powdered milk
  • Oatmeal
  • Cereal
  • Granola
  • Protein bars/powder

Above all, please take care of yourself and each other during this time. Despite the concerns and challenges, perhaps there can be a small silver lining: more time to cook at home and to sit down for family meals.

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