4 Time-Tested Nutrition Tips to Remember During Quarantine

by Elizabeth Vennefron, RDN, LD

Last Updated: April 12, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has changed so many things about our daily lives, from ending international travel, to closing retail stores, to putting limits on seeing our loved ones. However, one thing remains constant—the need to eat. In overwhelming or stressful times, people tend to turn to food for comfort. And as people are eating at home more often, they may experience increased anxiety, wondering if they are choosing the right foods, if this new way of life will cause weight gain, and if they will still be able to eat healthily on a newly-limited budget. To ease these concerns and ensure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, keep these tips in mind.
  1. Calories. Calories are not all considered equal. Studies show that calories from saturated fat and added sugars can lead to weight gain and worsened health outcomes. In addition to paying attention to food labels and restaurant menus, digital tools can help you understand which foods are high in these types of calories. Kroger’s OptUP app simplifies healthier eating by providing easy-to-use nutrition ratings and recommendations based on what you are currently purchasing at the store. This is especially useful as you may be purchasing “out of the norm” foods during quarantine.
  2. Portion Size. In addition to what we eat, the amount that we eat can make just as much of an impact on our health. Portion sizes have increased significantly over the last 30 years. Super-sized portions at restaurants have distorted what Americans consider a normal portion size. Be sure to portion out foods first, as opposed to eating them straight out of the larger package. If you are still hungry, you can return for seconds. Slow down the pace of your eating. Following these simple tips will help you keep your portion size under control.
  3. Meal Timing. Recently, there has been an increased emphasis on the timing of meals as scientists understand more about how periods of fasting can impact our metabolism, i.e. the internal process by which the body expends energy and burns calories. Research on intermittent fasting shows that individuals typically lose weight because of the metabolic shift, which triggers the body to switch its source of energy from glucose stored in the liver to ketones, which are stored in fat. More research is needed to determine the impact on health in the long term. For some individuals, meal timing is crucial to keep blood sugar levels stable (such as individuals with diabetes) so intermittent fasting should always be undertaken with the supervision of a Registered Dietitian. For a limited time, Kroger Health is offering Telenutrition services for free.
  4. Activity. Losing weight, preventing, or managing a chronic disease can usually be accomplished by eating nutrient-dense foods, but exercise is also an important component. According to Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should do at least 150-300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Science has linked being inactive and sitting too much with higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon and lung cancers, and early death. Beyond weight loss and disease prevention/management, exercise can have other health perks, such as improving the quality of sleep and reducing stress levels. This is especially important when stuck in quarantine, as the mental health benefits can become just as necessary as the physical ones. For some ideas on how to enjoy group fitness while social distancing, click here.

While things may seem upside down right now, there are still solid, research-backed healthy eating principles that can be put into place to keep you on track. It’s okay if you aren’t eating 100% in accordance with your usual routine right now. Keep these general principles in mind, and you’ll be on the right track when quarantine ends.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Elizabeth Vennefron, RDN, LD

Elizabeth Vennefron, RDN, LD

Elizabeth loves being a dietitian because it connects her two passions- helping people, and healthy living. She’s a walking encyclopedia of better for you foods, meals, and culinary hacks to ensure her patients are enjoying the flavors they love while eating and staying well.