Over the last several weeks, life as we know it has taken a complete 180-degree turn. Suddenly, stay-at-home, shelter-in-place and social distancing orders have disrupted our regular routines. As we anxiously await the green light to get back to gathering with friends and family, commuting to work and school, and even celebrating a Saturday night out, patience is key.
As food and grocery shopping are considered “essential,” you may find yourself at home all day and night dangerously close to a well-stocked fridge and pantry. These uncomfortable times have many of us reaching for our go-to comfort foods and feel-good snacks.
So, amid these emotional eating urges, what can we do to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stay on track with healthy foods?
1. Maintain mealtime routines
Even though the majority of us now spend most of our time at home, the most important thing is to stay with our eating schedule we are used to.
If you usually eat breakfast at 8 a.m., lunch at noon and dinner at 6 p.m., continue to do so. This gives you some structure throughout the day and helps you plan your other activities in between.
If you are used to snacking twice per day, make sure you incorporate those as well. However, do not go overboard on snacking. You might move around less than you usually do and therefore might not need the extra snack in between.
2. Listen to your body
It’s easy to reach for a snack when you’re bored or anxious. Remember to listen to your body. Before heading to the kitchen, ask yourself, am I really hungry or am I just bored, frustrated or stressed?
Have a glass of water instead, walk your dog, check your e-mail or call a friend. If you still feel hungry afterwards, have a snack.
3. Snack (and shop) mindfully
Keep a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich and easy to prepare snacks on hand. Next time you head to the store or order groceries online, add a few of these items to the list:
- Washed and cut raw vegetables
- Whole fruits
- Low-fat or fat-free yogurt and milk
- Cheese: cottage cheese, low-fat cheese or string cheese
- Lean deli meats
- Frozen juice bars
- Frozen yogurt
- Whole-grain crackers
- Pita bread
- Dried fruit
- Nuts and nut butter
- Yogurt drinks
4. Prepare portions
Portion out your snacks — put them on a plate or on a dish instead of eating directly from the package.
5. Balance your food groups
Your snack calories count as well. Try to keep a balance of the different food groups in each meal and snack: fruit, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy. Remember to pick two of the five food groups for a snack.
Here are some ideas to inspire your next healthy snack:
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Dried nuts mixture with raisins or cranberries
- Raw veggies with hummus or greek yogurt dip
- Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
6. Snack smart
- Sparingly choose snacks that are energy-dense and nutrient-poor, such as candy, soft drinks, high-fat foods or foods with added sugar and high sodium. However, don’t be afraid to treat yourself to an occasional treat once per week.
- Check your food labels to make good choices. Look at serving size, calories, fat, sodium and added sugar.
- Snack several hours before mealtime, so it won’t interfere with your appetite.
- Pick snacks with protein and fiber to keep you full longer. A great example of this is peanut butter and whole-grain crackers.
So, if you’re hungry, make mindful choices that add positively to your nutrition intake. While you’re stuck at home, keep calories in check and contribute towards your food group goals. These are some great tips to incorporate even after quarantine ends. Until then, stay safe and snack smart!
For more expert advice on how to live well amid COVID-19, visit BSWHealth.com.
About the author
Kristine James, RD
Kristine James, RD, is a registered dietitian on staff at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center – Fort Worth.