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Tips To Maintaining Healthy Eating Habits While Sheltering In Place

April 9th, 2020
Healthy Easting Tips

Homes across Long Island have become workspaces for adults and classrooms for children as families shelter-in-place to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

However, working and learning from the comfort of home can lead to poor eating habits. With the routines altered, many may find themselves in the kitchen more than normal, reaching for a sugary snack instead of healthy fruits and vegetables.

Karen Berg, MS, RD, CDN, a clinical dietician at The Cancer Institute at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, offers answers to help people maintain a healthy diet during these challenging times. 

Q: As people spend more time at home, what bad eating habits should they avoid?

Getting out of a routine can wreak havoc on a healthy diet. For example, some may be used to a breakfast that includes yogurt or oatmeal with fruit. Now, they may be starting their day with a three-course meal, which means extra calories. Also, people graze all day as they constantly walk through their kitchens or prepare food for their kids. I recommend sticking to mealtimes and continuing good eating habits. It may feel like a food holiday where “anything goes,” but it’s not.

Q.: What do you view as the biggest dietary challenges for people working from home?

There are two major challenges. People tend to snack more when they are stressed. As much as possible, try to stick to your regular eating habits. Keep a food journal of everything you eat or drink for two to three days. The journal will show how much you are eating and where you can eliminate some calories.

The other big issue is not consuming enough water. When people are home they are less focused on their water intake. It’s important to make a conscious effort to have a big bottle or glass of water at your workspace. Also, this allows you to stretch your legs to refill your water.

Q.: To maintain a healthy eating lifestyle, what foods should people look to purchase that will keep them satisfied?

It’s a good idea to stock up on nuts, low-fat cheeses, yogurts, whole-grain crackers or pretzels, hummus and fruits and vegetables. You can have veggies cut up and ready to go in the fridge for a healthy afternoon snack and pair them with hummus or a dip made out of Greek yogurt for protein. Snacks that are high in fiber and/or protein will keep you feeling full longer.

Q: What foods should people work to avoid?

Don’t buy your favorite desserts, cookies or snacks. When people feel stressed, they are likely to reach for treats first. If you have a sweet tooth, find alternate ways to satisfy it. Instead of very sweet cereals, choose cereals high in fiber with a hint of sweetness. If you crave chocolate, opt for 60% or higher dark chocolate.

Q: What types of foods with a long shelf life should people consider purchasing to help them maintain a healthy diet?

I prefer to buy pre-chopped frozen vegetables over canned vegetables for many reasons. They are often picked at their ripest, last several months in the freezer and don’t have any salt or preservatives. With canned goods, look for “no salt added” and always rinse them in a colander before cooking. With fruit, I like buying oranges, apples and pears as they tend to last long in the refrigerator. Ground turkey, chicken breast and different cuts of fish are good sources of lean protein and can be stored in the freezer.

Q: Which foods can help people boost their immune system?

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help your immune system. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits and clementines are known to be loaded with vitamin C. Also, you can also get plenty of antioxidants from strawberries and spinach. I like yogurt and yogurt drinks since they have probiotics that can also help your immune system. It’s important to note that your immune system needs sleep and plenty of water throughout the day to function properly.

Q: From a safety standpoint, are there additional steps people should take to clean items purchased in the supermarket?

I highly recommend going to the grocery store at off hours with disinfecting wipes or a paper towel that you have sprayed with a disinfectant cleaner. 

Disinfect your hands before touching the cart, and then disinfect the cart’s handle. When you’re finished shopping, disinfect your hands before touching the car doors, keys or the steering wheel. Once you are home, it's a good idea to disinfect items before putting them on your counter. Cans, bottles and the outside of packages can be cleaned with a disinfectant wipe. Anything that comes in a box that has another package inside can be removed from their exterior boxes. 

For the latest information on COVID-19, please visit the CHS Coronavirus Page.