Category: COVID-19

Advice for How to Continue to Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet During a Pandemic

As we are all aware, every person in the world is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way or shape. Housebound individuals following “Shelter-in-Place” orders are currently finding themselves wondering how they will be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle during this chaotic time. Not only is there increased anxiety and uncertainty, but boredom is bound to ensue. This can elicit emotional eating habits that lead to making poor dietary choices.

In Dr. Venuturupalli’s last COVID-19 video, he emphasizes that making healthful food choices can foster a healthy immune system, which – now more than ever – is crucial.  Though we do not have control over much in this present moment, we still do have a say in what we choose to put in our bodies.

In this article, Attune Health’s Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Natalie Fortune discusses some tips and tricks you can implement into your lifestyle to keep on track with your dietary goals.

GROCERY SHOPPING DURING A PANDEMIC

I went around to a few grocery stores this weekend to assess the situation and what I found was that most grocery stores in the Los Angeles area are stepping up in response to this pandemic. Here are some of my observations:

  • They are only allowing a certain number of people in the store at a given time. This is good, as it means the stores are facilitating an environment where it is easier to stay “socially distant.” While this usually does mean that there are long lines that go around the store, they fortunately move quickly. Also, there are usually marks on the ground that remind us how far 6 feet actually is.
  • Grocery stores are instilling great policies allowing seniors to go right in without waiting in line. I have also heard that some stores have “Senior Hours.” I would suggest calling your local store and finding out their policies to take advantage of less busy times, if possible.
  • When you are in the store, there are a few rules – or guidelines, at least – to follow about purchasing quantities of certain foods. For example, stores could restrict you to 2 cartons of eggs, 3 canned goods, and 4 frozen goods in a single visit. This way everyone will be able to purchase the food they need, and prevent unnecessary hoarding.

WHAT KIND OF FOOD IS AVAILABLE?

I know that when the first wave of uncertainty and panic hit, many people rushed to the grocery store and grabbed whatever food they could. Things seemed to have settled down since then, at least a bit. At this time, grocery stores still have their supply chain available and are getting regular shipments of fresh food items.

This is good news for anyone following an anti-inflammatory diet, because, even though everyone’s best food choices will differ from one person to the next, an anti-inflammatory diet is always surrounded around “Whole Foods.” This term includes food that have not been processed or refined and are free from additives or other artificial substances. As the current situation evolves, every day is different. But for the most part, in Los Angeles at least, fresh foods are available.

WHAT IF I CAN’T GET TO A GROCERY STORE?

At this time, there are still services delivering groceries, so if you are not able to go to the store for any reason, this is an option. Also, asking a family member or friend to go for you is a route you could take. A lot of stores offer pick up, so you could put in a detailed order and then a friend or family member could just pick it up!

I’M INSIDE THE GROCERY STORE. WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MYSELF FROM COVID-19?

For most, grocery shopping is a mindless task; people have their routines and they stick to them. With this pandemic, however, your approach should be altered to best protect yourself and your loved ones.

Travel light! The less you bring into the grocery store, the better.

  • Write your grocery list on paper and leave your phone in the car. Throw the paper out as you leave the store.
  • Leave your purse in the car – carry your ID and method of payment in your pocket.

Go to the grocery store with the right equipment!

  • Bring disposable gloves and disinfectant wipes with you to the grocery store, if possible.
  • Findings suggest COVID-19 tends to survive longer on plastic relative to paper, so bring canvas bags with you to the grocery store. Leave your coated plastic reusable tote at home. Keep in mind, however, that some grocery stores are not allowing reusable bags at all.

Wear the right clothes.

  • Wear an outfit to the grocery store that can be tossed into a high-heat wash right when you get home, and keep a spare change of clothes at the threshold of your home to avoid bringing germs into your home.
  • For maximal protection, change into your spare clothes and then enter your home. From here, immediately throw your grocery store outfit into a high-heat wash.

Practice social distancing in the grocery store. When checking out, go for the self-checkout if the store has it, and be mindful of keeping 6 feet between yourself and fellow shoppers.

When loading your groceries into your car, designate one place for exposure. Ideally, this should be the trunk to limit exposure. Disinfect that area when you get home.

WHAT KINDS OF FOOD SHOULD I PURCHASE?

When you do make it into the grocery store, you need to go in with a plan. Plan to get two weeks of groceries, if you can. The less you go to the store, the better. I suggest making a meal plan for you and your family. A few basic steps of meal planning include:

  • Write down and plan every single meal for the time frame.
    • This includes breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks for yourself and everyone in you family.
    • Remember that you and someone else you are responsible for might want different meal options.
    • This, without a doubt, takes time, but it will make you life so much easier in the end.
  • Have a recipe to go along with every meal you planned for.
  • Go through every recipe and make a grocery list that includes all of the meals you will be having for the time frame.
    • Make sure to have details about quantities required.
    • For example, don’t just put “Walnuts” – put “1 Cup of Walnuts.” This will ensure that you don’t over or underbuy.
  • Go to your cabinet, pantry, fridge, and freezer and check off all the items you already have.

Other tips for meal planning include:

  • Try to make your meals flexible, so if your grocery store is out of stock on a particular ingredient, you can easily make a swap.
    • For instance, if your meal is lemon baked chicken with broccoli, have a few replacements in mind if broccoli is out of stock. Examples could include cauliflower or brussel sprouts.
  • Plan for leftovers! Know that dinner on Monday night will also be lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Incorporate different meals that you can batch cook at freeze for later meals, such as soups and brews.
    • When planning for the following week, make sure to remember meals you already have in the freezer.
  • Try to eat foods that will go bad more quickly in the beginning of your time frame. For instance, have berries as your fruit serving the first few days and an apple the last few.
  • Plan meals that can be prepared ahead of time, or at least partially. Plan to roast vegetables and bake lean proteins in batches a few times per week. This will save you time and money!
  • Meal planning and preparing can take a while, but get your kids involved!
    • Ask them what they want to eat this week and put a healthy spin on it if you have to.
    • Get them involved with cooking – it can be a great hands on math lesson as well.

HOW DO I KEEP FROM SNACKING WHEN I’M HOME AND BORED ALL THE TIME?

Being in a state of boredom and anxiety – given the current circumstances – is bound to lead anyone to start snacking, more than they normally would. A few tips to avoid mindless snacking include:

  • Always consume foods off a plate as opposed to the packaging! If you’re watching a movie with a full bag of chips in front of you, the probability you’re going to eat the whole bag, compared to if you took out one serving and put it on a plate, is very high.
  • Don’t buy the chips at all! Avoid trigger foods in your home! Fill your house with healthy snacks such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

CONCLUSION

Everyone, including myself, is trying to figure out the best ways to stay healthy during this unique situation. Obviously, this is a crazy time, and we are all learning how to live in this new world. But, these habits and practices will be helpful when we go back to “normal” life. Taking a little time to plan ahead will help you to achieve and maintain your health goals.