How Has COVID Affected Your Eating Habits?
We’re 8 weeks into this pandemic and it’s getting old …with no real end in sight – at least for us New Yorkers. It’s become the new norm for us. We have to keep telling ourselves it’s temporary and find a way to deal with it as best we can in the meantime. As a nutritionist, of course I’m interested in the affect the COVID situation has on eating habits. In past 2 months, my job has pivoted from helping people with hectic schedules navigate eating healthy on the run to helping people deal with eating from home EVERY.SINGLE.MEAL and the emotions that go along with being cooped up.
I spend much of my day listening to my clients unique homebound situations and trying to help them problem solve. I’ve seen eating and drinking behaviors ranging from stress eating, craving comfort foods, and too many zoom happy hours to the opposite end of the spectrum – greatly improved eating habits and large weight losses. Read on to find out common pandemic eating behaviors with my proposed solutions when needed. And keep reading to the bottom of the article to learn about how I can help YOU!.
Potential problems and solutions
- Comfort foods. Most of us are stressed to the max being cooped up. Trying to work from home … feeling anxious … kids yelling … spouse also trying to work from home. At the end of a long day, your body calls out for comfort food like pasta, meatloaf, carbs and casseroles. Wild salmon and broccoli rabe aren’t the first foods that come to mind. And even if they were, can you even get these foods now?
Tip: You can still have comfort food but lighten it up. The family wants pasta 4 nights in a row? Have your meat sauce sauce over zucchini noodles. You don’t have to eliminate carbs completely, just keep portions moderate and add in more veggies.
- Boozing it up. After a long day sitting in the same space for 10 hours, a glass of wine – or two – is looking pretty tempting. And then there are zoom happy hours. Friday night with the book club, Thursday night with the girls, Wednesday night with the coworkers … some nights you may even be double booked with zoom calls. And yup, there are even zoom drinking games!
Tip: I do a lot of alcohol goal setting with my clients. Excessive alcohol can interfere with your sleep, cause heartburn, increase depression, and of course lead to weight gain. The trick here is pick a number of drinks you want to have a week (and one “drink”= 5 oz wine … not 10) and plan it out. You can also fake those zoom happy hours with seltzer and lime (no one will know it’s not vodka).
- Cooking … a lot. Many of my NYC clients are getting reacquainted with their kitchens. In the past, “cooking” meant picking up prepared food at Grace’s Market or Eli’s and reheating in the microwave. Now, the ovens are no longer storage spaces. And I have so many clients who are LOVING NYT recipes. So this new cooking habit can be a really good thing … or not! Obviously, it depends on what you make.
Tip: Cooking can be much healthier than ordering in or even going out. The trick will be to find healthy recipes. Or if your fav recipes are excessive in fat or refined carbs, try to make some adjustments. Cut back on butter/oil a bit and add in some chicken broth instead. Melissa Clark or Martha Rose Shulman won’t care! This isn’t the time to perfect your Mac and cheese recipe. But for many people cooking at home is a good thing.
- Snacking problems. If you’re working from home and find yourself wandering into the kitchen every 15 minutes, you aren’t alone. The anxiety from the whole pandemic situation combined with being stuck at home can lead to big time snacking problems. You may have the added challenge of a spouse who wants the house filled with snacks or a child who asks for his/her favorite snacks.
Tip: Do your best to keep all tempting snacks out of the house. Or at least keep them out of sight. You can also try to buy snacks in portioned controlled bags. Or have your own snacks (i.e. individually portioned Yasso pop? while your family eats ice cream.
- Baking. I find this one fascinating as most people in NYC rarely cook, let alone bake! Flour is sold out in many supermarkets due to the obsession with baking. I guess it’s kind of a soothing activity. One of my clients (a doctor, name withheld for privacy of course) had a hectic lifestyle and would eat many of her meals on the run. Now during COVID, she’s been cooking very healthy NYT times recipes every night. But she’s also taken up baking! Since we are working on weight loss, I told her having 5 pieces a day of challah bread a day wasn’t the best idea.
Tip: This particular client likes goals and structure. So I had her calculate the number of calories in the bread, and she had a goal of no more than 300 calories of starchy carbs a day. This equaled to 3 slices of bread. For other people, evaluate your ability to control your portions with what you baked. Personally, I wouldn’t do well in this area. If you can serve yourself a very small portion, go for it! If not, but other people in your family want it, try to find some baked good you don’t love.
- Stress eating. I bet 90% of you have done some stress eating lately. I can relate to this 100%. Read my quotes in the CNN article: Stress eating these days? Here’s some help
- Skipping meals. Many people are eating only 2 meals a day – a late breakfast and early dinner. This seems to work out fine now since we tend to get to sleep in a little later and work from home. And the best part is eating an earlier dinner. This coincides with our circadian rhythms and gives our bodies more time in fasted state (which has many health benefits). So for many people, this can be a good thing!
Tip: Just make sure skipping breakfast or eating dinner too early doesn’t lead to more snacking. I have some clients who then get ravenous after dinner and snack late into the evening.
- Food shortages. I have several clients to have to deal with this one … and I feel really bad. Several clients are only allowed to buy ONE pack of frozen veggies, ONE pack of poultry and ONE pack of meat per shopping. So even if you had the energy to throw on a wig and new outfit in the car, you’d still get caught unless you paid cash or a different credit card. Unfortunately, I have no advice for this one … except to try tofu or Beyond Meat or turnips or okra (there seem to be no limit on fresh veggies … and I doubt anyone will hoard those foods!)
I’m here to help you!
These are tough times for all of us. But staying healthy physically and mentally can help you deal with this challenge. The only thing worse than dealing with this pandemic would be to emerge months later with added health issues, weight gain and just feeling bad about yourself. I’m here for you! My coaching can help you get through this and meet your goals … whether it’s to loose weight, lower blood sugar, lower blood cholesterol, manage your PCOS or just be as healthy as you can be. You’ll get a plan tailored just for you. All sessions can be done via zoom, FaceTime or phone from the convenience of your home for now!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212 879 5167
I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.