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Nutrition Do’s and Don’ts During Covid-19

Nov 19, 2020 12:29PM ● By Pamela Johnson
by Ashley Kazijian, Contributing Writer
These uncertain times have introduced many new challenges to our daily lives. For many, our health and wellness have been highly affected and perhaps even neglected as a  result of the pandemic. During the November 5th wellness webinar hosted by Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA, Tricia Silverman, RD, shared the following nutritional do’s and don’ts along with some self-care tips, and things we should be avoiding.  
Do eat foods that are comforting. Don’t eat too much comfort food. Any food can be comforting according to research from the University of Minnesota, particularly warm foods. Macaroni and cheese can have the same emotional effect as a warm bowl of oatmeal with fruit. However, if you decide to go with the macaroni and cheese, adding spinach or beans is a good way to get more nutritional value out of the meal. Tricia reminds us that it’s important to limit foods like cheese in your diet, because too much saturated fat is not good for the brain. However, unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, and extra virgin olive oil are vital for a healthful diet as we age.
Do keep healthful foods visible and at eye level. This could be a colorful bowl of fruit in your fridge or oatmeal and canned beans when you open the cabinet. Tricia recommends storing tempting items like candy and chips out of sight (out of mind), such as behind the more healthful choices in the cabinet or in a completely separate area. When considering this approach for your own kitchen, think of things that may typically be stored on the counters, such as breads and crackers. Make your healthful foods the first thing you see in your kitchen. Tricia suggests that if you find you’re eating too much, limit the time you spend in the kitchen. Outside of preparing meals, eating, and cleaning up, don’t make it a habit to spend extra time there. Also, consider where else you may be eating, such as the couch, office, or bedroom. To avoid mindless eating, limit your eating to the kitchen only, ideally with no distractions.
Do eat fruit. Don’t eat too much sugar. When craving something sweet, reach for fruit instead of the leftover holiday candy. That tiny piece of candy is loaded with added sugars and is designed to keep you wanting more. Pay attention to added sugars in all foods, not just candy. Make it a habit to review the nutritional labels on your food and pay extra attention to the added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends just 6 grams of added sugar per day for women and 9 grams of added sugar per day for men. Tricia recommends having 3 fruits per day and reminds us that fruit can protect against certain cancers and support eye health.
Do hydrate well with water. Don’t drink soda. Soda is loaded with those added sugars! When craving a soda or other sweet drink, consider a seltzer water or herbal tea instead. When you drink things such as soda, you are drinking your calories instead of getting to eat them. Be careful when reaching for diet sodas as well; those artificial sweeteners are associated with heart attacks, strokes, and dementia. Drinking alcohol can affect your sleep and harm numerous organ systems in the body. Limit your alcohol and consume it moderately and with food. Water should be your ultimate go to. Tricia recommends no less than six 8-ounce cups of water each day. If you are sweating while exercising, then you should be drinking more. Sense of thirst diminishes with age and as a side effect from some medications, so monitoring the color of your urine is an easy way to ensure that you are adequately hydrated.
Do eat whole foods and a balanced diet. Don’t rely on supplements and fad diets. Unless you have a deficiency, all of the vitamins and nutrients your body needs come right from fruits and vegetables. Tricia recommends eating a rainbow array of fruits and vegetables; and while “fresh is best,” there are suitable frozen options as well. Tricia explained that having at least 8 ounces of fish in your diet each week has many benefits; and, most importantly, it can help protect against developing dementia. Ensuring that you are having enough protein is equally important because it supports healthy muscle and your immune system. Tricia recommends that the breakdown of your meals should be half non-starchy vegetables, a quarter carbohydrates, and a quarter protein.
Do practice mindful eating. Don’t eat mindlessly. Mindless eating is what we too often do when we sit down in front of the TV with that big bowl of ice cream or popcorn. When eating, we should be avoiding distractions and keeping portion sizes small. Tricia recommends putting your fork down between bites and slowing down the eating process so that your brain and stomach are in sync. Savor each bite!
Do find ways to move more. Don’t be sedentary too long. Most of us are spending a lot more time at home these days, and although that can lead to much more time on the couch or at the desk, it’s also a great opportunity for multitasking with exercise. Practice yoga while watching TV or do one of the many at-home work-outs available online. Tricia recommends Silver Sneakers Workouts on Facebook and Go4Life.
If you have concerns about your weight, Tricia recommends portioning your food. You can do this by using measuring cups and food scales, or by buying pre-portioned snacks. Another tip is to keep track of your foods by logging food down on paper or in an app such as MyFitnessPal, SparkPeople, or Lose It.
Do cook more, shop with a list and plan a week’s worth of meals. Don’t order takeout too much. Especially now, preparing your own foods at home and limiting your time out at the store are safer. Cooking puts you in charge of the ingredients because you know exactly what you’re putting into your body and can make adjustments based on your personal needs. Being prepared with a list minimizes your time in the store and is helpful in preparing for healthful meals.
Do have self-compassion and treat yourself as you would a friend. Now more than ever, it’s important to be kind to yourself and practice self-care. Tricia says we need to practice self-kindness, common humanity (the understanding that you are not alone) and mindfulness (taking a balanced approach and refraining from self-judgment). Don’t be afraid to hug yourself or squeeze your arm; your soothing touch and warmth can bring you a sense of security and release that feel-good oxytocin!
While we all continue to navigate the unknowns of this pandemic, Tricia does know that following these do’s and don’ts will have your mind, body and soul feeling healthy and prepared for whatever is coming next. We must take care of ourselves first, and then each other.




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