There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live. We have adapted by adjusting our daily habits including work, school and social routines to reduce the transmission of the virus. Eating and food purchasing habits have been upended too, creating additional burdens and stress. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, many people report adopting new healthy lifestyle habits during this time of change.
Although the economy is now reopening, eating habits during the past few months were largely shaped by restaurant closures, limitations on grocery shopping and the mandate to stay home. Even the way we exercised had to be reconsidered. Surprisingly, our home quarantine routines led to some improvements in health, nutrition and meal planning. Let’s consider which of these new habits are worth continuing as we move forward.
A Shift Towards Home Cooking
During home quarantine, nearly 83 percent of households reported cooking more meals at home. Although restaurant menus vary in healthfulness, their offerings tend to be higher in calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar compared to food cooked at home. Home-cooked meals can improve overall eating habits because they allow for increased control over ingredients and the way that meals are prepared. Plus, cooking at home can help save money and allow families to enjoy more time together.
Reap the Benefits of Breakfast
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal, but truly it is often the most rushed meal of the day. However, those working and schooling from home have experienced more time in the morning to prepare and eat breakfast. Setting aside time to enjoy a satisfying breakfast is a healthy habit that pays off. Eating well in the morning increases energy, improves nutritional intake and performance and helps cut back on unwanted snacking later in the day.
Focus on Food Safety and Skills
With long lines at grocery stores and bare supermarket shelves, we have all experienced the effects of a serious disruption in our food system. Although the major panic experienced during the initial weeks of shelter-in-place have subsided, we are now more sensitive to the delicate balance of it all. Many of us have gained new skills and practices along the way. Overall, we have been better about washing our produce, taking inventory of foods at home and making due with what we have available to us. This has been a time to develop and hone home economics life skills that will be beneficial even as life slowly returns to normal.
Physical Activity Should Be Fun
Being stuck at home understandably made most of us crave getting out and moving like never before. With gyms and fitness studios closed down, outdoor exercise was embraced as folks hit the streets and trails. This has been a time of reimagining a fitness routine that is convenient, enjoyable and safe. While some people will resume gym workouts sooner than others, creative options from virtual workouts to socially distanced neighborhood walks remain a good option.
This summer will not be what many of us planned. We are balancing our new plans that bridge returning to normal with maintaining safety. Consider what beneficial habits and skills you picked up during this time of isolation that you can bring forward to continue to improve your health and nutrition.
LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian, providing nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and organizations. She can be reached by email at [email protected].