Local nutritionists offer advice on healthy eating during pandemic

Posted at 8:26 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 20:26:29-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - As many of us find ourselves working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, the kitchen is just steps away and that change in routine can cause a change in eating habits.

“The thing I've noticed the most with my clients is as they find themselves at home, they’re kind of boredom eating," registered sports dietitian Stephanie May said. "Rather than following their feeling plan and listening to what their bodies actually need, which is probably a lot of Vitamin C and water.”

“If you're used to being out of the house and going to work, you may already have a plan set up," licensed nutritionist Lynise Perry said. "I like to continue to encourage people to continue using that plan, but to adjust your routine to a new normal. Also, because you're home you have access to food, so you're literally steps away from your kitchen. If you stocked up, like many of us did stock up, you tend to want to stock up on those comfort foods, those higher processed shelf stable foods that have a longer shelf life, like the chips and the carbs and the crackers and breads."

"Eating those more processed carbs, the more our body will respond to storing those extra calories in out midsection, which can lead to a whole host of other issues."

When grocery shopping, Perry recommends starting at the periphery of the grocery store where you'll find healthier options like produce, meat and dairy, which can also be bought frozen. Then, you should head down the isle that contains plant based proteins and oats.

Some foods are scarce as people stock up on certain items, like pasta and pasta sauce. May recommends bying the basics and using your extra time at home learning how to cook.

“It’s the pre-made sauces and pre-made mixes that are always taken first," May said. "Get the basic ingredients and then learn how to take crushed tomatoes and turn them into tomato sauce, really using the most basic things because those are always typically available at the grocery store.”

This is a good opportunity for us to kind of get back to the basics of eating well, eating healthy and connecting with the ones that we care about," Perry said.

The dietitians recommend avoiding a lot of processed foods, although, you can find ways to make those foods more nutritious on your own.

“If you're getting a pre-made pizza, or frozen pizza, saute spinach or roast vegetables to put on top," May said. "It's still elevated a little bit to have more fiber."

Snacking is where things can get tough, especially if you're working from home all day.

"A lot of time people talk about having those salty, crunchy cravings where you need something crunchy, or you need something salty, you need something a little bit sweet. I always tell people to go toward those more natural whole foods associated with that," Perry said. "Nuts and seeds. Now you have roasted beans, like roasted chickpeas. I say go toward the nut butters, peanut butters and seed butters, high fiber snacks.

"You can do bean dip and hummus. You can use that to dip crunchy vegetables, carrots, celery, peppers. Popcorn mixed with nuts and seeds, things that you can just have on hand. That way when you do start to feel like you need a snack, you need something to crunch on to satisfy you until your next meal, you can have something that's nutrient dense and also satisfying."

May recommends incorporating two components when choosing snacks. First, a protein like boiled eggs or cheese sticks. Then, a carbohydrate, veggie or fruit that can be paired with the protein.

Although, if you are looking to eat an unhealthy snack don't feel too bad.

“I think it's all about balance," May said. "Enjoy the sweets, but also enjoy the fruits and veggies. There's a time and a place and a portion for everything."