Meal planning

Meal planning for a family, a challenge on its own, can be more so now with seclusion at home, more people to feed with different tastes, and more food stores with limited groceries and shopping times. There’s also the uncertainly of bare shelves, with normal staples of a nutritious diet unavailable, at least temporarily. It’s tempting to buy whatever is available, even if it’s not something that’s part of your normal diet.

It’s hard to cope with being quarantined and not reach for your favorite salty, crunchy snack because of boredom or feeling on edge. A few pretzels or chips are okay, but many people may not be able to step away from eating the entire bag once it’s open. Also, if you’re already feeling blue, the quick fix of cookies or cake will ultimately make you feel worse. Processed foods and shelf-stable items like baked goods contain a lot of simple carbohydrates that create a yo-yo effect on our blood sugar, which can drive anxiety and worsen mood.

How then can we mindfully make good food choices?

  • Make a schedule or a daily meal plan. A schedule is more predictable for you and for everyone in your household.
  • Consider apps to stay connected around a meal. Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime with family and friends. Share recipes or even cook virtually together.
  • Plan for groceries. Try to buy fewer processed, high-salt or high-sugar snacks.
  • Load up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy

I’d suggest incorporating these foods as a way to include healthier options into your nutrition during this unusual time of stress and uncertainty. We all have to eat, so attending to our nutrition is something we can all control, and then reap the benefits of an improved mood.

Reduce anxiety and boost immunity by choosing:

  • Citrus fruit and red bell peppers (both rich in vitamin C, which in some studies has been shown to support your immune system)
  • Spices: ginger, garlic, turmeric, and capsaicin (from chili peppers) can be easily added to soups, stews, stir-frys, or salad dressings.
  • Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, clams, mussels, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks. You may recognize zinc as an ingredient is the cold remedy Zicam, as zinc has some virus-fighting effects.
  • Magnesium-rich foods may help you to feel calmer, and help support immunity. Stress can deplete our magnesium levels too. Examples are legumes, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains.
  • Fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids. A study on medical students in 2011 was one of the first to show that omega-3s may help reduce anxiety.
  • Eat probiotic-rich foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, miso, and kefir.
  • Add some antioxidants to your anti-anxiety diet, which can support your immune system.

The bottom line:

Staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging for everyone, and the increased anxiety (and boredom) can cause people to abandon their healthy eating intentions and snack on whatever is around. But with a little thought and planning, you can continue to make good food choices and maybe even boost your mood and immunity.

 

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