A crispy fresh taco shell stuffed with luscious red tomatoes, brilliant yellow corn, juicy onions, and lively greens can be tastier yet healthier than the thawed-out meals from your local drive-through. More importantly, it’s more convenient in quarantine.
Here are some tips from local experts on how to maintain the right diet in quarantine.
Where do I go for healthy food?
In a pandemic, the first thing to consider about maintaining a healthy diet is healthy shopping. Adriane Kozlovsky, a Jewish clinical dietitian, recommends stores like Trader Joe’s, which has shopping times specifically for seniors, is cleaned frequently, and limits the number of people in the store.
Once you’re at the store, you can stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables. These are often healthier than fresh produce, which has traveled and has been sitting out, losing nutrients.
Joan D. Plisko’s preference is to avoid the store altogether. As Pearlstone’s community sustainability director, she goes straight to gardening for healthy food.
“Whether it’s herbs or lettuce or basil or cucumber, whether in ground or in containers, we have an opportunity to supplement our diet with homegrown nutrients,” said Plisko.
There’s also delivery to consider, such as from Pearlstone’s kitchen. “We offer fresh farm-to-table food. If you’re getting takeout, look for restaurants that offer that kind of service,” Plisko said. You can order on Pearlstone’s website, where you’ll find information about how to make your own tea or kombucha.
How can I cook easily?
“Eating while in quarantine, the simpler the better,” said Kozlovsky. “You can take an apple and slab some peanut butter on it, easy. Celery and almond butter? Easy.”
The idea of gardening can sound like a chore at first, but it just takes a sprinkle of seeds and some love.
“For growing your own food, even fresh herbs and lettuce, things like that can be grown in containers. Not everyone wants a full-grown garden, but you can do oregano, lettuce, tomatoes, a few things you like. Grow what you like and supplement everything else,” Plisko said.
In general, be conscious of what you’re buying: Kozlovsky recommends simple things such as salads, rice, and beans, which are high in nutrients and easy to make. Nuts or nut butters are anti-oxidants and easy to throw in a meal for protein.
What shouldn’t I buy?
“I’m not in the business of telling people what not to eat,” said Plisko. Instead, she advocates moderation. “I eat 80% healthy and 20% what I want, especially right now when we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves.”
During the pandemic, she has altered the scale to 70-30.
If you do allow yourself a high-carb meal, just be sure to add lots of vegetables. Even Pearlstone’s mac and cheese order comes with broccoli and a hearty salad. “Whatever you eat, have vegetables with it, at every meal,” said Plisko. It’ll also fill you up more.
In Kozlovsky’s view, rather than eating unhealthy, people should avoid eating unconsciously. “There’s this whole concept of mindful eating, tuning into what your body needs,” she said. “What happens when you’re stressed or anxious or emotional is that mindfulness is harder to click with. You don’t even know you’re eating a bowl of ice cream.”
The best way to defeat this is to keep a routine, and separate eating from work time. Kozlovsky keeps a timer to help herself with this.
She said she does wish people would be careful about their sodium intake. You can lower it by rinsing tuna and other canned foods before consumption.
What are some misconceptions about healthy eating?
“I think the most common misconception is that healthy food doesn’t taste good. The reality is, especially when you make it yourself? You can make food taste delicious,” Plisko said.
Instead of using refined sugar, use dates to sweeten something. Enliven food in a healthy way, such as using herbs and spices. If you grow your own chives, you can have that on your porch and brighten your meal with just a few snips.
Kozlovsky sees that people believe eating healthy food in excess is OK, but “the bottom line is anything in excess is bad.”
To fill up and avoid overeating, drink plenty of water.
What kind of diet matches this sedentary lifestyle?
While some may be confined to their homes, the majority of our lifestyles are still diverse. Thus, there is no ideal COVID-19 diet.
“It’s gonna look different for everybody. I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all for diet or exercise. Different foods impact us differently,” said Plisko. There are many body types, activity levels, predispositions, and genetic types. “The way I react to a bowl of rice and beans is different from how you will react.”
Just keep these tips in mind, and allow yourself some 70-30.