Eating healthy in times of isolation

Daniel Lim

With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe, the world has been abuzz with maintaining proper hygiene and distancing etiquettes which can help combat the spread of the virus. However, one should not forget to stay healthy by taking care of their diet.

Preety Tyagi, a certified Health Coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, New York, shared with the Bulletin that the act of isolation during a world changing event can lead to overeating.

“Being at home all day long makes a person turn towards the refrigerator and the kitchen a bit too often,” she said.

She said, taking care of our health is more crucial than ever before. As such, she provided tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy diet, which includes monitoring one’s eating schedule.

“I always emphasise maintaining a food log or food journal by mentioning the time of intake and what food was eaten,” she said.

Preety also mentioned that the number of glasses of water taken is also important and that, while it may sound very methodical and a bit too tedious, it is doable during such troubled times.

“This serves as a powerful tool to connect your brain with your physical and emotional hunger, since boredom can turn people towards food,” she said.

She highlighted that a food journal can help one to understand and differentiate between a boredom call or real hunger.

Another tip is to feed on fibrous fruits and vegetables.

“Food high in fibre can help keep us full and give us energy for longer periods. It also serves as an excellent source for a healthy gut,” she said, noting that high fibre foods are also generally high in vitamins and minerals, which provide a great balance of essential vitamins in keeping healthy.

In highlighting essential vitamins, she noted that these have the added benefit of boosting the immune system. “Make sure to include food rich in Vitamin C in your diet every day. Some sources of Vitamin C include citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, sweet lime, berries, strawberries and vegetables like bell peppers.”

She also stressed the importance of Vitamin D. Taking a Vitamin D supplement once a week can ensure that the levels are maintained during times of isolation. “Other important nutrients to include in your daily diet are zinc and iron,” she said.

One should ensure to have the right amount of minerals by taking supplements.

If supplements are unavailable, one can go for alternatives such as spinach, greens, whole grain cereals, bananas, coconut, nuts and seeds, which are rich in zinc and iron.

She stressed that it is not only essential to keep us hydrated, but it also keeps us satisfied both physically and mentally.

“Often enough when our bodies are thirsty, our hormones may trick us into believing that we are hungry. This is something that often leads us to overeating or binge eating. Hence, it’s important to rule out the possibility of thirst over hunger before consuming extra calories.

“Every time you feel like eating a snack in between meals, you should first drink a glass of water, which helps to give the mind and body two minutes to realise it is not hungry.

“However, if the hunger persists, then grab a healthy snack.

“Another tip was to engage in physical activity every day which will combat weight gain and helps keep away diseases.

“Physical activity is essential in keeping your mood happy, as it can help release certain hormones and essential brain enzymes that are responsible for bringing the mind to a state of happiness,” she said, adding that a physical workout even at home can help people to remain fit both physically and mentally.

She also discussed healthy snacks, noting, “It is important to munch on something that provides you nourishment as well as satisfaction that will help you ensure that you don’t feel hungry again and again.”

Examples include almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, coconut flakes, fresh coconut and coconut water, which are all full of essential components and are good sources of healthy fats that can help you stay full and keep your food and sugar cravings under control for a longer period.