Coronavirus: How to avoid eating all day when confined at home

A nutritionist advises those social distancing and those quarantined how to maintain a healthy lifestyle

A supermarket in the "purple industrial zone" of Petah Tikvah.  (photo credit: ITZIK SASSON)
A supermarket in the "purple industrial zone" of Petah Tikvah.
(photo credit: ITZIK SASSON)
With most of the population confined at home to contain the coronavirus outbreak, people find themselves facing new challenges: among them the risk of whiling away the time by eating incessantly.
However, if treating oneself with a little comfort food can be a good idea in a moment of difficulties, approaching the issue of food and meals with awareness is the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, as nutritionist Debra Waldoks, an adjunct lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explained to The Jerusalem Post.
Waldoks’s first piece of advice, especially for people who find themselves juggling multiple commitments, is to keep things simple in terms of cooking while maximizing the nutritional aspect, to avoid being absorbed by preparing food all day long.
Waldoks noted, however, that “this might not apply to those who consider cooking a creative outlet, for whom trying new recipes and ingredients can be a great idea.
“Uncomplicated cooking does not mean flavorless or boring,” she said, highlighting that food can also be used to boost the immune system, even though she emphasized that no type of food can guarantee avoiding getting infected by the coronavirus.
“In order to strengthen the immune system all fruits and vegetables are great, but especially dishes that have a lot of onions and garlic in them, as well as turmeric and ginger. I also recommend citrus fruit, like oranges and lemons, which contain a lot of Vitamin C. Certain minerals are very helpful and specifically zinc and selenium: meat, legumes and nuts are good a provider of the former, while for the latter Brazilian nuts are the best, but I would suggest not eating more than two per day, otherwise it might be too much,” the nutritionist explained.
“In general and especially for older people, it is important also to eat enough proteins, either from plant sources such as peas, beans or tofu, or from animal sources, like yogurt, fish, meat and chicken.”
Waldoks also emphasized the importance of drinking a lot of water. “When we are at home, we often forget,” she pointed out.
Moreover, setting a schedule for meals and snacks can be very beneficial as it helps people avoid eating all day long and spending too much time cooking, especially in case of families with kids.
“I have four kids myself so I know that there is a lot of food to prepare. It is important not to get too stressed out,” she said. “I find it very helpful to set a structure: three meals and two snacks in between the meals, so not too much time passes between them and no one goes too hungry.
“It is ok to tell children that the kitchen will be closed for a few hours and even if they come back a little later saying they want to eat more, it is ok to tell them that there will be food again soon. Hopefully the next day kids will already know that this is how it works and they will eat at set meal and snack times.”
Fruits and vegetables, as well as seeds and nut butters, are the most recommended snacks.
“People often don’t think about it, but also legumes such as peas or edamame can be great,” Waldoks added.
Although going shopping for groceries is among the allowed activities, there is still a need to minimize it.
Waldoks therefore recommended planning ahead in order to do shopping effectively.
“It’s a good idea to be organized and go with a basic outline of what you need for each day of the week, trying to buy items that are going to last longer,” she said. “In terms of vegetables you might want to purchase some fresh produce that needs to be eaten quickly, but a lot of vegetables can last a long time, like potatoes, onions, carrots and even romaine lettuce if it’s kept in the right way. Frozen and canned vegetables are also great. Whole grains and beans can be cooked later in the week. People can also stock up their freezers with proteins, like meat or fish.”
Waldoks also suggests organizing the freezer space to maximize its capacity and cooking in double-batches to have food later. The second recommendation is especially important for those who are preparing for Passover and might be working on turning their kitchen kosher for the holiday in the upcoming days.
“A lot of people right now are finding food very comforting and many are dealing with emotional eating or stressed eating. A little bit of it is ok, because food can be very comforting. However, it is important to do so with a lot of mindfulness to avoid overdoing it. People should also ask themselves if eating really helps since there are a lot of other tools that might: talking to friends, exercising, listening to music,” she said.
“But remember, have compassion on yourself, it is indeed a difficult period, eating a little more or a little more unhealthy is not the end of the world.”