Tips to Stay Healthy When You're Stuck at Home Right Now

We're all experiencing a lot of change right now. Here's how to help keep up your nutrition and hopefully, your spirit.

Like most of us, I'm at a bit of a loss for what to do and how to help as the new coronavirus pandemic transforms the world in ways we couldn't have imagined just a few months, weeks or even days ago. We're all doing our best to handle this challenging time, and some of us are in much tougher situations than others. My heart goes out to everyone, but especially those who will be the most affected by the impact of COVID-19.

That being said, many of us are stuck at home as we listen to public health experts and our government and take proper precautions to reduce the spread of this virus. And while we're home, we may be struggling to maintain some healthy habits. Here are some tips I have for you, as we all take things one day at a time.

Take care of your mental health

I'm putting this before any healthy eating tips, because I truly think it's one of the most important thing you can do for your health right now (washing hands and avoiding crowds and sick people, also critical). These are really stressful times, and you had no way to prepare for this. If news coverage is stressing you out, set a timer to stay informed and then shut it off (or just shut it off right now). Take deep breaths. Drink some tea. Go outside if you can. Connect with family and friends virtually. Help other people. Watch a funny TV show or movie. You may eat fewer vegetables, you may eat more sugar. That's perfectly OK. There's no rulebook for this, but we all need to be giving ourselves, and others, lots of kindness and grace.

Bowl of Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe

Nourish your body

People often think of healthy eating as nothing but kale salads and green juice. Pish-posh. Especially now. Processed food, the kind people have been stocking up on, have their place in your diet (again, especially now that you're limiting trips to the grocery store, these are the foods that can last).

Canned tomatoes and beans can be the beginning of a hearty vegetarian chili. Frozen fruit and shelf-stable milk can turn into a yummy smoothie. Peanut butter and jelly make a pretty darn good sandwich (obviously). Add some carrot sticks or fruit and you've got yourself a meal. Make macaroni and cheese and add a vegetable (my personal favorite—frozen peas). Make a pot of soup and freeze some for later. There's a reason that comfort food is called comfort food. You should eat some of that too, whether for you that's brownies or lasagna or ice cream (or a glass of wine or a cocktail). We all deserve a little extra comfort.

Some other things you can do:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night
  • Move your body. Walk or run outside. Many yoga studios are going online. There are free classes on YouTube. Take mini stretch breaks from your laptop. Have a dance party.

Get creative in the kitchen

You're probably going to find yourself with some new limits as you cook—whether it's missing an ingredient or two, learning to cook for the first time or managing cooking for your family while working from home and taking care of your kids all day. We're all going to need to use flexibility and creativity in the kitchen. Maybe now is the time you teach yourself to make sourdough or any homemade bread. Perfect your eggs, whether you like them scrambled or in a fritatta. Try new recipes you can make with your kids. Most importantly, have fun!

Consider a schedule

I'm a big fan of intuitive eating. That means you really listen to your body and eat when you're hungry. However, for many of us—especially for people who aren't used to that way of eating—it can be tricky to have your home office next to your pantry. I'll be setting a flexible feeding schedule with my toddler, who constantly requests snacks. Taking regular breaks for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks can add some routine to your days, especially as they start to blend together. While you're at it, make a schedule for your day. I've seen plenty of home schedules for kids, but adults can benefit too. Just remember, not every day is going to be the same and not every meal and snack will fill you up in the same way. Flexible schedule will be the key here.

Bottom line

We're all figuring this out as we go. Personally, I'm trying to focus on what I can control and taking things one day at a time. I know I'll be eating more packaged food, baking some cookies and doing my best to walk and fit a bit of yoga in. Follow me on Instagram @lisadvalente, I'm going to try to share some meal ideas and would love to connect. Stay safe out there and stay healthy.

Welcome to The Beet. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Lisa Valente tackles buzzy nutrition topics and tells you what you need to know, with science and a little bit of sass.

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