Skimping on Fruit & Veggies Right Now? Me Too. Here's Why It's Okay
How you eat when you're stressed is nothing to, well, stress about. Learn why, plus get some simple ideas for working produce back in to your diet.
If you're anything like me right now, your fruit and veggie consumption has been way down (like, WAY down). My carb and fat intake? Quite the opposite. Under normal circumstances roasted broccoli or a juicy orange sound delicious to me but what I've really been craving (and eating) during this COVID-19 quarantine craziness are bowls of ramen soup with an egg whirred in (and not fancy ramen, the packets you ate in college), cheesy pastas, English muffins slathered with butter and lots of cheese with crackers.
It's not that carbs and fat are bad, by any means. And I'm not "bad" for eating this way and neither are you—especially right now. As I dietitian, I'm not surprised that these are the types of foods my body is wanting. I'm stressed, anxious and really worried for so many people right now. All of that combines to make me crave things that are comforting and it makes my body go into fight or flight mode where it requires more calories to cope. Giving in to those cravings can help us all better manage stress. If I tried to satisfy a ramen soup craving with celery sticks and hummus, it wouldn't have the same comforting effect and I'd likely end up going overboard other foods later on to fill that gap.
We all know fruits and veggies are important but skimping on them for a week (or a few, if I'm being honest) doesn't mean you'll immediately be deficient in important nutrients. Apart from fiber (which I can already tell I need more of), nutrient deficiencies happen over time, not overnight.
And, just to be clear, it's not as if the foods I called out are completely void of nutrients. You still get protein, some fiber and important nutrients like iron and B vitamins from things like pasta. Yes, my diet looks different from my norm but I keep reminding myself that this quarantine and virus will eventually end and before that happens, I'll find a new groove and get back to some of those healthy habits. It's the big picture that matters more than this little snippet in time, so be gentle with yourself.
Concerned about if you can get coronavirus from food? Give this a read to learn why you don't need to worry: Can You Get Coronavirus Through Fresh Produce or Food?
Simple Ideas for Eating Fruits & Veggies
I'm currently 2 weeks into quarantine and while I'm still leaning on those comfort foods, I'm also trying to ease back into a normal routine with work and am starting to feel more excited about fruits and veggies. Here are a few tactics I'm using to help make getting them in easy:
Mix up a smoothie
I go through phases with smoothies but with the couple of bags of frozen fruit I have in my freezer, now is as good a time as any to get back on the smoothie train (FYI, freeze your berries and bananas before they go bad to use for smoothies). I've been winging it some days and on others I'll follow an actual recipe. Here are a few of my favorite combinations right now (add your liquid of choice: milk, non-dairy milk, juice):
- Frozen banana + peanut butter + yogurt + spinach
- Frozen pineapple + frozen banana + spinach + yogurt + chia seeds (which is basically this Pineapple Green Smoothie)
- Frozen peaches + frozen cherries + yogurt + chia seeds
Easy Smoothie Recipes:
Read More: The Best & Worst Ways to Use Frozen Avocado
Make veggie-packed muffin tin eggs
If I have something healthy prepped in advance, a quick reheat is a whole lot easier than making something from scratch when I'm hungry. Now, I'm not saying you need to go all out, but making one thing, like meal-prepping veggie-packed egg muffins to have for breakfasts and snacks, can be a huge time saver and also ensures your getting in some produce. Here are a few simple ideas:
- Easy Loaded Baked Omelet Muffins: I use this recipe as my guide and end up throwing in whatever veggies I have on hand, fresh or frozen. And the nice part is, if we get a little tired of eating the same thing, we can freeze the leftovers for later.
- Muffin-Tin Omelets with Bell Pepper, Black Beans & Jack Cheese
- Parmesan & Vegetable Muffin-Tin Omelets
Prep a few fruits and veggies in advance
Chopped strawberries are an easy topping for yogurt or oatmeal and orange wedges make for a ready-to-eat snack. Carrot and celery sticks are a healthy vessel for scooping up hummus or can be quickly chopped to use as a salad topping or the start of a soup. Here's a few additional prep ideas you can try:
- Wash and chop a head of romaine lettuce for a fast salad base
- Peel and chop root veggies, like sweet potatoes and butternut squash, or cut a head of broccoli or cauliflower into florets to make dinner easier
- Slice overly ripe bananas into chunks and freeze for creamy smoothies and build Make-Ahead Smoothie Freezer Packs, so all that's left is to blend it all together
- Wash and pull grapes from their stems (seems simple but it helps!)