Nutrition is probably the last thing on our minds when we all suddenly found ourselves locked in our homes when the lockdowns started. But as the weeks turned to months, putting this aspect aside may put your lives at stake.
The early days of the lockdown were “survival mode” for me. The things that were so ubiquitous were suddenly unobtainable. It’s like being shipwrecked on an island with only the things you have with you at your disposal. It was canned goods most of the times and for a while it was OK. But eventually, taste fatigue would set in and you’ll crave for freshly prepared meals. And as availability of ingredients were a challenge in those days (even just getting in a supermarket was a challenge), you’re still limited with what meals you can prepare. Nutrition always had to take the back seat over availability and convenience.
It only took a matter of weeks before I started noticing my midsection accumulating more fat. Poor meal options combined with the sudden loss of physical activities were an effective combination in erasing all my fitness achievements. And that’s just the physical aspect—who knows what other underlying conditions (blood pressure, sugar, etc.) were being worsened by my poor diet? At that rate, COVID-19 might be the least of my health concerns. But it also took a while before I snapped out of that “survival mode.” When I did, I started doing these things:
Restarted physical activitiesConsciously setting time to do some exercise is much better than not doing anything at all. There are exercises you can do at home that don’t need equipment or much space, like jogging in place, pushups, etc. Anything that gets your muscles pumping, blood flowing, and sweat dripping!The easing of the lock down recently gave me a chance to finally run outdoors again, but I’m constantly choosing routes where there’s the least chance of encountering other people (for social distancing). Sure, running with a mask on is really difficult, even on an easy pace, and we may even need to use face shields in certain locations, but it helps generate “good hormones” that are especially helpful during these trying times. Signing up for a virtual race helped a lot to enforce this habit.
Learned to cookAfter weeks of canned goods and take outs, nothing beats a freshly cooked home meal regardless of its simplicity! You have the final say as to what would go into your body and also serves as a stress-reliever (at least for me). Preparing what you cook burns extra calories, too! Since the pandemic started, I’m proud to say that I learned cooking more dishes but I admit it’s still more inclined towards convenience rather than the health side.
And as I grew fond of cooking, I realized there are things we can do to improve our nutrition without putting ourselves in a strict diet. Among these are being smarter with what we eat and how we prepare our meals.
For example, white rice. We Filipinos just can’t get enough of it! We eat it anytime, all the time! We eat it with just about everything! But if you’re controlling your blood sugar levels, you’re out of luck as cooked white rice have high glycemic index so they easily get converted to sugar. Bread or noodles are great alternatives, but they are processed so they may not necessarily be better. Corn is also a good alternative, but some effort is required to get them off the cob, to cook them, and they have flavor that may not go well with some dish.
Finally, there’s the potato. It’s very easy to find and you can cook it so many ways and it complements a lot of dishes well. Personally, I like eating potato with steak, barbecues, and similar dishes. I didn’t seriously take it as an alternative to white rice until I checked its nutrition label:
A medium size potato with skin on (148 grams) only has 110 calories. You can eat them on their own (with just a dash of salt or pepper), sparing you from more calories. With or without the skin, potatoes offer the benefits of fiber, too! Amazingly, potatoes do not contain fat, sodium, cholesterol, and gluten. Plus, they provide 30% of the daily value of Vitamin C.
Preparing your own food is also a great way of controlling what goes in your body. Aside from cooking them yourself, there are new cooking innovations that I think are worth looking at like air fryers. As their name suggest, they fry food using hot air allowing you to use significantly less oil, or even no oil at all! That means less-grease bacon, fried chicken, fries, and even potato chips! For someone like me who consumes a lot of potato chips, making it myself could mean a significant reduction in my sodium (salt) intake and potential savings in the long term. Not to mention being able to add variety to the meals I can make. And imagine having guilt-free, freshly cooked fries whenever you want it!
If we be smart with what we have, we can make do with all the limitations that the community quarantines allow us. Taking a closer look at the things around us may be the key to making our nutrition plans work. And there’s no harm in trying on new things!
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* Full disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Potatoes USA.