How To Improve Your Diet and Your Health During Quarantine

As part of Northwell Health Physician Partners, we at Westchester Health would like to share the following article from Northwell Health concerning the COVID-19 outbreak, written by Northwell Health Registered Dietitian Julie B. Kramer, RD.

In brief, the article discusses:

  • sheltering at home is a great opportunity to make positive changes to your diet
  • a healthy diet boosts your immune system
  • being obese increases your risk of dying from COVID-19
  • ways to include fresh produce in your grocery buying

The full article is reproduced below.

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Here’s How To Feed Yourself—Mind, Body, And Soul—During A Pandemic

Why good nutrition is more important than ever in the time of COVID-19.

This is the beginning of a series by Northwell Health Registered Dietitian Julie Kramer on the importance of keeping your nutrition in check during the coronavirus pandemic. Stay tuned for future entries—including pantry-based recipes, advice for avoiding weight gain while sheltering in place, and expert insights on boosting your immune system—in the coming weeks.

Staying healthy and fighting off infection amid the coronavirus pandemic is on everyone’s mind. And while I always advise my clients to work on improving their diets, it’s especially vital now, when our immune systems need to be in tip-top shape.

Of course, being stuck at home during such a stressful time is a recipe for comfort food cravings and stress-eating. But with many restaurants closed and everyone working from home, people are cooking more than ever out of necessity—making this an ideal opportunity to make some positive changes. Here’s why you should take this time to take stock of your eating habits, with a few tips to help you get started.

Our nutrition is one of the few things within our control

Most of us feel overwhelmed and unable to control even the minute details of our lives right now. The guidelines for tomorrow are uncertain and the news cycle whirrs on, the latest data changing by the hour. More than ever, it’s extremely helpful for both our physical and mental health to take control of what we can. That includes our food.

With more free time on our hands, now is a great time for cooks of all levels to improve their skills, whether starting from the basics or learning more complex recipes. There are so many benefits to eating in and being in control of our meals, not only because we can determine their ingredients and calorie content, but because it’s a way to feel productive and accomplished—which is immeasurable for our mental health in times of uncertainty.

Maybe this is the time to bring back the lost art of family mealtime, which research shows reduces stress and increases happiness, among other benefits. If you live alone, something as simple as cooking yourself a healthy dinner and treating mealtime as a mindful activity—not something you do absentmindedly while you work or surf the internet—can also do the same.

A healthy diet boosts your immune system

Strengthening your immune system is crucial to ensuring it’s up to the task of fending off a virus. To keep yours in fighting shape, stay hydrated and emphasize fresh produce in your diet.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in the phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals that optimize health and immune function, such as vitamins A, C, D, E, and zinc. Many are also hydrating and, when paired with the standard eight glasses of water per day, help keep mucus thin and move it through your system—something that’s especially important when fighting off a persistent virus. Running low on the fresh stuff? Many experts believe that frozen vegetables are just as good as (if not healthier than) their fresh counterparts because they’re picked at peak ripeness and flash-frozen, locking in all that nutrition.

Being overweight puts you at higher risk

From the moment the first COVID-related deaths hit the airwaves, we were advised that the elderly and immunocompromised were those most at risk for more fatal complications. But there’s another complication not being discussed enough: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people with severe obesity are at higher risk for complications and death, too.

In a time when staying home is a social responsibility, we all know we should be taking small steps to stay active, but a healthy diet built on whole foods is the number one way to stave off weight gain. With more of us cooking for ourselves at home than ever before, look at this as an opportunity to be more mindful about what you’re eating and fueling your body with.

Of course, it can be hard to stay stocked on things like fresh produce while sheltering in place and avoiding unnecessary trips to the grocery store, but there are plenty of healthy, shelf-stable options out there—such as frozen vegetables, fruit canned in water (not syrup or juice!), low-sodium canned beans, and dry grains. Do your best to skip the processed foods and, when possible, still go out for (or include in your deliveries) fresh produce and perishable items on occasion.

If you’re ready to take control of your nutrition in the coming weeks, stay tuned for more. Up next: a collection of healthy recipes you can easily whip up with staple items in your pantry and freezer. In the meantime, for information about building a healthy diet, I always recommend the Healthy Eating Pyramid and the Healthy Eating Plate by the Harvard School of Public Health.

Learn what Westchester Health is doing to protect our patients and staff against COVID-19

We are here to provide the care you need, when you need it. To learn what smart precautions we’re taking to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and keep you safe, visit our Coronavirus Digital Resource Center. To know how we’re responding to the outbreak and what to do if you’re feeling sick, visit our FAQ page (frequently asked questions). Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

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