Being stuck inside during the coronavirus quarantine is rough, and if you're anything like me, the easiest response is to hunker down on a couch with a Snuggie, a bag of chips and assorted dips with your favorite streaming service. In fact, I've spent at least a few days of the last month doing exactly that.
But staying at home is also a great opportunity to foster healthier eating habits -- even through small changes. You can't eat out as much, you're less tight on time between commutes and the snack machine at the office doesn't call to you like usual. So if you want to take this time to finally lose those few extra pounds you gained during the holiday season, or if you just want to maintain your health during a time where you could easily pack on some anxiety weight, here are a few tools that can help.
I buy vegetables all the time, and it's a battle to make sure I use them before they go bad -- especially when my two young kiddos decide they want mac and cheese for a week straight. A mandoline can be incredibly helpful, though, in preparing ho-hum veggies in new and exciting ways. Essentially, it makes slicing produce much quicker and easier, so you can prepare cool dishes like beet slaw with lime juice and sesame oil or quick pickled carrots in just a few minutes. Veggies become much more appetizing, in my experience, when you can prepare them in consistently exciting ways -- and the mandoline makes that significantly easier.
When you're tracking calories or macronutrients, eating whole foods will seriously simplify your life. Another good trick: use a kitchen scale. Keeping aware of the grams of salmon you're eating or sugar you're mixing into your coffee will help build a general awareness of your consumption habits. That awareness can make change much easier, as you'll start to be sensitive to that little handful of trail mix you steal from the cupboard without thinking every couple of hours.
In anxious times, pasta is one of the most comforting foods. But it also is super carb-heavy, and it's not your best friend when you're trying to lose weight. The good news is, you can still eat pasta by using a spiralizer, which cuts veggies like zucchini and squash into noodles. I good spiralizer can also add some adventure in the kitchen, as you figure out which veggies you like most in noodle form, and the various ways al dente vegetable noodles can be incorporated into all kinds of dishes for an added crunch.
We all have our Achilles heal when it comes to food: mine is burgers, and my wife's is soda. The problem with soda is it doesn't actually fill you up, so it's just empty calories. One trick that helps her is to always have a non-water option to drink that doesn't add extra sugar into her diet. That means not soda, not juice and not (much) coffee. An electric kettle can be really helpful here, making it easier to prepare tea without much effort.
If you just don't like vegetables, a mandoline and spiralizer might not help as much as a good blender. Throw spinach or kale into a smoothie with a banana and a few handfuls of berries, and you'll barely even notice the leafy greens you're sneaking into your diet. Our blender has also single-handedly saved our kids' diets during the quarantine, as we try to maintain healthy options without the energy to prepare extra veggie dishes for the tikes.
Produce in my fridge often feels like a ticking time bomb. Sometimes that quick expiration date is motivating, and I eat that whole bag of spinach in a successful day. Other times, the shame takes over and I leave the produce drawer closed for a full week, in denial of all the produce I've failed to eat in time. The solution we've found is to use reusable freezer bags: any time produce is about to go past its prime, we throw it in the freezer and save it for smoothies or soups later. When the timing doesn't feel so urgent, I find myself pulling healthy options out of the freezer often, no shame necessary.