These days that lie ahead of us show unprecedented challenges for our health as we may have to stay at home for indefinite amounts of time. The temptation to stress eat will be enormous. Being at home all day lets you graze through the fridge any time of the day and satisfy your craving for the munchies. Such habits may wreak havoc on your waistline, affect your productivity and lead to weight gain and even worse impact your immunity.
In some places, restaurants and take-away options are limited and some items are becoming sparse in some supermarkets. Limited access to fresh foods may lead to choosing easier options like processed foods which are rich in fats, salts and sugars. It is important to steer clear of processed foods to ensure that you are fighting fit in these uncertain times.
Even with scarce ingredients, you can continue to eat a healthy diet. All you need to do is ensure access to healthier food and drinks. It is important to be strategic while buying and using ingredients as well as follow safe food handling practices.
Here are strategies and hacks to eat healthy when you work from home.
- Focus on healthy food: Understand that what you eat will play a role in your mood and energy level. Remind yourself of what is healthy every time you pick up chocolates or fried food. Focus on proteins, fibre, fruits and vegetables. Nutritious food keeps you feeling full for longer. Planning your meals prevents you from choosing the quickest and tastiest option which is usually unhealthy.
- Don’t stock up on junk food: Try your best to keep junk food out of your home, especially foods that you know will trigger binge eating. Stocking up on junk food will only lead to eating it because you can.
- Do not work near or in the kitchen: Try to set up your workspace away from the kitchen. Decide that the only time you will head to the kitchen is when you are preparing your meal. This will ensure you stay away from the fridge and unhealthy foods through the day. If you still find it hard to keep away from snacks at odd times, put up a sign on your kitchen door saying it is closed until your next scheduled mealtime.
- Make sure you eat on time: Once you sit down to work, it may actually be hard to take a break to eat. If required, set reminders or alarms during your meal times to make sure you don’t end up going through the entire day without having had any food. Not having your meals on time can affect your focus and productivity. Learn to recognize your hunger signs and eat on time.
- Plan your meal times: Just as you plan your entire day, make sure you also plan your snack breaks and meal times. This will prevent you from getting up and heading to grab a snack whenever you feel like. Keeping a schedule and sticking to it also brings some order to your day.
- Prepare ahead for your meals: Though it is a great feeling to be able to make your own meals, sometimes it can be overwhelming to decide what to make every day. Preparing your meals when you begin your day would make it easier and take out all the guesswork. If you prefer to make your meal fresh, you can pre-cut the vegetables you will be needing in the morning.
- Drink lots of water: Dehydration leads to headaches and fatigue which can affect your productivity. Having water readily available next to you makes you more likely to drink it. Always keep a bottle next to you while you work. Sugar loaded drinks are to be avoided as they do not help in hydration.
- Limit your caffeine intake: Having loads of coffee through the day may seem like a good idea, but may instead decrease your productivity. Too much caffeine can cause anxiety, fatigue, headaches and even digestive problems. Try to limit yourself to two cups of coffee a day to avoid jitteriness. Also, try to avoid high-fat creamers and too much sugar in your drink.
- Avoid distractions when you eat: Being distracted while you eat can lead to over-eating or decreased satiety. It may be tempting to keep working while you eat since you are in the confines of your home, but it is best to take a break from work and focus on your food. This allows you to relax for a bit and also enjoy your meal.
- Portion out your meals and snacks: It is harder to control portions when you eat straight out of the bag or original container. You can try dividing your plate with half of it filled with non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth filled with lean proteins such as fish, chicken, eggs or cottage cheese and the other one-fourth filled with high fibre food such as fruits, starchy vegetables and whole grains.
- Choose healthy alternatives: Instead of canned and processed foods, try to select healthier alternatives such as fresh vegetables, fruits and other items like grams and lentils. Research healthy recipes using the items in your fridge or better ways of cooking dishes that require deep frying or lots of butter. If there is an air fryer lying unused, now is the time to do it justice. An air fryer uses circulating hot air to crisp up your food without the use of any oil. So throw in chicken, potatoes, eggplant or poppadoms to satisfy you craving for crispy foods.
- Follow safe food handling processes: Always keep your hands and utensils clean. Separate raw meat from other cooked ingredients. Store cooked food safely in air-tight containers, at an optimum temperature. Use safe ingredients and clean water to cook.
Erratic eating patterns and unhealthy food could affect your immune system as well adversely affect your physical and mental health. But by taking a few steps during this quarantine period, you can ensure you remain in good shape and boost your immune system to fight with coronavirus.
Dr. Emmany D R | Senior Dietician Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics | Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center, Bommasandra