by Brittan Donohoe, Registered Dietician at Plymouth Psych Group
As you think about the past few weeks and uncertainty ahead, food choices may or may not be on your mind. Wherever you fall, I encourage you to reflect on your decisions as you move forward. What has been going well and worked the best for you and your family? What would you like to improve upon? Here are some ideas to keep in mind.
1.) Meal planning
You may have tried meal planning in the past, but this is a crucial time to review that process. This does not have to be about counting calories, but instead it is about making sure you have the ingredients you need on hand to minimize your trips to the store or help with finances.
You are also likely preparing more meals than ever before. It’s okay to keep it simple. If you were packing sandwiches for your child’s lunch each day, keep up that routine. If Fridays were pizza night, enjoy!
- Pick a daily theme, like Taco Tuesday, to make this process easier and give some direction. The theme might include a weekly stir fry to use up those vegetables that are not looking so great.
- Gather recipes together. This will make your future meal planning much easier if you are feeling stuck.
- Hold on to your previous meal plans, so when you find yourself short on time you can repeat a week.
- Include everyone in the process. Ask your partner or children for ideas too, they may be more invested in the process at this time.
- Be realistic about your time and your cooking skills. You might have more time to cook, but didn’t wake up a gourmet chef overnight. You also might not enjoy cooking and that’s okay too!
Going to the grocery store may not be what it used to be, but here are some reminders for your grocery shopping trip.
- Avoid grocery shopping when you are hungry to avoid unplanned stowaways in your cart.
- Make a list. It’s frustrating to come home with a lot of ingredients and not have a plan or everything you need to use them.
- Don’t panic! Some items may be harder to find (and I’m not just talking about toilet paper), but there are no concerns about the food supply or any fear of shortages.
- Be mindful of others. Individuals using WIC benefits are often limited to specific items or brands. If you are not using these benefits, see the WIC logo on the shelf price tag and if there is another option, please consider it so others can access needed supplies.
3.) Balanced Meals
Every meal is an opportunity to hit reset. Your meals may not be looking perfect or you may feel like you blew it with your afternoon cookies, but here are some ideas if you are looking to make changes.
Fruit and Veggies
- Aim to include at least one serving of fruit and vegetables at meals and snacks. Fruit and vegetables help provide the body with nutrients that support our immune system.
- Eat fresh produce first and as the week wears on incorporate dried, frozen, canned food or applesauce.
- Yes! Canned fruits and vegetables are a good option. For some items, the canning process can actually increase antioxidant levels. Just remember to look for low sodium items or fruit canned in water instead of juice.
- Try to cut up produce so it is readily available and appealing when hunger strikes.
- Don’t forget about vegetable soups or stews.
- The New York Times put out a handy vegetable roasting guide this Thanksgiving. https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/1198234755705327617
- Consider adding spices, herbs or lemon juice to add flavor. A little garlic or splash of lemon juice can go a long way to making vegetables more appealing.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of hummus, peanut butter or salad dressing to help kick up produce.
- Make food fun – help young kids build a carrot stick house with broccoli trees or make a face with their fruit.
- Consider smoothies – pull out the blender and add whatever sounds good or needs to be used up.
- Fats like chia or flax seeds, avocado or coconut oil.
- Proteins like Greek yogurt, protein powder or 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
- Leafy greens, cucumbers, celery.
- Fresh or frozen fruit, if you use frozen you can skip the ice in your blender.
- Protein helps our body repair tissue and build antibodies to support our immune system.
- The average adult needs at least 3 ounces of protein at lunch and dinner. This looks like a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.
- If you aren’t getting enough protein at lunch, this may be contributing to the desire to snack in the afternoons. Protein takes longer for the body to digest, which contributes to feeling satisfied for longer after each meal.
- Protein options include animal products like meat, eggs and cheese or plant based options like tofu, beans or nuts.
- Fats may have a negative connotation, but do not need to be an enemy. Like protein, fats also take longer to digest which will contribute to fullness and help avoid mindless snacking. They also add wonderful flavor, which can contribute to satiety.
- Consider including fat sources such as nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil or full fat foods in moderation. Typically, this would be a teaspoon for oil or butter, 1-2 tablespoons for dips or dressing, and 1/4 cup of nuts.
- Calcium plays an important role in bone health, body signal transmission and muscle activity. Don’t forget to include cheese, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese or milk alternatives into your day.
- Grain sources may include rice, pasta, bread, beans or tortillas.
- You may have had a reaction to reading that list of options and that’s ok. Some folks find they do better eating a diet lower in grains and some folks find cutting out grains makes them irresistible. Listen to your individual needs, not your social media.
- The body can rapidly digest grains, which gives them a role in helping your body get an initial full cue. Whole grains can also be a great source of fiber and other minerals.
- Enjoy baking with your loved ones or take a trip to your newly reopened Dairy Queen, but remember to include desserts in moderation.
- Out of sight, out of mind – tuck desserts in the cupboard to avoid mindless snacking.
- Freeze leftovers, especially as you might not be sharing your cookies at the office.
- Skip challenging desserts. If you worry about managing a bag of Oreos at home, get an individual cookie from the bakery instead.
- Eat mindfully – slow down, have an intentional portion and enjoy it.
We are living in uncharted territory and our lives have changed dramatically. Take each day one at a time and cut yourself some slack. As you look to make changes, try to remember that nourishing your body is an opportunity to take care of yourself.