How Your Diet May Make You Less Likely to Survive the Coronavirus

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While you “stay at home” to protect your health and the health of your family, shouldn’t you also be concerned about the effects of your diet on your health? Healthy eating can help lower your risk of medical conditions from heart disease to obesity. It doesn’t make sense to survive a pandemic then suffer from diet related conditions like diabetes, hypertension or weight gain.

Make healthy choices. Social distancing and stay at home orders could keep many of us indoors for weeks or months. Loneliness and isolation can easily lead to emotional eating as do boredom and stress. During this period of forced separation, many are turning to unhealthy foods like cookies, chips and high calorie snacks to make themselves “happy.” This unhealthy diet is compounded by inactivity, a lack of exercise and the urge to sleep longer and more often brought on by a sense of fear and depression.

Emotional eating occurs when you turn to food to soothe or displace negative emotions including loneliness, isolation, fear, boredom or stress. Emotional eating has little to do with hunger and everything to do with cravings. Sweet or salty snacks (chips, chocolate or ice cream) quickly satisfy the pleasure receptors in your brain, or you may turn to these same unhealthy foods to fill the endless hours of boredom or as a form of distraction. Instead, find challenging activities or healthy snacks (grapes, bananas, etc.) to manage these cravings or your need for distractions.

A healthy diet may be more important now than ever before. Your healthy diet choices could increase your resistance and immunity to infection. Eating fewer snacks and junk foods and more foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients especially brightly colored fruits and vegetables can boost your immune system. Limit your purchases of those tempting foods like chips, sodas, and cookies as they contain only empty calories.

Find a balance between foods you love and healthy foods you know you should eat. Find healthy ways to prepare your favorite foods using healthy ingredients. Enjoy pizza? Using a thinner, lighter crust, slightly less sauce and cheese and substituting vegetable toppings for meats could easily reduce the calories per slice by ½ to ⅓. Need fries with that? Substitute baked sweet potato fries for traditional French fries.

Practice food hygiene and food safety. Proper food hygiene and food safety practices can prevent the transmission of bacteria and viruses through food. Wash your hands often and sanitize food preparation surfaces and utensils. Always rinse fruits and vegetables under running water, including those fruits with skins and rinds. Cook and store foods at the correct temperatures.

We are living through challenging and stressful times, don’t make things worse by sitting on your couch and eating all day. Use this time to eat healthy and find ways to stay mentally and physically active.

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