Nutrition: Staying on Track During Social Distancing

Sarah Hall, Senior Manager


– You had a plan – 2020 was going to be your year! You created a fitness schedule and cleaned up your diet. Everything was going great and you were seeing the results you craved. Suddenly…COVID-19.

New information and lifestyle changes have begun and continue to evolve daily! It started with seeing cases stateside followed by this could be a pandemic. Offices began implementing work from home. Everyone decided to buy all of the hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Local, state, and federal government limited gatherings and advised practicing social distancing. Suddenly, schools shut down and businesses mandated working from home. As the nation is left reeling, you may be asking yourself how you can possibly continue to achieve your goals. When life starts to interfere, I always tell my clients to control the controllables; so, let’s talk about the simple nutritional choices you can make while working from home.


1. It’s Not Vacation!
It can be easy to fall into the mindset that calories don’t count in extraordinary circumstances. While you may be able to recover from a few days of unmonitored eating, lacking control for weeks will slowly unravel your healthy foundation. I know the idea of quarantine snacks is fun, and I’ve fallen prey to the temptation myself, but your long-term health is worth more.


2. Limit Alcohol
One of my local grocery stores has all alcoholic beverages on sale right now— consumer capitalism? Just like a night out in your twenties, it may sound fun now, but remember the long-term effects. See “It’s Not Vacation” above.


3. Continue to Meal Prep
Plan your meals and make a list before heading to the store. Make note of alternatives and substitutions in case ingredients aren’t available when you arrive at the store. Even when purchasing items to cover two weeks or more, stick to foods you would normally eat and can consume or properly store before expiration. Remember, it is unlikely that utilities or public services will be impacted by a quarantine, and you will still have access to working appliances and potable water. Some of the personal choices I’m making include purchasing extra fresh meat and marinating and freezing what I won’t use immediately, purchasing fresh produce to use immediately while keeping frozen options in storage, and having the ingredients for at least one big batch of stew/soup on hand for both immediate consumption and freezer storage. Keep in mind the sodium content of shelf stable food and the role it plays in your current nutrition plan before over investing.


4. Focus on a Quality Plate
The easiest way to build a balanced plate is to split it in half. Fill one half with lots of greens and non-starchy vegetables. Divide the other side in half again and serve yourself balanced portions of lean protein (animal or plant) and foods I categorize as moderate or limited. Moderate choices include fruit, dairy, starchy vegetables, and whole grains. Limited choices include fats and other grains. Remaining mindful of portions and food choices will make following my next tip simple.


5. Be Honest About Your Energy Expenditure
I’m going to be presumptive and assume your daily movement has decreased significantly since you started working from home and practicing social distancing. I’m even going to go so far as to say you’re now classified as sedentary! The good news is you possess something called Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) which is the total number of calories your body burns when completely at rest. You can easily get an estimate of your RMR using one of the many free RMR calculators available online. It’s safe to assume your daily energy expenditure above RMR is currently less than life before COVID-19. Adjust your food intake accordingly, using the above quality plate guidance and avoiding high energy foods (extra grains, extra starchy vegetables, bread or breaded food, fried food, processed snacks, sweets and desserts, etc) to avoid storing calories that have no chance of being burned by the end of the day.


6. Be Kind to Yourself
Uncertainty continues as we learn more about the health implications of COVID-19 and the widespread effects we can expect. Many of you are already grappling with fear and anxiety, searching for comfort from the environment around you. Do not strive for perfection right now. If you need to eat that cookie, eat it. If you need to drink that glass of wine, drink it. If you want to eat the entire package of cookies or drink the entire bottle of wine, step back and do a thoughtful check in. We are all humans and now is the time to stand together, love one another, and have hope. We are more connected than ever. Instead of finishing that bottle of wine, call someone you care about or set up a video chat. Give your fur baby some extra cuddles. Take a short walk outside if you’re able. Take advantage of free resources to discuss your feelings with a professional. I completely condone keeping some of your favorite comfort consumables on hand, but practice self control and be honest about your emotions before tearing through those treats.


Synergy remains committed to your health; you can always reach out to your Site Manager for support. We will continue to believe in the resiliency of every human!