Sunday, 29 March 2020 05:40

What to eat when working from home according to nutrition experts

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Maintaining your normal eating patterns will help you feel more in control during this uneasy time.

Use this as an opportunity to become more in tune with your body's hunger cues and to take care of yourself in other ways, through sleep, mediation, and sometimes Nextflix-binging.

We consulted two nutrition experts, Jeb Stuart Johnston and Samantha Cassetty, to offer tips on what to eat, how to eat, and ways to control your environment.

The coronavirus uprooted most of our lives in many ways. We're now less social, less active, and way more anxious. It feels like we're in a state of limbo. As a result, people continue to veer away from their regular routines - which is something you want to avoid.

"So many people are going off the deep end, eating pizza and drinking all day because they don't want to accept the reality of the situation," nutrition coach, Jeb Stuart Johnston, told Business Insider. "They can't control everything, so they control nothing. They're living in denial and that's amplifying anxiety and unrest, which leads to using alcohol and food as coping mechanisms."

Johnston says that accepting the situation at hand, although difficult, is another coping mechanism that helps remove emotion from the situation. This way, you're able to make more rational decisions.

A primary key to maintaining balance in your life is to keep a fully stocked kitchen with both foods you'd typically eat and healthy options that help you feel full. By having more food at home, you'll be less tempted to make frequent trips to the store and order out (though, we're not against occasionally doing so to support local business). You'll also save money, which is never a bad thing.

We tapped Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, who is a national nutrition and wellness expert based in New York City, to find out what foods you should buy, how to overcome eating when you're bored, and ways to manage alcohol consumption (hey, no judgment, we could all use a drink right now).

What you should buy

Cassetty suggests focusing on six food categories: fruits, veggies, dairy, proteins, fats, and grains. She also says that it doesn't matter if you buy fresh, frozen, canned, or dried versions of these foods, but you should have a strategy in place to assure nothing goes to waste.

"You want to apply a system to make sure you're eating fresh foods first and using longer-lasting foods to stretch out your grocery supply," Cassetty said. "For example, mix tuna with chickpeas, white beans, or shelled edamame, and you'll get more meals out of a single can. Whip up a white bean puree to use alongside a chicken dinner or add some nuts to a veggie stir fry."

If you're concerned about the quality of frozen veggies and fruit, don't be. A 2015 study in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" compared the vitamin content of eight fruits and vegetables and found that the amounts were equal in both, and in some cases higher in the frozen variety.

Below, Cassetty shared the best foods you can buy in each of the categories mentioned above.

Fruit:  Apples, pears, frozen berries, dried, unsweetened mango, canned peaches (canned in juice), 100% orange juice (Cassetty says that the vitamin C in fresh OJ can help bolster your immune system, which is as crucial as ever in these strange times)

Veggies:  Cabbage, spaghetti squash, Brussels sprouts, carrots, frozen green beans, frozen stir-fried vegetables, canned tomatoes, canned pumpkin, canned artichoke hearts, frozen edamame, kale, beet, and carrot chips

Dairy (and dairy alternatives): Unsweetened milk of choice, hard cheese, shredded cheese, plain, Greek yogurt

Protein:  Fresh chicken breasts, eggs, frozen shrimp, canned or dried beans, canned tuna and sardines, chickpea or lentil pasta

Fats:  Nuts (such as peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios), seeds (think: chia, hemp, ground flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds); avocados, extra virgin and avocado oils, nut and seed butters

Grains:  Oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, low-sugar, high-fiber whole grain cereals, whole grain or seed crackers, whole wheat and almond flour.

Here's how working from home changes your approach to eating

Cassetty believes that being at home more often is an opportunity for us to become more in tune with our body's hunger signals. If we learn to listen to what our body says, she asserted, then you'll find it's probably less hungry as you're less active.

"Your body gives you clues when it's painfully hungry and painfully stuffed and chances are, you've noticed those signals," Cassetty said. "But sensations of moderate hunger and moderate fullness are harder to recognize. Your body is really cool, and your appetite can level out as you're moving less."

On the other hand, Johnston added that your NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis (a fancy way to say calories burned through non-exercise related movement) accounts for 15% of total calories burned in a day. As we're moving less, our energy expenditure goes down but Johnston doesn't believe it causes us to feel less hungry.

"NEAT doesn't cause large shifts in our hunger hormones as intense exercise does," he explained. "We may be inadvertently increasing our hunger cues actually by being in a heightened food-centric environment."

Cassetty believes you should start to pay attention to when you're actually hungry versus just thirsty or bored, and begin to eat according to those signals. Cassetty noted that people who graze - meaning they eat small snacks continually throughout the day - aren't giving themselves a chance to identify hunger cues.

"Distract yourself in other ways and become more familiar with these sensations," Cassetty added. And as Johnston put it: "Hide your snacks."

How to stop eating out of boredom

Self-quarantine can be a lonely and isolating experience. For many, cooking food is a way to kill time and feel better. Do this too many times, though, and you'll end up overeating and gaining unwanted weight as a result.

"Focus on developing a new routine by doing things like waking up and going to bed at the same time, eating three regularly scheduled meals every day, and carving out time to stay active as well as relax," Cassetty said. "Also, eating out of boredom is totally normal, so if you do find yourself nibbling on a cookie, be kind to yourself."

Taking care of yourself in other ways helps offset this behavior, too. Cassetty recommends focusing on different aspects of your health - such as sleep, stress, and social interaction.

"If you're stressed, take a bath or read a book. If you're missing social connections, call or FaceTime a friend or organize a larger, virtual meet up. If you're bored, do a lap around your house, go get the mail or just take a stroll down the driveway, or fold a load of laundry," Cassetty said. "When you have solid tools for dealing with emotions, including boredom, you can pull from them as needed, instead of turning to food each time you're seeking solace."

How to drink responsibly while stuck at home

First, Cassetty stated that "the safe limits are one drink a day for women and two for men but how you space your drinks out matters, too, so don't save all the drinks up for one or two nights."

While there's nothing wrong with drinking, it's essential to be aware of your actions. If consuming alcohol regularly is a way for you to relax, then Cassetty suggested looking into other ways to reduce stress - such as meditation or listening to a soothing playlist. Also, drinking at night is a habit for many, so merely switching your scotch or brew for a herbal tea sustains the habit sans the alcohol.

For those who count their calories, adding alcohol into your daily intake is another way to regulate your consumption and keep your calories in check. Johnston recommends adding 35 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of fat for every 12-ounce IPA, and 10 grams of carbs and 10 grams of fat for every 12-ounce light beer, spiked seltzer, and a shot of liquor. Stick to these numbers, and you'll probably only have enough room for one or two drinks.


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