Nutritionist shares how to stay healthy in quarantine: 'There’s a psychological component of eating'
A lot of added stress bubbles up when a major change happens. As government-mandated quarantines get extended and more and more people are asked to work from home, it’s reasonable to assume that this stress can create unhealthy habits.
There is a definite connection between stress and eating — although, it’s different for everyone, New York City nutritionist Lorraine Kearney told In The Know.
“There’s a psychological component of eating,” she explained. “That’s where the emotional eating can come in, too — we’re thinking about something stressful. We eat, we’re happy, we forget, and then we swallow, and it’s back.”
Kearney is the founder of New York City Nutrition, a small practice in Manhattan that tackles everything from hormone imbalance, eating disorders, weight loss and gain, nutrition and medical nutrition therapy.
When it comes to being isolated at home, Kearney emphasizes that it’s not about limiting what you eat, but figuring out ways to tackle stress eating as an emotional habit.
There are multiple factors that come into play, but the outcome is helping yourself feel good and healthy, even when things feel tough.
“What happens internally and psychologically is that typically, we gravitate towards a fat or a carb,” Kearney explained. “When a carb or fat hits your mouth, a signal goes to the brain to the area of the hypothalamus where it’s reward and pleasure. And we forget about everything we had to do prior and everything we have to do after.”
So, how do you work around this difficult cycle? Taking a simple moment to pause and analyze your feelings can help, Kearney says.
“Just ask yourself, ‘Why?'” she said of the reasons behind your cravings. “And it could be (that you are) just having a bad day. But once you understand where it’s coming from, it’s usually a lot easier to be, like, ‘you know what, I don’t need that cookie. I can hold back.'”
If that feels hard, Kearney also suggests keeping a “rainbow” of nutritious foods in your home as options for more healthful snacking.
“I do recommend trying to do a shopping list,” Kearney said. “What a lot of people aren’t aware of is that most of our nutrients are color-coded. So making sure that we are eating a rainbow and making sure that we are getting plenty of color through our foods is the best way to make sure that we’re getting the recommended daily allowance of our vitamins and minerals.”
Unfortunately, as people shop to stock their kitchens with non-perishable items in the face of a global pandemic, they may find that a lot of long-lasting items tend to be processed foods that are high in sodium and additives.
Thankfully, Kearney insists there’s a way to be smart about grocery shopping that won’t leave you worried that you aren’t prepared in the long-run.
She suggests paying more attention to each product’s ingredients — make sure they’re nice and short and understandable. You can do this at the store or while grocery shopping online to cut down on time spent out of your home.
But, ultimately, the best way to go is with fresh fruits and vegetables — which don’t necessarily have to expire as quickly as you’d think, Kearney says.
“A great way to keep your produce lasting longer — you take it out of the package, get it into a Tupperware container or a stainless steel container,” she revealed. “What I do is get a large Pyrex dish and a slightly damp paper towel at the bottom. And then put my greens on top. And then seal it off and put it into the refrigerator. That holds for three weeks.”
If you’re looking for a quick, yet satisfying snack, Kearney recommends hummus — her own personal favorite.
“Hummus is so easy to make and it’s so satisfying,” she said. “I’ll add more sesame seeds to it or I’ll add fresh cilantro, so it’s even more satisfying. And it’s like that nice little snack. That with fresh veggies.”
And, when it comes to sensible drinking, Kearney says dry wines, like a pinot noir or a sauvignon blanc, are the way to go.
“The drier the wine, the least amount of sugars,” she explained. “[Switch to] the lighter beers, and then even if you like a hard alcohol, then try to keep like, a vodka or tequila.”
Kearney insists that staying healthy in quarantine is not about limiting yourself at all, but about being smart about what you’re eating and drinking. Making little small adjustments — like picking out a drier wine and eating hummus instead of peanut butter pretzels — can do wonders for your overall mood and health.
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