Quarantine Eating: best advice from a nutrition expert

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(WJHL)- During a global pandemic, you might be stuck inside with 24/7 access to your kitchen. Knowing what to eat and when to eat may be challenge for some. The first piece of advice Monique Richard, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Johnson City, is giving people during this time? Stay as calm as possible.

“This is a high stress, high anxiety time for a lot of people,” Richard said.

Richard says higher stress and anxiety can increase inflammation, cortisol levels, fight-or-flight response, and emotional eating. She confirms there’s no magic diet that can keep someone from getting a sickness like coronavirus. However, what we eat to strengthen our immune systems matters.

“If you do get sick, that’s just going to help you get better easier, faster,” Richard said. “Really building up 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, getting plenty of water, maybe some green tea.”

Supplements

With less exposure to sunlight while quarantining indoors, it may seem necessary to buy Vitamin D supplements. Richard says those supplements can help, but need to be taken with other nutrients to work properly.

“Getting some foods that are rich in vitamin D, and then looking at, do I need an extra supplement? Where is it coming from? Is it quality? Is it paired with other minerals so that my body can absorb it?” said Richard.

Portion Control and Meal Plans

If you’re looking to cut down on quarantine overeating, Richard advises portioning out snacks. This could mean taking a cup of chips to the couch, rather than the entire bag, she said. She also suggests sticking to an eating routine.

“Alotting an hour, hour and a half for a meal time, and then say, ‘the kitchen is closed. That’s it.’ Waiting three to four hours until the next meal,” she said.

Richard has put together a week-long meal plan of the exact foods she would recommend people eat during this time to build their immune systems. You can download it below.

Feeding Kids

Children can generally eat the same meals as their parents, Richard said. The key is being mindful of portion size and composition.

“[Kids] need the fruits and the vegetables. Maybe it’s a little bit harder for them because they don’t like the texture,” she said.

Richard recommends working those fruits and vegetables into smoothies, soups, and sauces.

“Making it in more kid-friendly ways is certainly appropriate, but we need all the same types of vitamins and minerals,” she said.

Getting Back to the Basics

Richard emphasized the importance of cooking from home during this time, and encouraged parents to include their kids in doing so.

She also said going overboard with sanitizing products can hurt people’s health. Exposure to too many synthetic chemicals can dehydrate skin and leave cracks on the hands.

“Some people are overdoing the alcohol, hand sanitizer, Lysol. That can be extremely harmful as well if we’re overdoing it,” she said.

Richard said now is a crucial time for understanding how our feelings can affect what we eat, and how our bodies respond to those foods.

“There’s a huge disconnect that’s going on in our society and across the county,” she said. “We really need to again, get back to basics. Stay calm, educate ourselves, work with our professionals and healthcare team, and keep going. We have this.”

Food Insecurity

Richard said a problem for some people during this time might be getting enough food in the first place, and not knowing what to do with food pantry items.

Richard said anyone needing direction to PDFs or resources could contact her at MoniqueRichardRDN@gmail.com or call 615-525-8670.

She’s also designed a special ‘Quarantine Cuisine Master’ apron that’s available for pre-order. Richard said all profits from the apron will go towards local food banks, such as Second Harvest, and animal shelters. Ordering information can be found below:

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