How to Stay Sane, Centered, and Healthy in the COVID-19 Reality 

Pace University Experts Offer Diet and Health Tips

Staying sane, centered and healthy in the new COVID-19 world, can be a challenge, but experts from Pace University’s College of Health Professions say that channeling anxiety into productive activity can provide solace and sanity.

From cooking with your children to taking time out for mental health moments, Pace University experts this week suggested a variety of techniques to take your minds off the barrage of unsettling news.

“During this time of uncertainty, try to conserve your energy to stay healthy rather than using energy for panic and worry,’’ said Professor Christen Cupples Cooper, EdD, RD, Director of the College of Health Professions Dietetics and Nutrition Program. “It can be difficult, but it’s definitely doable, and even necessary during these challenging times.”

Here are some suggestions from Professor Cooper:

Eat healthfully.  Make comfort foods such as stews, soups, and chili. Chili is a perfect dish for using leftover veggies and beans.  Broccoli and tomatoes with two onions, frozen corn, frozen lima beans, canned black beans and chickpeas and an extra-large can of salsa make the best chili ever! Spices are healthy. Add cilantro, chili powder, curry powder, cumin and black pepper. Experiment with your dishes. Remember, focus on healthful ingredients. This chili is loaded with nutrients that contain disease-fighting properties, has an interesting kick, and it’s filling.

Eat your fresh foods first. No one knows how long we’ll have limited access to ingredients, so eat what is in your fridge first and go to your canned and frozen goods next. This way, you maximize taste and minimize waste.

Freeze Fruits that are past their prime for smoothies. If you have fresh fruits that are past their prime (e.g. black bananas) put them in the freezer to make smoothies or banana bread.  Bruised or too soft apples are great for making applesauce or apple muffins.  Buying frozen fruits like berries or mangos are also great for making smoothies.

Make a weekly meal plan. This will help you utilize your ingredients most efficiently and take the guess work out of what you will be eating each day or for each meal. It can also help you to use leftovers. (Leftover grilled chicken is great for making chicken salad or stir fry the next day.)

Bring kids into the fold. If your house is like mine, the kids are glum and bored. It’s a good time to show them how to cook! It’s a skill that they will certainly need,  and it gives you an extra set of hands for chopping, mixing, and tasting. Depending on where they are with their cooking skills, start relatively small with things like pasta and veggies and progress to meat and fish.

Have a cook-off. Another neat trick to get kids involved is getting them to rate which dish or what food combination they like most. Having a cook off is another great activity. Lay out ingredients and have each child cook their own version of the same dish and then compare and contrast.

So many of us are working from home these days giving us unlimited access to our kitchens. Also, many people have been stocking up on food and snacks so they may have an abundance of foods that they wouldn’t typically have in the house, increasing temptation to eat.

Professor Jessica Tosto, MS, RD, CNSC, of Pace University’s College of Health Professions had these suggestions for helping to avoid overeating and maintain a healthy diet.

Set up a workspace that is not in or near your kitchen.  Putting some physical distance between yourself and your snacks can limit those frequent trips to the fridge.

Keep healthier foods and snacks in easy access locations. Cut up veggies like carrots sticks, celery, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, and sugar snap peas and keep them in a Tupperware in the fridge so you can quickly grab them when you are hungry. Pair with low calorie dips or hummus.

Stay hydrated! Be sure you are drinking plenty of water, seltzer, and other non-sugar sweetened beverages.  Fill up a pitcher or thermos of water and keep it close by to help you achieve your goal of 8 cups per day.

Be aware of why you’re eating. Many people have been stocking up on food and snacks so they may have an abundance of foods that they wouldn’t typically have in the house and therefore temptations are more abundant too.

If you are eating because you are bored, try going for a walk or reading a book or doing a puzzle. If you are eating because you feel anxious or stressed, try calling a friend or doing some mindfulness exercises.

Be creative! If you are stuck at home, this is a great time to experiment with new recipes or new foods you find in the grocery store when your usual choices are out of stock

“Finally, don’t beat yourself up if your diet is less than ideal right now! However, be cautious of using these unusual times as an excuse to overindulge in food and especially alcohol,’’ said Tosto.

Please look for additional health and mindfulness tips on our website http://www.pace.edu/news or follow us on Twitter at @PaceUnews

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