Eating Well in the New Normal

Life is finally starting to go back to normal, or rather, the new normal, as public health measures due to COVID-19 slowly start easing up. We are seeing some family and friends, and more workplaces and schools are reopening, but we must remain cautious to preserve the health of our communities. Staying well is everyone’s top priority, and thinking about what and how we’re eating is more important than ever for our health. Maintaining a strong immune system as we move into flu season, and planning safe and healthy dining options will help you feel your best as you go out into the world again.

5 ways to feel your best as the world reopens in the midst of COVID-19:

1. Get savvy about your immune system

We all want our immune systems functioning at their best to stay healthy. To optimize your immune system, focus on foods rich in Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, and Folate, and minerals like iron, copper, zinc, and selenium. Get these precious nutrients by eating plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables. Take advantage of the harvest season to explore the produce aisle and aim for variety to maximize your nutrient intake. Add diverse protein sources to your diet too, like fish, meat, dairy, and legumes, and satiating whole grains, nuts, and seeds.(1, 2). Stress and fatigue also decrease your immune function, so make sure to get enough rest and find time to relax and unwind.

2. Be clear on grocery guidelines

We know by now to wear a mask at the grocery store, to use hand sanitizer at the entrance, and to wash our hands when we get home from the store. You can take extra precautions by wiping your counters and washing your hands after putting your groceries away, but there is no need to clean every item you bring home from there store. It’s also not recommended to wash fruits and vegetables with soapy water, just rinse them under cold water as you normally would before consumption.

3. Get back in the workplace groove

If you’re heading back to the office, you might find yourself missing the easy access to your fridge, so make meals easier on yourself by planning ahead. Save leftovers at dinner for an easy lunch to bring to work the next day. Batch cook a big soup, chili or stew on the weekend to have ready-made lunch options during the week. If restrictions to common areas at work have left you without access to an office kitchen, pack a thermos to keep your food warm until lunch.

4. Eat right at the restaurant

If you’re dining out, a table on the patio is your best bet, due to better airflow. For delivery, look for restaurants that allow you to pay by phone or online, including the tip, and that offer a contactless delivery. But whether you’re dining out or ordering in, restaurant dishes are generally high in fat, sugar, and salt, so find ways to keep it healthy like choosing grilled or steamed options, and loading up on veggies. If you typically struggle to finish a take out meal, try dividing your dish into two portions, rounding off your halved portion with a homemade salad or grilled vegetables, and keeping the rest for your lunch the next day. Of course, the healthiest option is to opt for home-cooked meals, but if you’re pinched for time, you can also consider ordering a meal kit that delivers all the prepped ingredients that can be put together in just a few minutes. Best of all, you can put your kids on dinner duty!

5. Enjoy safe, healthy get-togethers

Now that small social gatherings are allowed, make them safe and healthy with a few simple tips. Bringing your own food to a gathering can not only decrease the risk of transmission, but it also allows you to choose what and how much you eat. If you tend to overindulge in party food, prep a healthy dish to bring along, or else don’t arrive ravenous to the party. Have a healthy snack before going and drink water to stay hydrated. Keep it light by filling up on fruits and veggies, and choose drinks without much sugar or salt. Good picks are soda water with a slice of fruit, club soda, and lime juice, or a Caesar easy on the Clamato juice, but punchy on the lime and horseradish. And don’t forget the celery stick!

Eating well is a crucial aspect of health, but keep in mind that no food, supplement, medication, or natural health product has yet been proven to prevent or cure COVID-19. When in doubt, look for reliable information on government websites and from recognized health organizations. For personalized guidance on how to eat well to stay healthy and feel your best, contact FSEAP to meet with a Registered Dietitian.

References

1. Dietitians of Canada. Immune System Background. In: Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition® [PEN]. 2019 Oct 10 [cited 2020 Jul 02]. Available from: https://www-pennutrition-com/KnowledgePathway.aspx?kpid=16006&trid=18279&trcatid=38

2. Harvard Medical School. (2020). The best foods for vitamins and minerals. Retrieved at https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-best-foods-for-vitamins-and-minerals

3. American Psychological Association. (2006). Stress Weakens the Immune System. Retrieved at https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune

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Founded in 1974, we are a national provider of employee assistance programs (EAP), employee and family assistance programs (EFAP), workplace health & wellness solutions.

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