Pandemic Weight Gain and How to Reverse It

Nicole Tella, MS, RD, LDN
Pandemic Weight Gain

“Pandemic weight gain” is real and for good reason. In these days of coronavirus, we are experiencing unparalleled stress coupled with social isolation and easy access to our refrigerators and cabinets. This is a recipe for weight gain.

Avoid pandemic weight gain

Fortunately, there are easy ways to avoid packing on those pandemic pounds.  It’s important to create a home environment that supports your health goals.  

Make healthy meals and snacks easily accessible. Keep less healthy foods out of sight or even out of the home. To make healthy foods visible and easy to grab:

  • cut up fruits and veggies and store in clear containers
  • pre-pack snack size bags or small containers with whole grain crackers, tortilla chips or nuts to avoid mindlessly eating out of packages
  • create a snack drawer in the fridge with Greek yogurt, pre-measured or single serve hummus or guacamole, hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks and prepped produce
  • make a soup or stew on Sunday for quick lunches or dinner
  • prep salad fixings ahead of time including veggies, protein and dressing for a quick meal

Avoid the pandemic food rut with boredom busters

During this time of isolation, many of us feel like we’ve fallen into a food rut. Fortunately, there are ways to escape that dinnertime boredom.

  1. Get inspired by sale flyers. Look at a store flyer for your supermarket and plan meals based on veggies, fruit and proteins that are on sale.
  2. Find new recipes. Google “healthy meal” with any two or three ingredients such as brussel sprouts, chicken thighs and sweet potatoes, and see what recipes look good to you.
  3. Make something new with what you have. Need to use up a spaghetti squash and a can of beans? Google “healthy spaghetti squash and black bean recipe” and you’ve got a new dinner idea based on what you have to use up right in your pantry.
  4. Connect with friends and family for dinner inspiration. Send a group email or text and ask everyone to share their go-to recipe(s). Or call a friend and ask the same.
  5. Try some of the different “make-ahead-meal” types. There are so many recipes available for creative and easy ways to prepare whole meals in advance, such as sheet pan meals, crockpot meals, mason jar salads or freezer meals. The Eating Well and Skinnytaste websites have great recipes and are easy to search by ingredient and meal type.
  6. Embrace the season. This time of year, winter squashes and citrus are abundant and have a long shelf life. Colder weather also means soups, stews and chilis.

Foods to add to your shopping list

Stock up on foods that are nutrient dense, have a long shelf life and are versatile!

  • Baby spinach. Use in frittata, salads, on pizza, in sandwiches, sauté with garlic, as a base for pesto or freeze before it spoils and use in soups, stews, pasta dishes or smoothies.
  • Frozen riced cauliflower. Use in frittata or egg muffins, soups or stews, for pizza crust or in casseroles (replace half of the regular rice with riced cauliflower and use half the cheese for an upgraded casserole). Use in place of rice or do half rice and half riced cauliflower to increase veggies.
  • Frozen vegetables. Add to soups, stews, casseroles or pasta dishes for a nutrient boost or use as a quick side.
  • Winter squashes (acorn, butternut). Roast for a quick side, stuff or use in soups, stews or curries.
  • Frozen berries and cherries. Add to oatmeal, pancakes, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or unsweetened applesauce.
  • Canned or dry beans. Add to casseroles, soups, stews, salads or puree a can of beans and use it to thicken and add creaminess to soups and stews without using heavy cream.
  • Plain Rolled Oats. Make a quick breakfast (hot, overnight oats or low sugar granola) or grind in a food processor or blender to make flour for pancakes, baked goods, veggie burgers, breading, etc.
  • Eggs. Hard boil for snacks, to top salad or in a sandwich. Use in a frittata or in egg muffins with veggies for a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Focus on nutritious options

When it comes to diet, balance is important, not perfection. Focus on eating nourishing foods most of the time and allow yourself intentional splurges. It’s best to bring a small quantity of a favorite splurge food home to enjoy a right-sized portion. For example, indulge in a single cupcake rather than bringing home a whole cake, share a small order of fries or share a small pizza.

By opting for healthier choices and mixing in some new recipes, you can beat the boredom and shed those pandemic pounds! For more tips on coping with eating and emotions, you can view these helpful videos on our website.

You can get more healthy recipes here, and for tips on eating well, visit the Nourishing section of our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog.

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