When it comes to the last few months and COVID-19, the world isn’t the only thing that’s been turned upside down. Our eating habits have too. 85% of Americans say they’ve changed the way they eat as a result of the pandemic, according to the 15th Annual Food & Health Survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC). 

More than 30% of people say they have increased their snacking, and about a quarter say they think about food more often. Some changes are for the better: about 60% of consumers cook more at home, and more than 20% of people say they eat better according to the IFIC survey. 

A balanced diet can be helpful for immunity and for helping to fight off the novel coronavirus. Registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Gorin, in partnership with Panda Express, explains how to get your diet back on track during the pandemic and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.

5 Tips to Get Your COVID-19 Diet Back on Track By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, in partnership with Panda Express

A balanced diet may be helpful for immunity and for fighting the new coronavirus. Although we still have much to learn about how to protect ourselves from the coronavirus, recent studies show that COVID-19 may show promise in understanding the connection to our immune system. 

Pre-existing conditions, such as obesity, can increase the risk of contracting the coronavirus. People with obesity are considered high risk for COVID-19, according to The Obesity Society. In addition to the coronavirus, having obesity puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. An adult in the United States has a 40% chance of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For Latinos, this risk increases to more than 50%, due to genetics, obesity rates, lower levels of physical activity, and diets high in calories and fat. 

American consumers, including Hispanics, want restaurants to be transparent about the ingredients, sugar, sodium, fat, and calories in their dishes so they can make informed choices. Thankfully, you have many ways to get and stay on track with your eating habits and daily activities. Here are some top ways: 

  • Make time for yourself: You are the most important person in your life. You can't help other people if you don't help yourself first. If that means waking up before everyone else in the house and having time alone to meditate, do yoga dance like nobody’s watching (because nobody is!), do that. 
  • Make healthy food choices: What is the No. 1 way to ensuring you’re eating healthy food at home? Procure healthy groceries. Whether you mask up and get those groceries yourself or have them delivered to your home, make good food choices. Here’s a suggested list to start with:
  1. Fruits: bananas, apples, peaches, berries, guava, plantains, watermelon.
  2. Vegetables: lettuce, broccoli, green beans, jicama, yucca, onions, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, potatoes, cactus, corn
  3. Lean proteins: chicken breast, salmon, lean meat, tofu, edamame, beans, lentils.
  4. Whole grain: brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, barley, whole-wheat tortilla.
  5. Healthy fats: avocado, nuts, seeds, extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Order take-out with lighter options: Craving restaurant food? If you're trying to eat healthily you can include take-out from your favorite restaurant, just do a little research before you order. Some restaurants have special menus or options with lighter choices. Panda Express, for example, has a variety of main courses that have 300 calories or less and provide 8 grams or more of protein. Try the Kung Pao Chicken with 290 calories and 16 grams of protein, or the Black Pepper Angus Steak with 180 calories and 19 grams of protein. You can serve it with brown rice or vegetables. 
  • See friends and loved ones: We’re in unprecedented times, and it might be quite a while before it’s safe or you feel comfortable seeing your friends and loved ones in person. But that doesn't mean you don't want to maintain those human connections with your quarantine team. These connections can make your heart happy. Set a virtual 'happy hour' with your co-workers, call a friend while you exercise on your stationary bike, or have a virtual dinner with your extended family.
  • Squeeze in exercise: You’re playing more than one role right now. Trying to be a super mom and star employee? Do you take care of your parents, uncles or grandparents, on top of everything else?

Well, exercising regularly will help you manage your stress levels and keep you healthy. You don't need to put in an hour every day, just add movement to your day. That could be a five-minute stretching session in the morning, a 10-minute walk after dinner, an extra trip to the mailbox, or calf raises while you wait for your vegetables to warm up in the microwave. Just move, that’s the secret!