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March 29, 2020

With the current unexpected and unprecedented incidents that we are facing due to the pandemic COVID-19, we find ourselves locked down in our houses, overwhelmed, anxious, and bored at the same time.

Our routines have suddenly changed: Gyms, play areas, beaches and restaurants have been shut down. Instead we are making now more trips to the kitchen, fridge and cupboards, snacking on healthy and unhealthy snacks and finding it difficult to follow a regimented meal plan. That’s why meal preparation and designated meal times will help you avoid overindulgence.

To look at the positive side of this, we always wished to stay home, spend more time with the family or have few more hours a day to exercise, or cook healthy at home…

Our old excuses that used to hinder us form sticking to healthy lifestyle (business travels, social events and invitations, business lunch and dinners, social gatherings, restaurants and house parties, and long office hours are not valid now in the current situation… so let’s take the chance now to reflect on our health and well-being and try to implement a healthier lifestyle.

Below are few tips that will help you and guide through this period:

* Use the extra 1 or 2 hours that you have now (getting ready, school drop off, commuting to work) to cook/ prepare food or do an extra work out like a virtual workout class, or a walk in non-crowded area near your neighborhood or use the elliptical or treadmill at home.

* Try to stick to your usual routine. Keep your alarm set to the same time, do quick workout before 8 am, get to your desk at your regular time, take your lunch break also at the same time as you would usually do in an office and most importantly avoid delaying your sleep time.

* Prepare your lunch box ahead of time preferably the night before and keep it ready in the fridge for the next day. Include in your lunch box a breakfast, lunch and a snack). Promise yourself to stick to the food in your lunch box only. This will help you keep track of your food and avoid last minute take out, junk delivery and unnecessary random snacking.. It is also a good idea to prepare separate lunch boxes for entire family especially the kids.

* Try to cook   in the afternoon/ evening period your dinner and cook in big batches to keep the leftovers for lunch the next day. Again, once you finish your dinner, directly pack the lunch for the next day in containers to save more time.

* Keep your recipes simple and quick and easy… Try to include in every meal 1 source of protein (meats, chicken, fish, tuna, eggs, cheese or legumes such as quinoa, chickpeas or lentils) and a source of complex carbohydrate like sweet potatoes, white potatoes, whole bread, grains, whole pasta, corn and beans. Add at least 3 different vegetables of 3 different colors. Prepare the vegetables the way you want, raw in a salad, stew, soup of vegetables, or roasted on the oven. Use different spices and herbs to marinate the meats and salads.

* Make sure you include protein on every meal. Skipping your proteins will make you hungry and increase your sugar cravings.

* Save time & Be smart with your grocery shopping! Choose frozen ready cut vegetables…they are as healthy as fresh ones (peas, spinach, carrots, broccoli) keep always cans of tuna in water, cans of chickpeas, corn and beans in your cupboards. Buy your meats, cheese, turkey, salmon and fish in portions of 150-250 g per person. Store them in separate bags. This will help you get the right portion, they also thaw quicker when they are packed separately.  Keep in your fridge cooked rice, pasta, quinoa, potatoes and bread they last for 3 days and make your mix and match with other food easier and quicker.

* Take breaks every 2-3 hours to take a 10 min walk inside the house, do some stretching or skipping for few minutes, or do an active play with your kids or family member.

* Allow yourself one guilt free treat snack a day 😊 This snack can be anything you crave (biscuit, crisps, ice-cream, chocolate, cookies) but buy them miniature size (net weight 20-30 g) and have it in afternoon period or after your lunch.

* Avoid storing snacks (healthy or unhealthy) in big batches at home. These items talk to you and you are more likely to snack if you have them available. Limit your snacks to once max twice a day. You do not need to snack if your main meals are well organized!

* Avoid drinking fizzy drinks and juices even if healthy. Eat your fruits and do not drink them! You need all fibers and the vitamins in your fruits. Do not overindulge on fruits/ nuts as well, 1 to 3 portions of fruits a day is enough.

* Try to fast for 12 hours overnight from dinner to breakfast. Fasting is one good way to help you reset your digestive system and avoid emotional hunger and snacking that happens after dinner.  During Fasting hours you may drink water, black coffee, herbals and teas without additions (milk, creamers, sugar, honey). Snacking on vegetables breaks the fast.

* Keep a food diary and write everything you are eating (including small bites)  You are less likely to eat it if you will write it down😊
Stay safe, stay home but stay healthy!

Sara Abdelghany (Clinical Dietician)

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