The quarantine is meant to keep us healthy and reduce the burden of the coronavirus – and if it is carried out effectively, it should help to manage coronavirus and allow us to get back to our normal routines sooner rather than later. However, in the meantime, many people have been concerned about how they can continue their healthy lifestyle habits while quarantined. As a dietitian and personal trainer, I hope to share some insight into how we can all heed the advice of our governing health agencies by staying in and still prioritize our healthy habits!

Shift Your Mindset

We often get so wrapped up in the world of “wellness”; antioxidant juices, fad diets and the like are ubiquitous. Unfortunately, the basic principles of self-care including general nutrition, sleep, exercise and stress management get neglected. However, remember that you are improving your health and the health of many others by simply staying home and practicing social distancing. So, this quarantine is helping you to improve your health. Also, this quarantine has essentially forced many of us to slow down a bit and this can be a great way to begin to incorporate more self-care into your day. Consider the extra time that you have in your day without a work commute and without driving your kids to multiple activities. How can you use that time to do something for yourself? Whether it is taking a bath, making a cup of tea, enjoying additional family time, reading a book, listening to a podcast, walking your dog (away from others!), picking up a new hobby – this is now found time for many people. Self-care can occur in small ways and big ways – I encourage you to choose at least one act of self-care daily, mix it up and see how you can continue to incorporate these acts into your day when the quarantine is (eventually) over.

Now, social distancing does not mean that all connections are cancelled. Connecting with others and with yourself is so important! Thankfully, we can interact with loved ones over the phone and on FaceTime – so set up a virtual coffee date with your friend and enjoy the comfort and fun of socializing while still practicing social distancing. Also, do not underestimate the importance of spending some quality time with yourself and tapping into the things you love and the things for which you are grateful! I recommend keeping a gratitude journal – or you can try this fun activity: Have each family member write down one thing for which they are grateful and place it in a jar each day, then read them all together at the end of the week!

Health refers to mental health and physical health and our mindset and behaviors are very much intertwined. Remember that it is okay to slow down and it is okay to be gentle with yourself during this time (and always).

Keep These Items In Your Kitchen

First, I want to start by saying that I practice nutrition with an all foods fit mentality. Truthfully, healthy means different things for different people and what may be “healthy” for one person may not work well by another person. So, I encourage you to choose the items that fit your individual needs best – this is simply here as a general guide.

It helps to have frozen and shelf-stable options for each of the macronutrients – carbs, protein and fat – as well as nonstarchy veggies. This way, you can mix and match items and create balanced meals and snacks, whether or not you have fresh ingredients on hand. Below is a list of staples that I recommend:

Pantry Items:

  • Canned or dried beans/lentils (I also love Brami Beans, which are lupini beans that come in a package that lasts for months until you open it)
  • Canned veggies
  • Canned or packaged fish, such as tuna and salmon
  • Pasta sauce
  • Nuts/Seeds (such as walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
  • Nut/Seed butter (almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, pumpkin seed butter
  • Oats (great for warm oatmeal or overnight oats and will last for a long time in the pantry)
  • Bread (I bought a few loaves and tucked them in freezer so they will last longer)
  • Quinoa, Farro, Freekah, Bulgar Wheat, Polenta and other grains
  • Pasta (I love to use legume-based pasta, such as chickpea and red lentil pasta, or whole wheat pasta in order to increase fiber and protein, but traditional white pasta is also in my pantry!)
  • Jerky (I love Epic brand, as well as the Trader Joe’s Chomps)
  • Pasta sauce (My favorite brands include Hoboken Farms and Rao’s)
  • Popcorn
  • Crackers (I love Mary’s Gone Crackers Superseed varieties for their taste and their nutritional stats)
  • Canned/boxed soup
  • Cereal (I like Barbara’s Multigrain Spoonfuls, Barbara’s Puffins varieties, plain Cheerios and Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes)
  • Oils for cooking (we mostly use olive oil and avocado oil in our house)
  • Spices/seasonings (dried)
  • Baking needs (such as flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder)
  • Chocolate (I always keep dark chocolate bars in my pantry anyways! Pairing with a spoonful of peanut butter is an easy and delicious snack)
  • Any other snacks that you would like to keep around! I am not a fan of restriction at any time, and this time is no exception – the key is keeping many different types of food around so you can have a balanced, nourishing diet.

Freezer Items:

  • Frozen fruit
  • Frozen veggies (these are just as nutritious as fresh fruit and veggies)
  • Frozen, pre-cooked rice and quinoa (they sell these pre-packaged at Trader Joe’s) and frozen cauliflower rice
  • Frozen fish (including salmon, shrimp, cod, and any other variety you prefer)
  • Frozen meat (you can purchase fresh meat/poultry and store this in your freezer
  • Frozen waffles (I like Kodiak Cakes brand)
  • You may want to consider storing some frozen, prepared meals (I like Evol, Luvo and Amy’s brands)

Fresh Items:

Remember that having a little extra around at this time is recommended so you can limit trips to the grocery store and stay in, but please be mindful and do not hoard food, as others need to have access to food! I recommend keeping enough food at home to last 1-2 weeks so you can stay home and limit exposure, without buying an unnecessary amount of food. Below are some fresh items that I recommend keeping around:

  • Fresh fruit and veggies (transfer to the freezer before they go bad)
  • Fresh fish/meat/poultry (while you are at the store)
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Tofu/tempeh
  • Winter squash (such as spaghetti squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, which last for awhile when stored on the counter)
  • Potatoes (again, I store these on my counter)

I offer tons of recipes on my blog – many of which use the items listed above. Some ideas that prioritize pantry/freezer items and items with a longer shelf life are below:

While you’re limiting your trips to the grocery store, it is also worth mentioning that CVS is currently offering free 1-2 day delivery on prescription medications so you can limit your trips to the pharmacy, as well.

Practice Mindful Movement

With gym closures, cancelled sports seasons and altered schedules, it may seem daunting to figure out how to incorporate movement into your quarantined day. First, it is important to note that it is perfectly okay if your exercise routine has changed during this time. However, rather than focusing on movement simply for physical health, I urge you to consider how regular movement impacts your mental health, as well. This mindset shift will allow you to consider mindful movement, which is movement that you choose to engage in at a specific time because it is truly what feels best for you. If you are generally healthy and not a high-risk individual, it seems that many experts, including Harvard Health Publishing, agree that walks and runs outside, while still practicing social distancing, are safe. If you feel that staying in your home is the safest option for you, then I recommend considering at-home exercise apps and youtube videos, many of which are currently offering free trials.

Some of my favorite recommendations include:

  • Peloton (their app onepeloton includes many different classes)
  • Obé fitness
  • Aaptiv
  • Yoga by Adriene (youtube)
  • Kayla Itsines
  • Pure Barre (they offer on demand classes and many studios are currently live streaming at-home classes)
  • OpenFit

If studio classes aren’t your thing and the at-home apps don’t appeal to you, consider which forms of movement you enjoy. Whether it is a dance party or an obstacle course in your yard with your family or simply stretching, carve out some time to move in a way that feels right for you!

Putting It All Together

This is certainly a stressful time for many of us, but the principles of nutrition, movement and self-care remain essentially unchanged. These recommendations are always personalized and should always take into account the best options for you at that time, which may mean shifting from fresh to frozen or canned options, shifting from gyms to at-home workouts or shifting from social gatherings to virtual catch-ups. Life is uncertain and often we find that we need to learn flexible, sustainable approaches to health in order to adapt in different situations.

 If you feel that you would benefit from additional information, you can follow me on my social media channels and subscribe to my email list, below. Additionally, my practice has always offered telehealth services and I will continue to do so during this time so that everyone can stay safe and get the care they need. You can contact me here to schedule your complimentary phone consultation and I can help you to meet your personal goals!

Alyssa Lavy, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian, ACSM certified personal trainer and owner of Alyssa Lavy Nutrition & Wellness LLC. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science with a minor in psychology from The George Washington University and then earned her Master of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Teachers College Columbia University. She then completed her dietetic internship at Teachers College Columbia University, where she completed specialized training in GI nutrition. Alyssa has contributed to national media outlets, such as Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Huffington Post, Cooking Light, Shape and more and she also provides recipes and nutrition-related news on her blog at alyssalavy.com/blog. Alyssa believes that food should be satisfying, nutritious and delicious! 

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