With increased time at home, sitting, loose clothing, television binging, a surge in baking, plus life’s stressors, the Quarantine 15 has reached epidemic proportions. Some of us escaped unwanted weight gain, while others packed on unwarranted pounds. Regardless of where you fit in, eating healthfully is key.
Cheryl Orlansky is a registered, licensed dietitian nutritionist at Laureate Medical Group. “Many of my patients destressed with daily cocktail hours, along with nighttime snacking, which did not lead to a good outcome over time. On the flip side, others took better care of themselves. They found time to walk daily or do Zoom exercise classes, and family meals had an emphasis on improved nutrition overall.
To keep us motivated, Orlansky said, “This is the time to do it. If not now, when? It is the day-to-day mindfulness of your meals that impacts you the most. Take a few little baby steps towards your goal. Meal planning is important. Have a plan for the week and go to the grocery store (or have groceries delivered) so items are on hand.
“Portion control is important,” she continued. “A daily serving of cereal is one cup, not a bowl. In the beginning, measure cereal, or the added fruit to see what a portion looks like. The best tool overall for everyone is called the portion dinner plate. Visualize half of the plate vegetables, one-fourth protein – lean fish, meat or poultry, or beans – and one-fourth starch. You won’t have to measure. But look at your dinner plate; it should be about 9 inches across — not a platter!”
Orlansky adds, “If you are eating more calories than your body is burning, you will gain weight. If you eat 100 extra calories every day, that is 10 pounds of weight gain in a year. A glass or two of wine at night along with snacking in front of the TV and several hundred calories could easily lead to the Quarantine 15. And the bottom-line is don’t be afraid to enjoy food,” she said.
“Health and wellness is a journey. It is the day-to-day mindfulness of your meals that impacts you the most. Total abstinence from treat foods is not a sustainable plan. The pandemic caused all of us to change our routines and lives. Now let’s get back to taking care of ourselves.”
Orlansky offered the following tips:
- Get up every hour and remember body movement is key. Do purposeful exercise, at your chair – chair exercises – but walk to the mailbox, go up the stairs or walk around the block. Exercise 30 minutes most days of the week for weight maintenance. For weight loss, 45 to 60 minutes. As we get older, it’s important to work on balance, flexibility and strength training, as well as cardio.
- Try to eat protein at every meal. Protein leads to satiety and helps rebuild and repair our bodies. Eat salmon, tuna; anchovies, herring, which are higher in omega-3. All fish (halibut, barramundi, cod, flounder, grouper) are lean sources of protein. Protein is also found in beans, dairy, nuts, seeds and soy products.
- Stock up on pantry staples: canned (low sodium or rinsed) beans; light tuna in water or oil; one-minute quick oats; brown rice; quinoa; low sodium soups; marinara or pesto; artichoke hearts; sun-dried tomatoes; trail mix or nuts; olives and salsa.
- Finish eating three hours before reclining for the evening and avoid late-night snacking.
- Avoid saturated fat and ultra-processed foods. These foods go through multiple processes to manipulate the original food with added ingredients [including] soft drinks, some chips, candy, sweetened and colored breakfast cereal, microwave popcorn or chicken nuggets.
- Snacks include: a small piece of fruit; trail mix; yogurt, low sugar like siggis or plain FAGE, YQ or plain lowfat Greek yogurt; whole grain crackers and peanut or almond butter; chickpeas with a little salt and olive oil, roasted; handful of mixed nuts or rice cakes; popcorn (try adding cinnamon and almond butter), a couple of graham crackers; dark chocolate or frozen bars like Outshine or frozen banana in food processor, or frozen grapes.
- Make water appealing by making a pitcher of spa water: fresh mint, sliced cucumbers, lemon or lime.
Sheryl Westerman, a nutrition and weight loss coach for 42 year offers her own solutions. “We all deserve to be the best version of ourselves. My motto is: ‘Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.’”
- Beware of designer salads: Avoid salads loaded with dried cranberries, salad dressings that are loaded with oil and mayonnaise like vinaigrettes.
- Fruit is not a free food. Portions matter. Two cups of watermelon is one portion and 15 cherries are one portion.
- Eat vegetables as a crunchy snack like jicama, carrots or celery.
- Favorite seasonings include black pepper; lemon pepper; red pepper flakes; smoked paprika; sumac (Persian) spice; za’atar seasoning (Israeli); cinnamon; ginger; cumin; turmeric; Old Bay seasoning for seafood, poultry and meat; oregano/rosemary/sage/dill/tarragon; fresh garlic; fresh parsley; fresh basil; Everything Bagel Seasoning; kosher salt; and Trader Joe’s sweet chili lime seasoning.