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A healthy diet is important for maintaining weight, sleeping well, and fighting off disease, especially during COVID-19. A well-balanced diet can also improve your gut health, minimize your risk of heart disease and colon cancer, and lower your stress levels.
That’s why I often tell my patients that the best medicine may be at the end of a fork. As a cardiologist, I always recommend that my patients “eat the rainbow”, choosing to fill their plates with nature’s colorful foods. Choosing to eat healthy ensures your body and mind function at it’s best, and you don’t have to compromise flavor!
Eating healthy during #COVID19 can be easy, fun, and affordable. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, Dr. Chahal shares 5 simple tips that will help you make faster, tastier, and healthier meals: https://bit.ly/2ANay1T.
Simple tips for eating healthy during COVID-19.
You don’t have to let boredom from more time at home and uncertainty about the pandemic lead to overeating or stress-eating. Try these simple (and tasty) tips to eat healthy during COVID-19.
1. Experiment with new foods and creative recipes.
Preparing home-cooked meals is one of the best ways to eat healthy during COVID-19 because you have complete control over which ingredients you use. I often suggest that patients consider eating a plant-based or Mediterranean diet, which is low in cholesterol and high in fiber. When you expand your palate to include an assortment of colorful fruits and vegetables, you benefit from a variety of nature’s vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can improve your sleep, mental state, and physical body.
Try a google search for creative recipes with unique foods that you don’t typically include on your grocery list. Figs, for example, can be a tasty way to mix up a bowl of oatmeal or top off a salad. Chickpeas and lentils are healthy protein alternatives to meat, and they’re also cheaper and last longer. Be creative about how you combine different foods to keep mealtime exciting and flavorful!
2. Use spices and seasonings full of antioxidants.
Antioxidants offer a wide range of health benefits, including improving skin and sleep. They’re found in fresh herbs, such as rosemary and mint, as well as spices and seasonings, like cinnamon and paprika. The amount of options provides lots of ways to add zestful flavor to your meals. You can also try pre-mixed spices, which are a convenient way to change up the taste of your favorite dish. Many times you can find low sodium options to minimize your salt intake.
3. Swap processed foods for natural options.
Pre-packaged foods may seem to make mealtime easier, but they’re often filled with fats and sugars that can be harmful to our bodies. Instead, try to limit processed foods that have a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce.
Finding a healthy alternative can be easy. To eat healthy during COVID-19, consider swapping in the following:
- Freshly baked whole grain bread instead of a processed loaf
- Natural sugars, such as dates or honey, instead of cake, candy, and soda
- Fats that are liquid at room temperature (e.g. olive oil, avocado oil, etc.) instead of fats that are solid at room temperature (e.g. butter)
- Fruit instead of fruit juice
- Potatoes instead of potato chips
- Fresh or frozen fruits and veggies instead of canned produce
4. Make cooking and mealtime a family affair.
The Mediterranean diet is popular because of its positive effect on overall health, from weight and sex to sleep and mood. But you may be surprised to learn it involves more than just cooking with fresh, healthy ingredients. The Mediterranean diet also reflects how many families in the Mediterranean region prepare their meals.
Often, mealtime takes hours to prepare and involves the whole family. You may not have all day to cook a meal, but it’s easy to have your family participate in the process. Whether your little one helps to wash produce or your teenager sets the table, there are lots of ways to include your family members in the cooking process, from washing produce to setting the table. Involving your kids in meal preparation also teaches them about healthy nutrition which will help them make better food choices as they become adults.
5. Simplify meal planning by following a formula and cooking in bulk.
Cooking during COVID-19 doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, and it’s much cheaper than eating out. To simplify meal planning, find a way to use what you have and cook your meal bases in bulk so that you have leftovers to use in other recipes. For example, if you’re following a recipe that uses quinoa, cook extra and get creative with the leftovers.
- ½ of your plate should be a vegetable (e.g. fennel, kale, cucumbers)
- ¼ of your plate should be a protein (e.g. animal or plant-based)
- ¼ of your plate should be a whole grain (e.g. quinoa, rice, barley, farrow)
You can mix and match all kinds of foods within each category to get an endless supply of meal combinations that are flavorful and healthy.
Easy recipes to try during COVID-19.
One of my favorite places to look for innovative and healthy recipes online is Love & Lemons. Here are three of my favorites, one for each meal.
Breakfast: Healthy Banana Muffins.
Lunch: Caesar Salad.
Dinner: Spicy Mango & Avocado Rice Bowl.
Rice bowls are easy to prepare because they rely on just a few elements—rice, a protein, veggie, and a sauce. This spicy mango & avocado rice bowl recipe was also created by Jeanine and Jack at Love & Lemons. Consider making your own combination by swapping in your favorite veggies or grains!
Want more healthy eating tips and recipes?
If you’re ready to take that next step into a healthier lifestyle, we are here to help. Backed by the doctors and dietitians of MedStar Health, we provide tips and tools to help you and those you care about get and stay healthy.
On our health and wellness page, you will find recipes for MedStar Health approved meals. These meals make at least four servings — enough to share or save for later — and the recipes are easy to follow, regardless of your cooking experience.
A meal is MedStar Health approved if it contains:
- 350 to 600 calories
- 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates
- Fewer than 750 milligrams of sodium
- Maximum of 7 grams of saturated fat
Try making some of our delicious meals like the buffalo chicken salad, the corn and black bean pizza, and more. All of our recipes have fewer than 12 ingredients, take 20 to 35 minutes to cook, and don’t require any complex equipment to make.