Since the first weeks of our multi-month Covid 19 confinement, there have been many reports of people managing their anxiety, isolation, and boredom with food. Like the term “Freshman 15,” describing the weight-gain experienced by first-time college students living on campus meal plans and dormitory treats, the new term “Covid 15” has also found its way into our daily language.
As I often say, “Eating styles are coping mechanisms.” Many of us, with our usual routines upside down, and insecurity about finances, employment or schooling, are turning to cooking and eating to pass the time and bring us comfort. While this approach works on some level, it also brings anxiety as many are experiencing unwanted weight gain, with all its associated health risks.
I am hearing about this problem more often, and I have some suggestions to feel more in control, and prevent more serious health and self-esteem problems later. Stick to a regular schedule with meal times set 3 times a day. Select unlimited amounts of colorful vegetables and 3 servings of fruits per day. Do not skimp on starches. Model the dinners served on the Mediterranean, or in rural Asia- with about a cup of rice or pasta [or other starch- potato, polenta, bread, sweet potato, corn, etc.] for women, more for men, served with unlimited amounts of vegetables, using animal proteins as a condiment. An animal protein serving should be about the size of a deck of cards. Soy products, seitan [wheat gluten] products, and legumes [pinto, kidney, black, and cannellini beans, plus lentils and split peas, etc.] are excellent plant protein sources.
Do be cautious with the use of oils. At 120 calories for the average tablespoon, a 1/4 cup of olive oil in an individual serving of food can add about 500 calories to your meal. One tablespoon of butter or margarine is 100 calories. My advice…skimp on the addition of oils, dressings, and all sources of fats. These are rich in calories, and offer little flavor or satisfaction.
Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption. If you do not drink…that is best. If you do drink, one serving for women, and two servings for men per day are the limits for health reasons, not to mention calorie reduction.
These guidelines allow for daily treats. Saving 200-300 calories per day for reduced fat treats can satisfy your need to crunch, and/or have something sweet. It is tough to binge on 70%, or higher, cocoa solids chocolates. At about 200 calories for a serving, bittersweet chocolate can bring great pleasure at a reasonable calorie cost.
Here’s to your safety, and good health.
Dateline: Latham, Albany County, New York