Healtful Habits That Can Curb 'Underlying Conditions'
How to prioritize your health during the coronavirus pandemic
By Kelly Springer, MS, RD, CDN
During this frightening and strange time, I’m sure you recognize the importance of committing to your health. Weight loss and stress reduction are good places to start easing or eradicating the “underlying conditions” generally responsible for the lethality of COVID-19.
Of the conditions likely to exacerbate the coronavirus[i], sound nutrition and sensible exercise that shed excess body fat mitigates high blood pressure, heart disease and type-II diabetes. If you’ve settled for managing these conditions with medication primarily and little or no diet and lifestyle change, the coronavirus is likely producing a jolt of renewed motivation.
We’ve launched WorkPlace Wellness, a program included with all OptiMed health plans, to provide tracking and recording of food intake through an app that – for even extra convenience – integrates with FitBit or an Apple watch.
Keeping a food diary in the digital age is as easy as snapping smartphone photos then analyzing your intake at the end of the day.
Eat According to MyPlate
The picture you want to keep in mind from the start, however, is MyPlate, a system developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that helps you to choose foods that support your health.
MyPlate encourages 1-2 cups of fruit a day and 1-3 cups of vegetables a day depending on your age. It also guides you into making at least half of your grain consumption whole grains.
The amount of whole grains MyPlate recommends varies between 3 and 8 ounces, depending on age and physical activity. In general, select these 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal can be considered as 1 ounce-equivalent from the Grains Group.
Lean Protein and Dairy
MyPlate specifies 2-6.5 ounces of lean protein a day, In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce-equivalent from the Protein Foods Group.
As you can see off to the side in the photo, MyPlate includes the importance of having 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy a day. In general, 1 cup of milk, yogurt, or soymilk (soy beverage), 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese can be considered as 1 cup from the Dairy Group.
Start with Easy Changes
If you are not used to eating the way that MyPlate recommends, start by making easy changes. If you and your family do not get enough fruits or veggies, start keeping a fruit bowl out for snacks and slowly reduce the cookies, candy, and other less healthy treats.
Chop some peppers, carrots and other veggies at the beginning of the week and keep a salad mix on hand to help fulfil the veggie recommendation. Frozen veggies are great to keep if you are worried about spoilage. Experiment with condiments. Cooked veggies get a bad rep for being mushy. But if you steam, roast or even grill them and add just a little seasoning they can be delicious.
If you are not used to eating whole grains, start simple. Replace regular pasta for whole grain pasta; swap out white rice for brown rice; have oatmeal for breakfast; choose whole grain breads over white bread; swap out chips for lightly salted air-popped popcorn (yes, popcorn is a whole grain).
Dining out is one of the biggest reasons people become overweight—portions tend to be large and meals tend to be more caloric than home-cooked meals. During this embargo on restaurant dining, try learning some new recipes. You’ll find some easy-to-follow recipes of nutrient-dense meals at: https://www.kellyschoice.org/resources/recipes/.
Going for a walk, jog, or bike ride is the perfect way to prevent cabin fever and it will help you to lose weight too. Or do yard work—that is considered exercise as well. There are also many gyms across the country that are offering free online workouts. Google “free online workouts” under the news tab and you will find hundreds of gyms offering online workouts for free during the coronavirus outbreak.
Reduce Stress with Positivity
I will close this article with the importance of looking for positives. Smile when there are blue skies. Watch something that makes you laugh. Call a friend who is known for his/her positive mental attitude. And there’s a super cool Positivity Project in which we will be including fun videos of members of my team sharing ideas to make this hard time a little bit more positive! Stay tuned and be safe!
Try yoga or meditation for reducing stress. If you attend religious services, look for livestreamed services online.
Remember this outbreak is not permanent. We will get through it!
LIVE WEBINAR: Join Kelly Springer in a live webinar to learn more about WorkPlace Wellness, a member benefit included with all OptiMed health plans. An April 9 webinar is posted elsewhere, but Kelly will host another live session Tuesday, May 5, at 11:00 a.m. EST. We'll be posting a webinar registration next week.
Kelly Springer is the founder of Kelly’s Choice nutritional company, and developer of WorkPlace Wellness, which is included with OptiMed plans. She’s been featured in several magazines and has appeared on many television shows, including Good Morning America.