Nutrition Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Written by Lori Bumbaco, MS, RDN, CSO, LDN, Oncology Dietitian

Did you notice a change to your eating habits during the pandemic and quarantine?  You are not alone.  A recent survey found that COVID-19 led to increased snacking and alcohol consumption, which results in nearly a 7 pound weight gain on average.1  During the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainly and anxiety impacted decisions about what, when, how much, and why we should eat.  While uncertainty remains about the , we have an opportunity to reflect on how the pandemic shaped our nutritional health.  Now is as good a time as any to pursue nourishing eating habits.

Self-compassion is an important component of eating healthfully.

You might be surprised to read this, but indeed, if we practice self-compassion we are less likely to create more stress or suffering with relation to our food choices.  Self-compassion involves the practice of identifying when we suffer, fail, or even feel inadequate, and recognizing that we are imperfect and expected to fail.  If during the pandemic, you found yourself eating in ways that you do not think are healthy for you, try not to judge or criticize yourself.  The significant emotional impact of the pandemic may have naturally lead you to eat differently.  When we practice self-compassion, you can accept your behaviors and learn from them.  If we do not practice self-compassion by criticizing ourselves, we add to emotional distress.  Approaching ourselves in a caring way provides comfort in difficult times.

Find out self-compassionate you are here.

Home cooking is the main ingredient for nourishing meals.

Did you find yourself cooking at home significantly more during the pandemic?  Many people resorted to baking some of their favorite treats, or used cooking and baking to occupy some of their free time.  Meal planning and prep are considered acts of self-care.  We all need to eat, and cooking for ourselves and loved ones is a necessity.  Instead of approaching cooking as a chore or a stressful process, cooking can be an opportunity to provide yourself with some much needed self-care.  Cooking can build self-confidence and allows us to be role models for our family members.  In this way, cooking nourishes our emotional well-being.

Test your knowledge of cooking vegetables.

Kitchen staples are nourishing choices even without a pandemic. 

Did you resort to stocking up on staples in order to limit grocery shopping and in case of food shortages?  Chances are, the staples you relied on were beans, pasta, canned vegetables, tomato sauce, peanut butter, or frozen vegetables.  Staples like these are basic building blocks for a nutritious diet.  As we transition towards our former way of shopping and cooking, incorporating these staples in new ways can invigorate your health!  Stay tuned for another blog post “Combining the Best of Both Worlds” which integrates staples with fresh, seasonal produce for optimal nutrition.

Find inspiration for recipes here.

Dining with others improves feelings of wellbeing. 

Did you miss dining out with friends and family during the pandemic?  Eating is a behavior that is not meant to be a solitary one.  Just like cooking, when dining with others, we gain the benefit of social interaction.  Research suggests that companionship during meals improves communication, builds traditions, and even reduces symptoms of depression.  When we share meals together with those we love, it enhances our connection with one another.  The next time you dine out, keep in mind how best you can interact with your company in ways that promote your sense of wellbeing.  In other words, it is not just about the food!  The meals we eat with others serve as a platform to deepen our connection with one another.

Learn more about the value of eating with others.