As the days have rolled into weeks and now months where our lives have been upended by Covid-19, it’s not surprising that many of us have also upended our eating habits. Whether it’s from boredom or stress or eating for comfort, our diets have changed because of the public health practices like social distancing and being asked to stay home. We aren’t getting the same exercise and many of us aren’t getting to ride, either, which has affected our metabolism.
Suffice to say gaining the “quarantine fifteen” isn’t just a catchy phrase — it’s a reality for many.
So what can we do to turn around unhealthy eating while in isolation? It’s really as simple as writing down a grocery list that includes what the Dieticians of Canada recommend on their website.
For immune boosting they suggest a “healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables, protein foods and whole grains is important for a strong immune system … There are many nutrients that are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system and therefore we encourage eating a variety of nutrient rich healthy foods each day in order to support immune function.”
“When it comes to my diet I try to be as balanced as possible. I try to mostly eat good portions of what I should,” says Alberta horseman Josh Nichols. “The biggest challenge is to adapt to changes in my physical life. Because of Covid-19 there have been more times when I have been less active, therefore I have had to accommodate this change.” To address this, Nichols has upped the veggies and reduced the carbs.
Some of us find stress actually reduces our appetite and we lose weight. This isn’t any better for you and your immune system than consuming junk food or overeating. Even if you’re not hungry, you must eat regular balanced meals. If you need help with how to maintain a balanced diet the updated Canada’s Food Guide offers tips.
Another vital element to a healthy immune system is hydration. Liquids and beverages such as those with caffeine and alcohol dehydrate us. Drinking lots of water is still the best way to remain hydrated at all times, whether you are exercising regularly or not.
For dressage riders and trainers Tina and Jaimey Irwin, staying hydrated is a focus of their diet, which includes balanced and healthy meals for themselves and their two young children. “We drink a lot of water and like to have a big glass of water with lemon first thing in the morning to start the day,” Tina says. “We drink herbal tea in the afternoon and also try to limit the caffeine intake with green tea, but it does offer many other health benefits.”
Green tea is loaded with antioxidants which can improve brain function, is fat-burning and can help with weight control. It may also reduce the risk of some cancers, as well as other benefits.
Tina Irwin admits that it’s tricky to eat right all the time when you’re home during isolation, “But we try to make a conscious effort of that. Everything in moderation is our motto! We are not going to deny ourselves a piece of cake, but we also don’t eat that every day.”