As I begin to write this, I’ve just finished my lunch of whatever leftovers are in the fridge, along with a hot cup of tea and a cookie. This has become my new, post-lunch habit over the past month.
Like many of you, I’ve been trying to find the balance between maintaining a healthy diet while sheltering-in-place, with my need to seek comfort from things in my life to help me feel better. Comfort foods and dishes have the power to help us feel calmer and reduce our sometimes scary thoughts.
For some, comfort foods are pasta-anything, casseroles, soup, and bread, especially when homemade. These foods definitely check my comfort food box for being ‘soft and warm’ foods. For others, anything chocolate qualifies. Still others crave rich and savory dishes like a hearty beef stew or a cheesy pepperoni pizza.
I find that some days are better than others when it comes to staying on track with eating healthy. But other days, well, let me just say that I don’t always fill half of my plate with veggies and fruit!
So, if you’re still looking for some food tips to help keep your health and your need for comfort in balance, here are a few of my go-to tips for you to try:
Ease Your Mind: Make a hot beverage in the evening as you start to wind down from the day. For me, that’s a cup of cocoa made with unsweetened cocoa, fat free milk, a spoonful of sugar and a splash of vanilla-flavored creamer if I have any in the house.
Need for Nachos – Keep a supply of canned refried beans, salsa and cheese on hand, along with tortilla chips (or tortillas), for making nachos (or burritos). Top with diced veggies like green peppers, carrot, onion, or whatever veggies you have at home. I like to top the whole delicious pile with some hot pickled peppers for a kick of heat.
Bowl Up – I love eating out of a bowl, preferably with a spoon. There’s something very comforting about that for me. Maybe it’s just the association with eating soup (also one of my comfort foods!) or holding a warm bowl on my lap as I eat (yes, I sometimes eat while sitting on the coach watching TV). I build up the bowl, starting with some kind of cooked whole grain, like quinoa, barley or brown rice. Then I add some leafy greens (frozen spinach works great), roasted vegetables (carrots, bell peppers, onions, or whatever) and a few spoonfuls of canned beans, tuna or cooked chicken. To finish it off, I add a little balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, then top with some shredded cheese, toasted nuts or olives (or all three).
Roasted Veggies – I don’t know about you, but I typically have a decent supply of carrots, butternut squash and onions on hand, and sometimes even some bell peppers and tomatoes. And that means roasted deliciousness. I fill an entire cookie sheet with these chopped veggies. Once roasted, they develop a deep and slightly sweet flavor that can be used in salads, sandwiches, meal in a bowl, or just on their own.
Ginger Cookies – I feel these cookies deserve their own special spot on my list of tips (although I did also allude to them at the beginning this article). But, any kind of cookie or sweet could work for those of you who enjoy sweets. And, that enjoyment may be extra important now more than ever. So, whatever you choose, try to be mindful of your portion size, and be sure to give it your complete, 100 percent attention as you eat it for maximum enjoyment.
To go along with managing what I eat, other absolute musts to help me navigate this crazy time include getting outside every day, moving my body, getting plenty of sleep, and staying connected with family and friends.
So, do the best you can but don’t beat yourself up about not eating as healthy as you would like.
I know this time in our lives will end. I know that things may be different, but I also know that we will be stronger and more resilient because of our COVID-19 experience. Let’s get there together.