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Foods to Avoid While At Home During Coronavirus Pandemic

Written by Linda Said, MS, RD, LDN

“Back to eating breakfast!”

“There is too much comfort food around the house. But where are the Pringles?”

“I tried my mom’s banana bread recipe. Nailed it!”

“Would you like some Dalgona coffee with my freshly baked sourdough bread??"

These are just a few of the comments I’ve been hearing! Our dietary habits are changing as we spend more time at home during coronavirus. As we adjust to the new normal, experimenting in the kitchen seems to be one of the main things that occupies our day. 

Cooking and baking are activities that are a combination of comfort, patience, and distraction. As a dietitian, I encourage cooking with family members. It is satisfying to see the results from working together. I see this as a positive behavior change that I would like us to carry forward. 

However, one thing that seems to accompany the comfort of baking is eating more refined carbohydrates, such as sugar. The drawback is that eating baked goods leads to high blood sugar and insulin levels. This results in sugar cravings which makes it hard to control appetite. Hence, wanting to eat again shortly after having eaten something sweet - and the cycle goes on. 

(Pro tip: This is why it’s hard to just eat one cookie!)

To make baking and cooking both a stress-relieving and healthy activity, I assembled some guidance.

Baking Ingredient Substitutes

First, think about substitutions. Below are a few ingredients to consider adding/substituting to your desserts to lighten them up. Consider the following:

  • Replace butter/oil with:

    • Unsweetened applesauce

    • Avocado

    • Pumpkin puree

  • Replace sour cream with low-fat Greek yogurt

  • Reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe by one-half and consider adding:

    • Dark chocolate chips (vs. milk or white) 

    • Ripe bananas

    • One-fourth of a cup of honey or maple syrup

  • Use chia seeds as a topping

  • Try oats or almond flour as a replacement for white flour

Almond flour is particularly rich in vitamin E,  that acts as an antioxidant in your body. Oats can help control hunger levels due to its fiber content.

Comfort Foods To Avoid

Aside from just baking, there is a trend showing a spike in the purchase of shelf-stable comfort food like snacks and breakfast cereals. Since limiting supermarket visits has been encouraged, it's easy to buy foods that won’t go bad. I hear clients saying, “they’re convenient, so I might as well just keep them around.” 

Snacks and breakfast foods are high-calorie with a lot of sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and preservatives. So, they may contribute to overall body inflammation, risk for insulin resistance, high blood pressure, weight gain (including children), and food addiction. All of these factors can increase the risk of other medical problems. 

I recommend limiting the following foods:

  • Soft drinks or sodas, energy drinks

  • Processed cheeses

  • Packaged muffins, cookies, cakes, pies

  • Sweetened breakfast cereals

  • Potato chips and other salty snacks

  • Deli meats

It becomes more difficult to avoid these foods when they’re around the house. So, save yourself the trouble and don't buy them at the supermarket. Out of sight, out of mind.

Replacements for High-Calorie Comfort Foods

Consider these replacement snacks. They provide healthy fats, protein, and fiber, keeping you satisfied for a longer time: 

  • Low-fat Greek yogurt with berries

  • Hard-boiled egg

  • Raw, unsalted nuts

  • Dips like hummus, salsa, or guacamole. Even better when paired with cut veggies

  • Cottage cheese with fresh fruit

  • Dark chocolate (At least 70% cocoa; Check out all the great things dark chocolate has to offer!) 

  • Fresh popcorn (hot-air or stovetop)  

During this time of coronavirus, I would like us all to take the time to reflect on our eating habits. We can prioritize food quality. And, we can focus on the positive behavior changes that come with staying at home like eating together as a family, cooking more at home, and experimenting with new recipes. 

For additional information, you can also see a list of 6 superfoods to stock up on. For access to personalized IBS advice from Goodpath or dietary advice paired with sleep or back pain management programs, click here.