Tips to be healthy in a pandemic

Published 3:16 pm Thursday, April 2, 2020

Dietitian emphasizes the importance of maintaining a routine, regular exercise

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be easy for people to get off-track with their health.

Emily Schmidt, dietitian with Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, said with many people being home all day during Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order, she has heard many people who are saying they are eating more and grazing between meals.

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“Right now because people are having a lot of anxiety over the pandemic, or increased depression, I think people are stress eating more,” Schmidt said. “When people aren’t in their normal routines, it’s easy to get off-track with that. A lot of people’s routines have been completely upended.”

She said if people are struggling with this, they should try to set up a regular meal schedule and planned snack times, even if the rest of the day does not have a lot of structure. She encouraged people to write the schedule down on paper or in a planner.

Because people are advised to limit their grocery store trips to once a week or once every two weeks, people will likely have to rely more heavily on frozen fruits and vegetables or canned fruits and vegetables without added salt or sugar.

Schmidt said the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises people to reduce the amount of time they spend in the grocery store by having a list and a plan before they go. Organize your list according to the section of the store to prevent you from running from one end of the store to the other.

The academy encourages people to take advantage of disinfectant wipes to clean their hands and to wipe down their cart before shopping and then to remember to wash their hands when they return from the grocery store.

People should base their meal plans on items they may already have at home to reduce trips to the store, whether that’s through transforming leftover meats and veggies into a different meal or freezing leftovers before they spoil.

In addition to healthy eating, Schmidt said people should try to get at least 30 minutes of some kind of physical activity each day, whether that’s going for a walk, doing yard work, watching a workout video online or simply going up and down the stairs at home.

People who are sitting a lot should get up and move every hour and consider implementing hand weights or exercise bands during TV commercials, she said.

“One of the worst things we can do right now is not move during the day,” she said.