Times of social distancing can be an amazing opportunity to eat to support your health and have fun with the experience. What many people do not realize is that the foods that you choose to eat are more than just calories. They contain compounds that send direct messages to your cells and your gut microbiome, influencing the way that you feel at large. Eating more nutritious foods feed beneficial messages to your cells and your gut microbiome that also help support mood and combat anxiety and poor mental health. 

In addition to supporting mental health, nutrient dense foods serve as the foundation to your immunological health. COVID-19 appears to activate something called the NLRP3 inflammasome which creates a cascade of inflammatory messages and is involved in worsened respiratory outcomes. 

One of the most effective ways to lower inflammation is to eat nutritious foods! Here are a few fun budget-friendly ways you can do that: 

  1. Picture What Your Post-Quarantine Health Looks Like 

Fast forward your life by three months and ask yourself how you want to feel post-quarantine. Do you want to fit into your same work pants, have energy, have less stiffness, and feel good or do you want to feel the opposite? This may help you align your current choices with your desired post-quarantine health outcome. 

  1. Opt for More Natural Sweetness  

Times of social distancing should not give you the green light to stock up on candy and soda and processed foods. A diet high in refined carbohydrates and added sugars may be associated with suppressing your immune system. Skip refined and added sugars like cane sugar, brown rice syrup and high fructose corn syrup and opt for more natural sweeteners that also contain antioxidants. Examples can include frozen berries or cherries, nut balls sweetened with a few dates, or apple with cinnamon and almond butter. Try my Cinnamon Power Balls recipe and if you are concerned with portion control, store them in your freezer. 

  1. Keep a Pre-Made Salad on Hand All Week 

Don’t underestimate the power of prepping salads in advance and keeping them on hand. Make a large salad and keep it stocked in your refrigerator so that it is always an easy and convenient option in between work calls. When you plate the salad, quickly add 1-2 tbsp of Bragg apple cider vinegar, 1-2 tbsp of a healthy fat like extra virgin olive oil and a splash of dijon mustard.  

  1. Avoid Eating Anything That is Not in a Bowl or On a Plate

This prevents handfuls of mindless foods from ending up in your mouth without much thought! It also helps you become more conscious of your serving sizes. 

  1. Sip on Herbal Teas or Infused Seltzer Water 

Hydration is so incredibly important for regulating your food intake but also for delivering oxygen to your cells, enhancing energy and bowel regularity! The body has a hard time distinguishing between whether you are hungry or thirsty, so you’ll want to be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day. If you are bored but not hungry, opt for making an herbal tea or infused seltzer water to give yourself the taste you are craving without overstuffing yourself. Try making my Anti-Inflammatory Cinnamon Lemon Ginger Tea

  1. Stock Protein-Rich Pantry Staples 

When it comes to pantry staples, think beyond pasta and cereal! There are lots of protein-rich pantry staples that are key for building muscle, supporting your immune health and increasing levels of satiety. Some of my favorite protein-rich non-perishables include quinoa, Bragg nutritional yeast, lentils, chickpea pasta, lupini beans, hemp seeds and canned wild salmon.