Nutrition and the COVID-19
Topic 1: Staying Healthy During Social Distancing
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every aspect of our lives from virtual classrooms to telecommuting, restaurant closures, and outright quarantines. As public health measures are put in place to reduce the spread of the virus, protecting and improving the health of individuals should be maintained while practicing social distancing. Adopting a healthy lifestyle consisting of a healthy diet, exercise, and good sleep behaviors - all needed for sustaining a robust immune system – is an easy measure to implement.
Professional societies, including the Center for Disease Control (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus), U.S. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (https://www.eatright.org/coronavirus), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (https://www.choosemyplate.gov/), Dietitians of Canada https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html, and the British Dietetics Association (https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/covid-19-corona-virus-advice-for-the-general-public.html), are recommending these measures to stay healthy during social distancing or isolation:
- Enjoy Healthy Food Choices
Use a visual plate that carries the five food groups: grains, protein, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. The MyPlate Guide is a simple way to build healthy eating habits. As no single food group provides all the needed nutrients, we strongly recommend that you vary your diet by consuming foods from all food groups. Planning meals ahead of time can save time and money, as well as reduce food waste and trips to the store.
- Stay hydrated
Water is essential to life and staying well hydrated reduces the risk of kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and constipation. The optimal water needed depends on age, gender, level of physical activity, and overall health status. For women, the amount of total water is 11.5 cups per day, compared to 15.5 cups for men. These estimates include fluids consumed from foods and beverages as well as water.
- Stay Active and Engaged
Staying active is very important in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. According to the guidelines of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, including at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. As gyms are not accessible during social distancing, Encouraging people to exercise outside is flouting the stay home rule. Maybe this should be replaced with something about online exercise videos etc. Also, at-home activities such as cleaning and gardening can contribute towards the daily exercise requirements.
- Make mental health a priority
Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly (including social media updates) can be upsetting and needs to be kept at reasonable levels. Get involved in other enjoyable activities. These might include exercise, meditation, art, and reading etc. Some helpful tips include regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and avoiding substance abuse (alcohol and drugs). Connecting with others and sharing your concerns and fears for the future can help alleviate the anxieties linked with this pandemic.
- Have fun in the kitchen
Preparation and cooking.
If your cooking skills are limited, or the idea of cooking healthy food leaves you feeling clueless, this is the best time to start and build your expertise. Including the family in the food preparation and eating together as a family will enhance the experience. Tip: keep healthy ingredients on hand in the kitchen, and be open to trying new foods and flavors.
The College of Health Sciences will continue to support our community as the impact of COVID-19 unfolds. Stay tuned for more nutrition tips.
Dima El-Halabi, MSc, RDN
College of Health Sciences
Abu Dhabi University