16 Apr Ask Jenny: How Do I Prevent Overeating During COVID-19 Quarantine?
“Hi Jenny – just like most of the U.S. I’m now working from home, which means easy access to the kitchen! I’m finding that I’m snacking and stress eating even when I’m not hungry. Do you have any working from home tips to prevent overeating during COVID-19 quarantine? ”— Julie, NYC
Thanks for the great question Julie, and I know that comfort eating is something a lot of my client’s are struggling with right now. Firstly, I want to re-assure you that it is perfectly natural to find comfort in food as we navigate the coronavirus outbreak, and to encourage you to give yourself a little grace and empathy for feeling this way.
However, constant snacking on unhealthy foods can negatively impact our health, so here are my top 5 tips to prevent stress eating:
1. Ensure Steady Blood Sugar Levels and Hunger Hormone Balance Throughout the Day
The key to any of my online programs and private health coaching is keeping blood sugar levels and hunger hormones such as leptin and ghrelin balanced throughout the day. By eating a high protein and high fibre diet, combined with some healthy fats, we can prevent cravings, (such as sugar cravings and craving carbs), prevent insulin resistance, curb appetite, burn stored fat and prevent mood swings and anxiety. I recommend eating at least 20g of high quality protein at each meal, 2-3 servings of vegetables and 1 tablespoon of good fat at each meal, such as in this Low Carb Chinese Chicken Salad recipe from my Lean and Clean Program.
2. Add Your Treat to the End of a Meal
Whilst in may seem counter-intuitive to eat more at each meal, this helps us keep to our 3-4 meals a day schedule, with 3-4 hours in between each meal. This is a way of reaping the benefits of intermittent fasting such as improving gut health, boosting metabolism and burning stored body fat, without putting our already stressed system under more pressure. Also every time we eat our pancreas produces the hormone insulin. When we produce insulin it switches our bodies from ‘fat burning’ to ‘fat storage’ mode, so minimizing these is key to weight management and a healthy BMI and body fat percentage.
For example, one of my favorite healthy treats is organic dark chocolate, so I indulge in a few squares after lunch or my evening meal. And when I say a few squares I mean half a bar…
3. Avoid Hyper-Palatable Foods
‘Once you pop, you just cant stop’ isn’t just a catchy slogan! Foods such as potato chips, candy, baked goods and other junky snacks have been designed by food scientists to be ‘hyper-palatable’, that is the ratios of simple carbs, fat, salt, sugar, flavorings and additives have been manipulated, and the fibre content reduced to ensure you eat the whole packet, and then come back for more before your satiety signals get switched on. Switch out these foods for options that still feel like ‘snacks’, but that are less processed and more nutrient dense, such as hummus and veggie sticks, or an apple and nut butter. The combination of protein, fat and fibre will signal to your hunger hormones that you have eaten, and your cravings will subside far more quickly. And you’ll get a hit of immune boosting vitamins and minerals too.
4. Choose Healthier Versions of Your Favourite Treats
There are so many great healthy alternatives to your favourite snack foods these days that you can easily avoid the junky versions. Just a few of my favorites include Lily’s Sweets Dark Chocolate which is sugar free, Siete Foods Grain Free Tortilla Chips, Lesserevil Organic Popcorn and SuperFat Keto Cookies. You can also find a ton of great family friendly healthy options at Thrive Market!
Alternatively, you can make your own version of healthy treats! I love to bake healthy gluten free cookies, such as these Low Carb Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies.
5. Make Your Evening Meal An Event
Having an evening meal to look forward to can prevent mid-afternoon snacking, delaying gratification and giving you something to look forward to! Each week Tim and I are cooking a healthier version of one of our comfort food favorites, including gluten free pizza, a veggie packed shepherds pie and these Low Carb Chicken Enchiladas. You could also choose one night a week to order from your favorite local restaurant, or one or two nights a week to indulge in dessert. You could take it in turns to choose your favourite type of cuisine, or recreate a meal from a previous special occasion.
And the theme doesn’t even have to revolve around food, you could choose a dress code (such as double demin, or head to toe stripes), playlist, or table decor, plating and utensils. Gluten free spaghetti eaten with chopsticks, anyone?
Sign up for my 8 Week Lean and Clean Program and receive a free 30 Minute Private Health Coaching or Personal Training session to help you optimize your health at this challenging time. Find out more here…
I’m a Holistic Nutritionist working in Boston, New York and London, and every week I answer one of your most pressing questions on gut health, weight loss, hormone balance, better sleep and more! Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org to have them answered on the site.