Can’t dine at your favorite restaurants? Grocery stores out of stock? Struggling to land an Instacart delivery? Welcome to the new normal. Everything has been impacted by COVID-19, including your diet.
The kitchen is my favorite place in my house, but during the pandemic, I’ve had to make some conscious changes so I don’t ruin all the hard work I’ve put into my fitness.
Irina Falconi, at the 2018 Australian Open. (Getty Images)
There are a lot of diets out there: keto, vegan, gluten free, paleo and Atkins, to name a few. (I like to call my myself “vegan-ish” because there are days where I’m really craving a cheese pizza.) But a different kind of diet that a lot of athletes, including Novak Djokovic, have been tinkering with well before the quarantine began is intermittent fasting. An article in the December 2019 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine states that: “Evidence is accumulating that eating in a 6-hour period and fasting for 18 hours can trigger a metabolic switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy, with increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and a decreased incidence of diseases, including cancer and obesity.”
If you’re finding yourself snacking and eating meals from morning to night, fasting is worth looking into. Intermittent fasting means not eating for 14 to 16 hours (coffee, tea and water are allowed), and only eating during 8 to 10-hour windows. You’ll quickly see that it’s not as drastic as it sounds: If you stop eating at 8 p.m., you can eat again by 10 a.m. the next day.
An even simpler way to control your diet during a time of decreased exercise is to reduce your intake. If you’re used to a breakfast of two scrambled eggs with two pieces of toast, try having just one egg on one piece of toast, and throw in a healthy smoothie (spinach, kale, bananas, berries and ice) if you’re still hungry.
What if the kitchen is still calling your name? Try to spend more time upstairs, in a bedroom or an office. Being in sight of the kitchen or even around a dining table naturally makes you think about food. And before you reach for more eats, have a tall glass of water; dehydration has become even more common during quarantine since your routine is thrown off.
Kitchen time might be easier to reduce than screen time. Everyone is online more, and that means scrolling through countless food and baking content on Instagram. The moment you see someone whipping up something delicious, you may be tempted, or bored enough, to see if you have the ingredients to make it. Your children and spouse will be grateful for your new kitchen skills, but your waistline might not.
If there’s a safe way for you to split up your homemade goods amongst your friends and family, do so. If not, bake goods that can be frozen for later. You’ll improve your baking skills and make happiness levels go up while still watching your diet.
One positive of the quarantine is that it’s forcing everyone to embrace simple cooking, since grocery stores are high-risk zones with limited supplies. Even if you’re not a huge salad person (like me), salads are a great base for as simple meal by adding almost anything you’ve got in your fridge or pantry.
Here’s a quick recipe:
—4 cups chopped spinach
—1 cup quinoa
—1/3 cup of dried cranberries
—1/4 cup of sunflower seeds.
That’s your base, and you can add chicken, fish, shrimp, steak, guacamole, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, pesto, hummus, pastas and/or beans. The possibilities are endless! It may not seem grandiose, but remind yourself of all the nutrients you’re putting into your body.
Last but not least, be mindful of what you’re eating. Focus on your plate and savor each bite—even if it’s enjoyed at home instead of date night at the hot new restaurant.
Irina Falconi has reached the third round of the French and US Opens, and is a co-host of the TENNIS.com Podcast.