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Dear Dietitian – How can I get back into my healthy eating routine after the COVID-19 quaratine?

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PICT Leanne McCrate Dear Dietitian
Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, CNSC

Dear Dietitian,

During the COVID-19 quarantine, I’ve gained a few pounds and wiped out all the progress I’ve made over the past year. How can I get back into my healthy eating routine?


Dear Dan,

COVID-19 has not only disrupted our lives in America, but it has affected virtually everyone in the world. Many are working from home, and the fridge is just too close. Don’t worry, though, you are not alone. So many people have sought comfort in food during this time that there are jokes about it on the internet!

There is a saying, “Successful people do not succeed well; they fail well.” They get “back in the saddle.” The same goes for a healthy change. Following are steps to help you get back on track:

  1. Planning- Choose a day when you want to start your new meal plan. Plan your meals. This can be as unstructured as three moderate meals a day with nothing in-between or planning every food at each meal. Do what works for you.
  2. Keep a food journal to hold yourself accountable. It will also help identify problem areas.
  3. Calories Count. To lose weight, women should consume around 1400-1600 calories per day. Men should take in between 1800-2000 calories each day. This number will vary for each person. There are several websites that help you keep track of your caloric intake.
  4. Eat nutritious foods. A healthy diet consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and mostly unsaturated fats—limit fried foods and sweets. When your body is well-nourished, you are less likely to reach for junk food.
  5. Exercise most days of the week, even if it is just walking around the block. Our brains secrete endorphins during exercise, and our mood improves. When we feel better, we eat better, and vice versa.
  6. Have a buddy system. The support helps keep you accountable and encourages you when you need an extra boost.
  7. Do your very best for 15 days. By this time, you will start to see results. Your clothes will fit more comfortably. You’ll feel better and sleep better, and you will be on your way to forming a new habit.
  8. Be patient, and don’t take yourself too seriously. We often want immediate results, but a stable weight loss takes time.
  9. Identify problem foods. Some people have trouble with sweets. Others overeat salty snack foods like potato chips. If you can moderate your problem food, by all means, keep it in your meal plan. For example, I do not buy large bags of potato chips because I will eat the entire contents in one or two sittings. However, I can moderate with the one-ounce bags. I enjoy them, so I allow myself to indulge once in a while.
  10. Identify and modify problem behaviors around food. For example, you consume more calories than you realize if you eat while cooking, eat while cleaning up the kitchen, or eat in front of the tv.

Stay safe, and stay well!

Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, CNSC, aka Dear Dietitian, is based in Missouri. Her mission is to educate consumers on sound, scientifically-based nutrition. Do you have a nutrition question? Email her at Dear Dietitian does not endorse any products, health programs, or diet plans.