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Health Blog: Healthy habits during the pandemic

Have you gained weight during the pandemic? You’re not alone!

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Weight gain has skyrocketed during the pandemic. At Finger Lakes Community Health, we’ve seen many families struggling to eat healthily and exercise. The pandemic has made people more apt to stay indoors. Some kids are homeschooling. Parents are working from home. By the end of the day, everyone’s too tired to cook a healthy meal. Sound familiar?

In fact, most people have struggled to maintain their weight during the pandemic, with 61% of American adults reporting undesired weight gain or loss since the coronavirus outbreak. That’s according to a new American Psychological Association (APA) survey of more than 3,000 people released a year to the day since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Here are a few tips to get you back on track:

Tip #1: Create a healthy, clean food environment at home.

It’s time to clean out your pantry. You may have accumulated a lot of unhealthy foods over the winter but now it’s time to get rid of the high-calorie items and put the healthy choices at eye level. Another tip, if you don’t buy unhealthy foods, you won’t eat them. So, try not to bring them into your home.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have a treat or two but not every day. We all need a sweet treat and here’s a healthy suggestion — fruit smoothies. They’re so easy, even kids can make them with a handheld blender. Frozen fruit keeps well in the freezer so take a few pieces of mango, peaches, or strawberries, or a handful of blueberries, combine them with yogurt or milk, and you’ll have a yummy treat or dessert.

 Tip #2: No time to cook? Become a label reader.

Chances are you don’t have time to cook but you can become a good label reader. There are plenty of healthy foods in the frozen food case, you just need to know which ones to choose. Look for frozen dinner meals that are low on calories and sodium. There are many new brands at our local stores, and many have real vegetables in them! Look for the bowls that have mostly whole grains, low sodium (less than 600 mg), 3 grams of saturated fat, and low sugar. Sugar can come in the form of honey or apple juice concentrate, so try to avoid that.

And since you’re in the frozen food aisle, pick up some frozen vegetables, like the easy to steam kind. They are quick and easy to make in the microwave. Add them to a prepared protein like chicken, and you have another healthy meal.

Tip #3: How can adjusting sleep, help children?  

It’s a fact. Children and teens are going to bed later and getting up later – disrupting their “normal” schedules. It has affected routines including personal hygiene like brushing their teeth and exercise. Do you find that your kids are playing more video games and watching TV? The pandemic has made for a more inactive lifestyle.

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one way to change your child’s metabolism and motivation are to ensure your child receives enough sleep – at night. Elementary school children should be preparing for bed or reading by 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday nights (i.e. school nights). Teens may stay up until 10 or 10:30 p.m., but they too need time to decompress and relax their minds and bodies.

Keep electronics (i.e. cell phones, tablets, and computers) out of the bedroom (or turned off) when your child is trying to fall asleep or sleeping.

Another way to keep your kids healthy is to get them moving. The weather is getting warmer so let’s find time to go outside. Even on colder days, bundle up and go outside. Exercise can be as simple as going for a walk in your neighborhood or a hike in the park. And it’s more fun to do with family and friends even if you have to wear a mask, it will keep you warmer.

Or try this. Encourage good eating habits with young children by creating a wall chart where they can mark off when they’ve eaten healthy foods. Have them color-code their eating choices like green for vegetables and red for fruits. If they meet their weekly goal of two fruits and two veggies a day, reward them with a small item. It can be as simple as a jump rope or a new pair of sneakers. You know your kids, what would get them motivated?

We hope you found some useful tips in this article to create a healthier lifestyle for you and your loved ones. It may take a little more time to plan your meals before you go shopping, but it will pay off with less weight gain and you’ll feel better.

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