In trying times, many of us turn to food for comfort. After months in a socially isolated world, though you may find yourself constantly snacking on potato chips throughout the day or unable to kick your macaroni and cheese habit.
Simply shifting your approach to snacking can help make sure you receive the immune-boosting nutrients that you need to sustain yourself, through the pandemic and beyond.
The first step is to keep unhealthy processed snacks out of your pantries and replace them with healthy treats in easily-accessible places, Deborah Brooks, department chair and assistant professor nutrition and dietetics at Southern Maine Community College, said.
When you keep healthy snacks readily available, from a basket of fruit on the counter to cut up celery sticks and carrot sticks in the refrigerator instead, it’s easier to resist the urge to snack on unhealthy foods.
To pick a healthy snack to substitute for your go-tos packaged treats, think about what you like the most about your favorite snacks, from texture to taste.
“When a lot of people are stressed, they need that crunch factor,” Brooks said. “Chips are super crunchy and people gravitate towards that crunch factor, [but] so are other things like mini rice cakes or popcorn or celery sticks.”
Even sweeter, squishier snacks have healthy alternatives.
“Take a sliced banana on a plate and spread a little bit of maple syrup on it or spread a little bit of chocolate sauce,” Brooks said. “[Or try taking] a frozen banana and putting a few walnuts in there and a little bit of milk or milk alternative and putting that in the blender and you’ve got kind of like ice cream.”
Staying hydrated throughout the day will also help curb the impulse to snack.
“Sipping on ice water through the day or a flavored water helps to curb that urge to be eating all day long,” Anne-Marie Davee, registered dietician and a University of New England Nutrition program faculty member, said.
Also, consider ways to add nutrients to your favorite comfort foods. Many of us have been turning to simple, starchy comfort foods to remind us of simpler times. Luckily, it is easy to add some nutrients to these simple dishes. For example, Brooks recommended adding some mashed sweet potatoes into macaroni and cheese, or adding carrots and greens to a bowl of chicken noodle soup.
Portion control also matters when it comes to enjoying your favorite comfort foods.
“I would just watch portion sizes and add colorful vegetables to your plate,” Davee said. “Have it be a treat once a week.”
Davee said to consider turning towards your favorite fruits and vegetables when you are looking for comfort instead.
“That would be my dream as a dietician, if people called fruits and vegetables their comfort foods,” she laughed.