Contributor, Korn Ferry Institute
This special COVID-19 issue of Briefings is available online and at selected newsstands.
You never could tell the difference between a cucumber and a zucchini, and radicchio always sounded like a small town on the Amalfi Coast. Then came COVID-19, and suddenly working from home also meant eating at home.
That can be daunting if the most you’ve ever prepared is microwave popcorn. Yet a barrage of food bloggers, nutrition experts, and dietary believers say there is hope, even for the culinary deficient, to bring a dose of wellness to their meals. And there’s certainly a fast-growing and sizable business backing up those efforts, with the global personalized retail nutrition and wellness market alone expected to reach $50 billion in five years.
Most people know—or at least have heard—that they should eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. But such foods have specific benefits at times like these. Eating citrus fruits or yogurt with live cultures can improve your immunity. But that’s not all. “People don’t think a lot about how the foods they eat can enhance psychological well-being,” says Tatiana Boncompagni, a holistic health coach, former food writer, and cofounder and CEO of EatSunny.com, which creates and delivers healthy meals to consumers.
Two familiar choices are walnuts and salmon, both rich in omega-3 fats, which may help mental well-being.
For beginners in the kitchen, nutritionist Mitzi Dulan suggests searching Pinterest for four- or five-ingredient meals. “The visual plus the simplicity make it a great opportunity to try something new,” adds Dulan, who is also the founder of the food start-up simplyFUEL.com.
The downside of being at home, however, is that the refrigerator is only a few feet away from where you spend most of your day. The answer, both food experts agree, is to create structure: eat at specific times, avoid stress eating, and make more conscious choices. When a snack craving hits, reach for fruit (Dulan loves frozen grapes) instead of high-fat and sugary foods that boost insulin levels and only make you hungrier. And make sure to drink plenty of water—the urge to eat may be thirst in disguise.
Exercise is just as important as food to maintain immunity through times of crisis. When the gym is closed, a brisk walk or run outside can produce that endorphin rush. There are other alternatives, as well. Boncompagni uses resistance bands, which look like big rubber bands for resistance exercises to work out the arms or legs. Dulan suggests doing lunges down the driveway or down the hallway, with or without hand weights.
There are many apps, such as Nike Training Club, Fitbit Coach, and Peloton Digital, that offer in-home fitness. You can also find exercise videos on YouTube and Amazon. Most important is to get moving. Schedule your workouts; it doesn’t matter when you do them, but you have to make time.
As the work world goes back to a more normal routine, don’t abandon the good habits you acquired. “Maybe you won’t have as much time then, but on the weekends, you can shop and cook,” Boncompagni says. “If you start feeding yourself well, it will be both healthy and a habit.”