Closed at home: overeating and how to prevent them

Quarantine, smart working, closed gyms: how much has the pandemic worsened people’s eating habits (and body weight)? Not a little, it is clear from an analysis by Coldiretti on data from a study of Food and Nutrition Creation.

According to this survey, 44% of Italians have gained weight due to Covid, and 53% have stopped playing sports. In addition, the analysis of the shopping cart of Italians is clear: in the first 6 months of 2020 there were increases in the purchase of wine, beer, cold cuts and cheeses. Not to mention the boom in eggs and flour, used to occupy time with the preparation of pizzas, cakes and biscuits.

I too, in my clinic, have seen this trend in many patients, who, especially after the lock down, have turned to my help.

The food abuse of staying indoors is understandable and justifiable. Food is gratification and sometimes calms anxiety a bit, especially when looking for foods rich in sugars (foods richest in carbohydrates generally also provide tryptophan, a substance that in the body becomes serotonin, the good mood hormone).

According to the Crea study, however, there are not only negative sides: in fact, greater quantities of fruit, vegetables and legumes have also been purchased. It means that the Italians in this period have also tried their hand at preparing healthy foods, thanks to the fact that they had more time. And it is precisely from this that we must start again to get back in shape: that is, taking advantage of the more time we spend at home to devote ourselves to the preparation (and organization) of healthy cuisine. With a few treats every now and then, of course, but without exaggerating!

So here are some tips for setting up a correct diet when we are forced into the home, preventing excesses.

Let’s start with breakfast, a very important meal that is often overlooked due to the rush to go out to go to work. If we work from home, there will be time to prepare it! It is important to remember how an adequate breakfast involves an “awakening” of the metabolism. Our body is programmed to cope with “famine”. If we eat too little in the morning, the body perceives an “energy saving” signal, with the consequence that the metabolism will drop and therefore we will consume less. A good breakfast is, for example, made up of natural milk or yogurt, whole grains with no added sugar and fresh fruit. Savory alternatives like soft-boiled eggs or low-fat cheese and whole wheat bread work just as well.

Even for lunch there will certainly be time to prepare a good first course, instead of sandwiches or sandwiches that we quickly swallow at work! Green light for simple first courses, seasoned with tomato or vegetables and extra virgin olive oil. We prefer wholemeal pasta or rice, or grains such as spelled or oats. To this first course, then, we always combine a nice portion of vegetables. The extra trick is to add proteins (pasta with ricotta or legumes, for example) that lower the glycemic index, giving a greater sense of satiety.

At this point it remains to organize a light dinner, consisting mainly of a main course paired with vegetables and a little wholemeal bread. We try to alternate the protein sources: meat at most 2 times a week, preference to fish and vegetable proteins.

If we have digestive difficulties or sleep disorders, I recommend reversing the pattern, preferring first courses for dinner. In fact, they are more digestible and contain tryptophan, a substance with a relaxing power and precursor of serotonin.

Is it necessary to have snacks if we are closed at home all day? Since a sedentary lifestyle lowers our energy consumption, if we do not feel the need we can also skip it, but if we want to consume something we try not to overdo it: just a fruit or a handful of dried fruit. One way to contain weight gain is precisely to not overdo the snacks during work sessions at home. Don’t keep food near your desk!

The advice I have given is for those who, due to Covid, find themselves having more time than before, but we know that this is not the case for everyone. Many have returned to work, many are in smart working, but at a fast pace. Therefore, if on some days we do not have time to prepare a balanced and balanced meal, it is possible (and advisable) to consume BIVO, which can also be an excellent solution for breakfast (perhaps in a half dose compared to lunch and dinner). Further advantages in choosing BIVO are the containment of calories and the certainty of having eaten in a balanced way, according to the dictates of the Mediterranean Diet.

We talked about what is best to eat in this particular period, but what should we pay attention to instead? Certainly to foods rich in unhealthy fats (such as saturated ones and cholesterol), to foods and drinks rich in sugars, to an excess of carbohydrates (pizza, bread, pasta, etc.), to salty snacks, to junk food in general and to excess alcohol.

I want to end this article on a positive note. Compared to the lockdown in March, I have found in my patients a return to healthier habits. In my opinion, there has been a rediscovery of the value of health and, this also “thanks” to Covid. Therefore I see people very motivated to learn to eat in the right way to preserve this so important good, rediscovering the value of the Mediterranean Diet.

Paola Salgarelli, Nutritionist Biologist, specialist in Food Science

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