Nutrition Expert Gives Guidelines For Healthy Pandemic Habits

Greens, a vegetarian that first opened in San Francisco in 1979, is reopening in October after a four-month closure due to a kitchen fire.
Photo credit Nader Khouri

While college students may be familiar with the “Freshman 15,” the coronavirus pandemic is causing many Americans to gain what has now is being referred to as the "COVID 15," as more people are reporting weight gain.

Sharon Meyer, Integrative Nutritionist with Sutter’s Institute for Health & Healing, said people tend to gravitate toward comfort food when feeling stressed, the pandemic being no exception to that habit.

"Cooking food can be very grounding, the smell of food can be very satisfying," Meyer told KCBS Radio's "Ask An Expert" Thursday. "Sometimes food creates those comfort-safety feelings."

Meanwhile, some Americans are reporting that they have actually lost weight during the pandemic.

"There are some people that, when they get stressed, they lose weight," Meyer said. "So for them, they just need to be checking their stress levels."

Meyer said that there are many ways to enjoy food, but in a healthier way, including decreasing consumption of starchy carbs like pasta and increasing foods with healthier fats and a high volume of fiber, including avocados and quinoa.

Meyer added that the key to fighting off viruses and infection with food lies in a variety of fruits and vegetables, whether they may be fresh or frozen. She said broccoli is especially important with detoxification.

"They are antiviral, antimicrobial, they are antibacterial," Meyer said. "They turn on our healthy genes. They repair our cells. They’re important for reducing inflammation and boosting immunity. The bigger array of vegetables and color you have, the healthier you’re going to be. So that whole thing about eating the rainbow is very important."

Orange foods like peaches and nectarines, among others, are helpful for maintaining the immune system and are known to assist in respiratory health.

"Bone broth is (also) phenomenal with supporting immune systems," she said. "So if anyone has COVID-19, I would suggest bone broth and putting lots of different vegetables and making soups out of that would be great."

She said that eating yogurt and cheese can increase gut immunity, and also that keeping up vitamin intake is also critical to staying healthy.

"You have to supplement with Vitamin D," Meyer said. "Also with aging we don’t absorb the D through the skin very well, so keeping up supplementation is definitely going to be a better option for that."

Overall, Meyer said that looking at how we deal with stress is an important part of keeping our metabolisms intact.