Meal Prep And Diet Guidelines For Weathering COVID-19

by RP Chief Physician Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, DO | Mar 19, 2020

Dieting is hard enough when everything’s going smoothly.  But add in a viral pandemic and its resulting daily life disruptions, sticking to a diet may start to seem downright unrealistic. Luckily, that’s where we’re wrong. What follows is our stab at simplifying this already challenging undertaking to maximize your chance for success even in these trying times.

COVID-19 is unlike the flu and the common cold. It is a new highly infectious viral disease that appears to have a much higher complication and case fatality rate than the flu. While overall good health should decrease one’s risk of complications, everyone is advised to quarantine in order to reduce community spread. If this advice goes unheeded, rampanent spread may start to  overwhelm our medical resources, leading to shortages of medical equipment and staff: hospital beds, ventilators, physicians, nurses, and so on. Certainly a scenario most of us want to help avoid. But at what cost?   

The grocery store is full of people. So, is now a time to give up on your health and fitness goals in order to just…  stay healthy?  

The short answer is “no”. Here are some things you can do instead of throwing your diet out the window.
 

Do Simplify

In these times of social isolation, those of us who are meal prepping at home or getting meals delivered are at an advantage from a prevention standpoint. Fewer grocery store trips and delivery opportunities also offer the surprising benefit of reduced diet-sabotaging temptation.

Below are some foods “taking up space” in most pantries, which can now come in very handy. We’ve listed them in order of availability and ease of storage: 

Carbohydrates:

  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Lentils and beans (canned or bagged)
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Fruit (frozen or canned may be most convenient during this time)
  • Potatoes (sweet or white)

Protein:

  • Lean lunch meat
  • Protein powders
  • Trifecta delivery meats or other meat delivery services
  • Canned chicken or tuna or salmon
  • Frozen chicken breasts or fish
  • Lean ground beef/turkey
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Eggs

Fats:

  • Mixed nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Fish oil

Vegetables:

  • Frozen vegetables
  • Sealed delivery, again such as Trifecta
  • Bagged salads
  • Canned vegetables
  • Fresh vegetables

Do Meal Prep 

If nothing else, being stuck at home gives us a bit more time to meal prep, which in turn puts us in total control over our diets, increasing our likelihood of adherence, and thereby faster success. 

If you haven't done much meal prepping in the past, worry not: our FREE RP Cooking Youtube channel is chalk full of diet-friendly recipes, many of which you can pull together from the pantry staples and basics listed in this article. 

Additionally, we're also currently discounting all of our cookbooks by 30% with coupon code rp30off

Get this jam-packed recipe value pack for all of our published recipes, or browse the individual recipe books featured here and get just one or two to hold you over until we're out of the woods (and our homes). 


Don’t…

Cut weight too aggressively right now

Doing so may be an added stress to your body. In case you are exposed to the virus, you will want your body to be maximally capable of fighting it. Though there is no concrete data on how much weight you can lose without compromising your immune system, up to 0.5% of your bodyweight per week is a safe bet. Moreover, if you’re currently close to a diet break point, going into maintenance a few weeks early may help your immune system fire on all cylinders when you need it most.

Buy into dietary patterns increasing immunity 

If you’ve seen promotion of specific dietary patterns like Keto or plant-based diets as a way to battle this virus, the bad news is that there is absolutely zero evidence to support such diets over others for the purposes of decreased susceptibility. Instead, ensuring a wide array of nutrient dense foods is likely your best bet. Same goes for immune-boosting supplements and other substances: there is nothing out there right now proven to be of benefit. 


FAQs

  1. Q: Is it safe to order take out food right now?  A: On the one hand, delivery poses a lower risk of exposure than going out to eat. On the other, it’s a higher risk than meal prepping on your own at home. That said, if you go this route, having the food dropped at your doorstep, throwing away the bag it was in after you remove the contents and washing your hands before eating should all help to minimize potential exposure, as the virus can live on plastic for a few days. 
  2. Q: Are there certain pre-made dishes that may be higher-risk during an outbreak?  A: Pre-made meals are very low risk (barring the possibility that the packaging was exposed to the virus during shipping and handling, but this goes for any packages received during this time) 
  3. Q: Is there any way to boost my immunity?  A: Focus on nutrition. Get as wide an array of nutrients as possible. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep. Get some sunlight. Go for a walk in a non-public place (around the neighborhood, on a track or on some park or forest trails).
  4. Q: Can I still fast during the pandemic?  A: Fasting is likely fine as long as energy intake is adequate 

To Sign Off…

Even in these stressful, atypical times, the keys to successful long term weight management remain largely the same as always:

  • Be compliant and consistent 
  • Learn to love slightly blander foods 
  • But switch them up to up variety and avoid diet burnout 
  • Steer clear of un-evidenced claims that lack a proven mechanism for "working"
  • Same for silver bullet / "magic pill" promises 
  • Play the long game   

And, probably one of the few silver linings of a viral outbreak is that some of the above is actually easier to do when we're forced to get "back to basics", like eating out less, having fewer tempting (and late night deliverable!) options. 

Best of luck, and, above all, please take good care.