By Cory Phare
In these uncertain times, one thing is certain: It’s really, really easy to eat an entire sleeve of Thin Mints in one sitting.
It's built into our biology, said Rachel Sinley, assistant professor of nutrition at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Stress has an impact on appetite in two major ways, she said. First, the hormone epinephrine can trigger a fight-or-flight response that causes the body to ignore normal eating cues and curb natural appetite. However, persistent stress also can lead to production of cortisol, another hormone that increases appetite and the motivation to eat.
“We know that a lot of folks are turning to snacking on less-healthful items,” Sinley said.
This is especially true for foods that are salty, sweet and fried. And though it’s completely natural to gravitate to things that give us an immediate burst of energy and pleasure during stressful situations, in the long term they can be detrimental to health.
“Instead, we can focus on snack items that can be made at home and are easy, budget-friendly and more nutritious than some of our go-to snack options in a time of a crisis,” Sinley said.
With that in mind, here are seven recipes from MSU Denver faculty and Dietetics Internship graduate students to help you make the most of those limited grocery runs – and tips for healthy eating while staying at home.
Jennifer Bolton, nutrition professor at MSU Denver, has three tips to feed your family and maybe even have some fun.
Food should be nourishing: “Keep eating your vegetables!” she said. “Asparagus is in season – try it grilled or tossed with olive oil and roasted in the oven at 400 degrees. My kids love it that way.”
Think outside the (lunch) box: “Try out new recipes that you’ve seen in social media,” Bolton said. “But give yourself extra time if your cooking skills are a little rusty, and make sure you read the recipe all the way through before you start.”
Be flexible with meal planning: “With all businesses having supply issues, the grocery store may not have the exact items you are looking for,” Bolton said. “Try a different vegetable in your stir fry or a different kind of bread – you might find a new favorite!”
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds should be staples, said Chef Jennifer Watson with MSU Denver’s School of Hospitality. And though fresh is obviously best, canned or frozen options last longer and require fewer trips to the grocery store.
“It also means that if you buy a little bit extra, when we are all able to go out and about again, that food will still be for when you need it and won’t spoil if you buy too much,” she said, adding that dried beans and canned tuna are also great inexpensive protein options.
Assistant professor of nutrition Micah Battson also weighed in on several ways to maximize your time in the kitchen while quarantined.
Double down: Make twice as much as you normally would and stick half of it in the freezer for later. “This works especially well for soups and chilis and allows you to maintain variety in your meals throughout the week,” Battson said. “Freezing extra portions will allow you to preserve its nutritional content while you work through your fresh ingredients in the fridge.”
Smooth move: Stock up on fruits and berries for naturally sweet smoothies. “My go-to recipe is a blend of strawberries, mango and pineapple with spinach and orange juice,” Battson said. “You can also add a tablespoon of ground flax seeds for added fiber and healthy fats.”
Plant power: “Beans, lentils and chickpeas are nutritionally dense and inexpensive,” Battson said. “You can buy them canned for convenience or save even more money by purchasing the dried version. Soaking and cooking will add some prep time, so just make sure to plan ahead.”
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