3 Tips to Manage Stress Eating during the Pandemic

A change in routine and heightened stress levels during the Covid-19 pandemic have created the perfect storm for stress eating.

Here are some ways you may be affected.

Instead of going to work and eating a planned lunch, you may be taking repeated kitchen breaks with kids at home – leading to unplanned snacking.

Instead of managing stress by working out at the club, joining friends for a fun night out together or going to a movie, you may be self-soothing with food.

Also, the chips, sweets and other tempting treats that may quiet your kids end up sabotaging your good intentions.

As we all try and manage coronavirus-related anxiety and boredom, eating can and should still be a pleasurable activity.

We just don’t want food to be our go-to self-soother.

Here are some tips I hope you find helpful:

1 – Plan in advance

Whether you’re making infrequent grocery store runs or ordering online, this is the time to ensure you have the right foods at home not just for your children but for you also.

One of the surest ways to reduce the consumption of high calorie, fatty, salty and sugary snack foods is to keep them out of the house – or off the counter and out of sight.

Your shopping list should include the nutritious foods that boost your health and satisfy hunger, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grain items, lean proteins and non-sweetened beverages.

Include healthy, grab-and-go snacks such as nut packs, light string or babybel cheese, low fat Greek yogurt cups, cut up veggies such as bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots or fruit such as berries, oranges, apples or grapes.

Look online  for new healthy recipes your kids and you will love, by making a portion controlled sweet snack such as no-bake energy bites or a crunchy snack such as roasted chickpeas.

2 – Set simple guidelines for mindful eating at home

At work you have rules and guidelines you follow. Maybe eating is only done in the lunch room or during your break time.

With your home being your new makeshift workplace, some simple rules apply here too.

Make a simple rule to only eat when you have 3 things – a table, plate and chair. No more eating food out of a bag, off your child’s plate or while at your work station.

If a certain time of day is difficult for you (such as after dinner snacking), consider tracking your after-dinner snacks for a week. Just the simple act of tracking can make you feel more in control and motivate healthier eating.

3 – Identify non-food related coping strategies

We are all experiencing an increased sense of stress during this challenging time. It is important to deliberately schedule activities that will reduce stress and replenish your mind and body.

Make a list of go-to activities such as calling a friend, listening to music, doing some deep breathing, journaling your thoughts, going for a walk, playing a game with your smart phone or watching funny videos.

With social distancing in mind, look for new ways to participate in activities you used to enjoy.

No more lunch out with friends? Schedule regular zoom meetings or cocktail hour virtual ‘gatherings’ instead.

No more group lessons or events? Find virtual alternatives for things you enjoy such as an exercise class, dance lesson, card game or book group.

The bottom line is you need to give yourself a break and do the best you can do with the current situation.

Think progress, not perfection!

If you’re looking for more ways to eat better and boost health, check out my new book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!


Robert Kushner, MD

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