Healthy Eating During a Crisis

By: Jill Cruz

I started the day with the best intentions. I was going to get up early, take a walk, work for a while, exercise, and work again. And throughout the day my goal was to eat really, really well.

But somehow I couldn’t muster the strength to work out in my living room as my teenage daughters milled around. And I ended up eating too much and topped off my lunch with half of a bar of dark chocolate because “I just felt like it.”

This is not the typical diary of a seasoned nutritionist. But folks, it happened. And I’m not afraid to admit it.

What hit me like a brick today was the realization that we are all in a state of stress, and, I believe, even trauma.

Between worrying about our loved ones, our neighbors, and people working in the front lines and stressing about financial obliteration, while worrying how long we can live in isolation, life is tough right now.

Yes, it could be worse. It could be a lot worse. But it is pretty bad.

[Related: Making the Most Out of Remote Work]

I am not a psychotherapist, so don’t quote me on this, but I am not sure if we realize just how traumatic this whole thing is. So, what have I been telling my clients?

It is time to cut ourselves some slack. As one friend put it, “I’m shedding my normal high expectations for myself in fitness and nutrition.” I don’t think this gives us a license to sit on the couch and gorge for the next month. But I do think we can all use some self-love and babying.

So I came up with a good strategy for walking that delicate balance between going easy on myself and letting it all go to hell. I’ve decided to focus on “adding” rather than taking away.

Here is a short checklist of what that looks like:

  • Eat more veggies.

I, a board-certified nutritionist, am officially giving you permission to chill.

This is a time when our mental states have to take precedence over anything else. We know that stress is detrimental to immune function, so managing our stress should be our top priority.

This is not the time to get down on yourself for not eating a perfect diet or not following your normal workout routine. But you can be proactive. You can eat more salad, more soup, and more veggies. You can take two walks a day. You can set your alarm later.

And I do suggest being really diligent about your thoughts. In challenging times, we all have a choice about how we can respond. We can take the “low” road and be negative, criticize ourselves and others, worry about the future, and stress about our health. Or we can take the “high” road and practice self-love, self-care, compassion, and focus on being present.

Taking the “high” road requires more work and discipline. That’s for sure. But I believe it’s worth it.

[Related: How to Turn Burnout Around]

So, try to think in terms of adding things to your life rather than feeling like you have to be perfect. One of the ways I have been adding rather than taking away is I’ve been focusing on eating more SIRT Foods.

SIRT Foods are plant-based foods that are very high in plant nutrients called “polyphenols.” These polyphenols are different from vitamins and minerals, and they exert great influence on the genetic level in our bodies.

Some SIRT Foods that have been widely popularized in the press include green tea, berries, extra virgin olive oil, coffee, and red wine. They all sound pretty good, don’t they?

SIRT Foods are known to turn on what is called the “skinny genes,” which is actually a group of genes called the sirtuin genes (“SIRT” is an acronym for these genes). Yes, the SIRT genes can help you burn fat and build muscle but they do so much more, including protecting you against cancer and possibly helping you live a longer life!

SIRT foods happen to be delicious, ubiquitous, and easy to use in your daily life. So, if you are striving to be as healthy as you can and you want to balance that with going easy on yourself in this time of crisis, then I highly recommend adding SIRT foods to your diet.

SIRT Foods can be added to smoothies, salads, and soups, and you can drink them in the form of green tea and coffee (and red wine, but let’s keep that moderate, okay?).

Here is a list of the top 20 SIRT foods:

  • Green tea.

The more you can include these foods in your diet, the more you will be turning on your SIRT genes, which can help you burn fat (not just for weight loss but for energy as well), build muscle, improve blood sugar regulation, suppress tumors, boost liver function, protect your neurons, and increase longevity.

One of my favorite ways to add in lots of SIRT Foods easily is to have a smoothie every day. Yes, the trusty smoothie is very easy to add right now. You can throw in some strawberries, dates, green tea, cacao, turmeric, ginger (not in the top 20 but still high in polyphenols), arugula or kale, parsley, and celery and blend it up with your favorite liquid and maybe add some raw honey or a banana.

Look at that! Delicious, nutritious, and easy to prepare; that is exactly how you take care of yourself in these crazy times.

[Related: Stay Centered (and Healthy) in the Midst of the Coronavirus]

Jill Cruz, MS, CNS helps women over 40 that hate dieting to lose weight and feel great without being deprived. She has a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition and is a Board Certified Nutrition Specialist. She is on a mission to guide women to achieve their wildest dreams for their health, while loving the food they eat and the life they live.

Originally published at



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