Staying Healthy During the Pandemic

Staying inside during quarantine is difficult, and many people are struggling to stay healthy, both mentally and physically. Many are not as active as they once were and this can lead to weight gain and nutrition-related illnesses. It’s easy to walk to your fridge and grab a quick snack and binge-watch Netflix, but this can be detrimental to your health. We’ve compiled some healthy tips to keep yourself safe, make your food last longer, manage stress levels, and get enough rest!

I. Keep Yourself Safe

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It’s always smart to be on the safe side. These practices may be a little time consuming and even a bit of a nuisance, but they can help keep you and others healthy.

  • Sanitize grocery bags.

Disinfect an area on your counter. Place produce in your sink and place everything else on the clean space. If you use cloth bags, put them somewhere to wash. If you use paper or plastic, throw them away or recycle. You can also leave outside to air out for  3-7 days if you like, and reuse them. Remove bread, chips, crackers, etc. from their packaging and put into an air-tight container. If a food item is in a protective bag inside it’s packaging, it’s not as likely to have any contamination (ex: crackers, cereal, individually wrapped snacks). 

  • Wash fruits and vegetables.

Use running water to rinse off all fruits and vegetables. Do not use soap. 

  • Wear a facemask when going out in public.

The virus is more likely to be transferred person-to-person. Wearing a facemask can reduce your risk of exposure. It may be uncomfortable, but facemasks, even the cloth ones, can be your first line of defense.

  • Wash your hands every time you come home.

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds as soon as you return home. Be sure to get the tops of your hands, in between your fingers, underneath your nails, and the palms. Be thorough. 

II. Make Your Food Last

Some foods last longer than others. See the chart, compiled from data from Taste of Home,  below for the shelf-life of some common produce items. When in doubt, throw it out. A little food waste is better than getting sick. You can also freeze most items and use in soups, stews, cobblers, and more! Bananas too ripe? Make banana bread! Too many tomatoes to eat before they go bad? Try canning or making a sauce that you can freeze or use later.

Produce Shelf life It’s still good Time to throw away
Apples 4-8 weeks in fridge Some brown spots are okay, just cut them off. Wrinkled or mushy
Avocado 4-7 days at room temperature A hard avocado means it’s not ready to eat. If the avocado gives when you squeeze it, it’s ready! Mold
Bananas 2-5 days at room temperature A green banana is not ready. A banana that is yellow with some brown spots is ready to eat! Mushy or has black spots
Carrots 3-4 weeks in fridge A good carrot is bright orange and hard. Limp, has white spots, or is grainy
Cucumber 1 week in fridge Cucumbers should be bright and have an even green color. Sunken areas, yellowing, or wrinkly skin
Iceberg and romaine lettuce 7-10 days in fridge Lettuce should be bright green. Discolored, soggy, rotten smell
Lemons 3-4 weeks in fridge A good lemon needs to be bright yellow and firm. Soft spots, dark spots, or oozing juice
Onions 2-3 months at room temperature Onions should be clean and firm. Moisture, soft spots, signs of mold
Oranges 3-4 weeks in fridge Oranges need to be bright orange and a little firm. Soft spots, signs of mold
Peaches 1-3 days at room temperature They should be a deep golden color and give a little when gently squeezed. Mushy, sunken areas, signs of mold
Potatoes 3-5 weeks in pantry Potatoes should be firm and smell earthy. It’s okay

If they have some small sprouts.

Sprouts are longer than a few centimeters, mushy
Strawberries 3-7 days in fridge Strawberries should be fragrant and have a bright color Soggy, mushy, signs of mold
String beans 3-5 days in fridge Beans should be tender yet firm without visible seeds. Limp or moist
Tomatoes 1 week at room temperature They should be firm when lightly squeezed and seem heavy compared to their size. Soft spots, mushy, signs of mold
Watermelon 7 to 10 days at room temperature Tap on the side; if it sounds hollow, it is good to eat

It should feel firm but not hard as a rock.

Mold, sour smell
Whole mushrooms 7 to 10 days in fridge Mushrooms should smell earthy and be firm, yet tender. Sticky or slimy
Zucchini 7 to 10 days in fridge Zucchini needs to be firm yet slightly flexible and have a glossy skin Gray, soft spots

 III. Get Those Steps

dumbbells-2465478_1920Don’t be too idle. While it is good to rest, you should get at least 30 minutes of some form of exercise each day. Here are a few ways to add some movement during your stay at home:

  • Take a 10-15 minute walk after a meal. This will help lower blood sugar levels and increase your energy.
  • Stand up! Many jobs require people to sit at a desk all day. Standing up is a way to move your feet and get your blood flow going!
  • Learn some desk yoga. Check out Adventure Yogi for some easy and fun poses that anyone can master.
  • Set a reminder every hour to move for 2 minutes. It won’t take away from your work and you may even get some great ideas during your mini break! Plank, do squats, practice yoga, or take a lap through your house.

IV. Get Enough Sleep

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Too much or too little sleep can really throw off your groove and can lead to weight gain, increased appetite, and worsening blood sugar levels. Here are some tips that can lead to a good night’s rest:

  • Don’t drink alcohol before bed.
  • Close the blinds. Keep your room dark and at a cool temperature (65°F).
  • Put the phones down and turn the TV off! Using technology (television, computer, video games, cell phone) before bed is associated with lower sleep quality and quantity. Phone and television use at bedtime is associated with an increase in body mass index (BMI) (Fuller et al., 2017).
  • Get regular physical activity during the day. (See above.)
    • Children need about 60 minutes per day
    • Adults need about 150 min moderate-vigorous exercise per week (or about 30 minutes a day).

References

Fuller, C., Lehman, E., Hicks, S., & Novick, M. B. (2017). Bedtime Use of Technology and Associated Sleep Problems in Children. Global Pediatric Health, 4. doi: 10.1177/2333794×17736972

About Hays County Food Bank

We are passionately committed to improving lives through food assistance programs, nutrition education, and advocacy.

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