While the country’s collective conscious has been focused on staying safe and healthy by keeping away from COVID-19 for at least the last four months, the longer the pandemic lasts, the more we realize that surviving it in the best way possible involves much more than avoiding the virus.
With families struggling over new realities concerning their food supply, time spent working at home or in the office and in other ways, experts are now devoting more time to adjusting habits and lifestyles to make sure that everyone can live a healthy life, no matter the circumstances.
The Consortium for a Healthier Miami Dade in conjunction with the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade held a Healthy Homes, Healthy Workspaces webinar on July 27 to address existing issues and highlight ways for families to move forward addressing wellness and well-being issues during the current pandemic.
No Time to Skimp on Healthy Food
The first order of business was making sure families eat well during prolonged restrictions imposed by the coronavirus. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. “Now is not the time to lower our food standards. It’s actually time to ramp it up to help build our immunity and strength, “ said Vanessa Tinsley, executive director of Bridge to Hope and a presenter during the webinar.
Tinsley went on to say that the kinds of foods we eat during the pandemic are particularly important because they affect our physical and mental health. What she called “pseudo” (or processed) foods have negative lasting impacts.
“Unfortunately, financial crisis (often) lead to poor food choices that impact health because it’s the last flexible expense that we have,” she said. When we are facing a financial crisis we begin to manipulate our expenses and our food budget is very easily adjusted. We can see immediately the impact of not paying rent, or making a car payment but we don’t see the impact of food choices (until) years down the road when it results in obesity, high blood pressure, and other negatives,” Tinsley said.
She also said that eating poorly will result in higher costs (as much as $1,600 a year) in additional health care costs.
“Good nutrition is super important to build a strong immune system – the strongest ally to combat illness” said Leyanee Perez, a registered nurse and the community dietician at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. Perez said that key to a healthy diet was eating a combination of foods, including vegetables, fruits, lean protein and the right kind of fats. “Every time you eat, you have opportunity to eat healthy and feed your family healthy foods,” she said.
A good rule of thumb when approaching meals is to include fruits and vegetables that run the color spectrum, as foods that are red, orange and dark green contain many compounds which help build immunity.
Working Healthy From Home and Beyond
Beyond the foods we eat, the pandemic has also affected the work life of most individuals and Nathan Burandt, the benefits and wellness program manager at Florida International University, said we must adjust in order to live a healthy home and work life.
Although there are many convenient aspects of working from home, Burandt said that individuals and families needed to be careful to create schedules to make sure their new realities incorporate healthy habits. “When the act of commuting (to and from work) is no longer happening, (individuals) should replace it with a healthy habit,” Burandt said.
While recent studies are showing that employees are actually doing more when working from home, Burandt said that those same individuals need to be conscious of possible negative consequences. “We are getting more done, but it does take a toll,” he said. “Zoom fatigue is real and we must monitor it.” He said employees have to set boundaries and not continue to work until 7, 8 or 9 p.m. “The work is going to be there the next morning.”
Even those who have to physically go to their jobs must make adjustments, Burandt said, explaining that there needs to be an emphasis on good hygiene (masks, social distancing, hand-washing and more), keeping work stations clean, eating well, taking frequent breaks and stress management.
“We don’t know the time period we are going to be doing this from here on out, with that come necessary changes.”
Bridge to Hope Park and Pop Food Services
Urban Oasis Project (SNAP assistance for locally grown vegetables, fruits)