Tag Archives: Nutrition

Eating during the COVID Crisis

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (19)

The following article was written by Jennifer Hall, RD, dietitian for the UmassMemorial Good Fit Teen Weight Loss and Wellness program.    It contains wonderful tips and a wealth of resources for eating during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Thank you Jennifer!

During this COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining good nutrition can be a challenge.  This article is to share with you some tips of how to plan and prepare “balanced” meals during this time, which provide nutrition, satiety, satisfaction and, yes, comfort for you and your families.

Food is a sense of security, especially at times like these.  Having to be “present” for this extended period of time at home, we now have an opportunity to fine-tune how we regulate our appetite, known as a “Hunger Satiety Scale”.  You may be finding yourself or your children “constantly eating”, snacking on a lot of refined cracker and snack items.  Part of this practice may be due to using food to cope with feelings of stress, anxiety and/or boredom.  Am I eating because I am afraid/full of fear?   At this time, it is important to remember to be kind and patient with ourselves, as many of our cravings are biologically driven to help decrease stress that we are experiencing.  The other piece to keep in mind is can I be more mindful in my food choices?  Am I looking for food often because I am choosing unsatisfying foods (lacking protein, fiber, flavor, and fat) or not following my normal meal/snack schedule like I would in my usual routine?   If I realize I am not physically hungry, what other things could I do in place of eating (read a book, call and check in a family member, make a soup).

As someone in charge of shopping and/or cooking at your home, you also may be under a great deal of stress about how to feed your household members, three meals per day, on a newly restrictive income.  We are sensitive that many families may need to become more resourceful and flexible in what menu items you are now offering.  Involve children when preparing the menu, and meals themselves; have them measure out or safely chop ingredients.  This necessary task is a great way to incorporate math and science skills as so many parents adjust to home-schooling.   Try to embrace this situation as chance to try out new recipes, reduce food waste, and get creative stretching the dollar.  Items such as dried legumes (beans, lentils, peas), canned (*look for no added salt or sugar) or frozen vegetables and fruits can be a less pricey option, which work well in times when you will not be able to keep as much fresh produce in your house (due to decreased shopping trips).  You can also save money by buying in bulk such as bags of potatoes and apples, or larger quantities of meat and poultry, which can be divided and frozen.  For those families experiencing food insecurity at this time, here are some links for adjustments in services such as WIC, SNAP, and the National School Breakfast and Lunch program.

Adaptations for COVID:

  • FRUIT: Applesauce/fruit cup, canned*/dried/frozen fruit, canned pumpkin
  • VEGGIES: Canned*, frozen, root veggies, pickles/pickled veggies (carrots, green beans, red cabbage, sauerkraut), canned or jarred artichokes, jarred roasted red peppers, canned tomatoes
  • PROTEINS: Canned/dried beans, deli meat, frozen chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, tofu; canned tuna; nuts, peanut or nut butters, dried meats (i.e. meat sticks or jerky), cheese ; frozen edamame or lentils, hummus, Palmalat or UHT-treated cow’s mik, shelf-stable soy milk, dried milk
  • STARCHES: Rice, pasta, quinoa, bread, potatoes, packaged/boxed stuffing
  • FATS: olives, nuts, seeds, olive or canola oils, fish (canned or frozen), nuts as above, avocado/guacamole

For tips on buying frozen and canned produce, click here.

Breakfast Ideas:

  • Oatmeal with flax, nuts, fresh/frozen-thawed/dried fruit
  • Smoothies with fruit/greens (spinach or kale), chia seeds
  • Egg and low-fat cheddar cheese on whole wheat English muffin
  • PB Toast-add sliced bananas or raisins
  • Banana or Pumpkin bread/muffins made with whole wheat flour, flax seed, and walnuts
  • Pancakes (boxed or homemade) with fruit compote (frozen berries-heated with a little water and honey or agave), frozen sausage (ckn, pork, veggie)
  • Cold cereal with fresh or dried fruit
  • “Green Eggs and Ham” (add spinach and chopped ham to scrambled egg and cheese)
  • Veggie quiche (use frozen pie crusts, defrost frozen broccoli/spinach/kale, canned mushrooms)
  • Hard boiled eggs and whole wheat toast and dried apricots
  • Cottage cheese with cinnamon and diced pear

Entrees/Items for Lunch or Dinner:

  • Tuna noodle casserole (tuna, cream of mushroom, canned/frozen peas and/or carrots, pasta)
  • Rice and beans
  • Chicken, tofu, or Veggie* stir-fry using frozen veggies (carrots, cauliflower, broccoli), canned water chestnuts, mushrooms; serve with canned pineapple, cooked rice . *Top with cashews for crunch and/or extra protein
  • Canned or homemade Baked beans and turkey kielbasa
  • English muffin or French bread pizza-top with veggies, turkey pepperoni or Hawaiian (canned pineapple and ham)
  • Black bean (canned) and sweet potato burritos
  • Shepherd’s Pie (ground meat/turkey/veggie crumbles, canned/frozen corn, instant or homemade mashed potatoes)
  • Tacos with beef/chicken/beans, salsa, shredded 2% Mexican blend cheese, guacamole, olives
  • Homemade nuggets and fries (cut up white or sweet potatoes, toss with canola oil, S &P)
  • Bean-based and/or chicken quesadillas


  • Chili (ckn, beef and/or canned or dried bean-based, canned tomatoes, canned/frozen corn) topped with cheese, sour cream/plain Greek yogurt; serve with brown rice, tortilla chips or corn bread (from box or homemade)
  • Beef stew (stewed meat, carrots, potatoes, onions, canned mushrooms)
  • Minestrone (pasta, beans, frozen or canned veggies) and grilled cheese
  • Split pea (ham optional) soup and crackers
  • Beef (frozen stewed meat) and barley soup

For recipe ideas, check out www.eatright.org


  • HBE and fruit cup
  • Olives and cheese plate
  • Nuts and dried fruit/trail mix
  • Nuts/seeds with raisins and dry cereal
  • Apples with PB or low-fat cheese
  • Ham or turkey with cheese roll-ups/pin wheels
  • Oatmeal, peanut butter or pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (homemade with whole wheat flour and ground flax seed)
  • Carrots with hummus
  • Popcorn (you have the time-try making homemade!) If you do not have an electric popper, or do not want to use the stove, add ½ cup kernels to brown lunch bag, fold and seal bag with tape. Shake kernels flat-place in microwave for 2-3 minutes.  Viola!  Air-popped popcorn.
  • Dried seaweed and turkey/beef/pork jerky

Take out Guidelines

At this time, there is no evidence to suggest COVID-19 is being transmitted via food If you can afford it, purchasing take out is a great way to support local business and ease the stress of purchasing food and meal preparation for you at this time.  Cornovirus does not live well on foods-but it can live on the containers/wrappers from human contact.  Take care to wash your hands after you remove food from containers and wrappers before eating. Place food on clean serving wear (plate, bowl) for consumption/serving. For ideas of what to choose when taking out, please see this link from the American Academy of Dietetics, Covid Nutrition Resources:

  • Hand washing
  • Choosing healthful take-out and delivery meals

Shopping Guidelines-Keeping Your Family Safe

Be sure to purchase long-lasting produce, as well as your family’s favorites.  Stagger your produce so that you eat the most perishable items first such as berries, lettuces, grapes, cucumbers, bananas and asparagus.  Citrus, avocados, apples, pears, beets, celery, kale, cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, and turnips can last a bit longer.  The real stars that will do the best long-term are potatoes-sweet and white, winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.), onions, garlic, carrots, and parsnips.  Consider storing these in cool, dry, dark space i.e. cooler in garage.

For more information about the below topics, please check out and the Academy’s  Covid Nutrition Resources

  • Opportunities to make the best of time at home: family meals, get kids cooking
  • Buying groceries during quarantine

*Click here for a video on shopping during this pandemic.

Other resources that may be helpful


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by | April 14, 2020 · 4:28 pm

10 Tips for Treating Yourself Without Overindulging

This is a guest blog by one of our amazing dietitians Narmin Virani.  Enjoy her “just in time” tips this week:

With the holiday season upon us, being around sweets and treats is inevitable.  Don’t let this stress you out though.  Anxiety and fear around food and eating only keep you from relaxing and eating mindfully.  And when you’re not eating mindfully, you don’t enjoy the food, and don’t feel satisfied, which ironically makes you want more.  Relax!!  And try these simple tips for indulging without over-indulging.  Oh, and don’t take my word!  Try out these tips curiously, as an experiment, rather than “dietitian’s orders”, and see for yourself if they work, to reduce cravings and increase satisfaction!


  • Treat yourself on an empty stomach. Intense hunger = eating fast and eating too much.  Save a treat for the end of a meal when you’re comfortably full
  • Skip meals or snacks. Skipped meal = low blood glucose levels.  Guess what our brain asks us to eat when our blood sugar level is low, to keep us from fainting….? Have a shake if not hungry or too busy.
  • Save your treats for the end of the day. Fatigue is a trigger for overeating, as the part of the brain responsible for impulse-control starts fading toward the end of the day, and the auto-pilot part of the brain takes over
  • Deprive yourself of your favorite treats for days or weeks. When does a food become a “trigger food” or cause you to eat too much? When you haven’t had it for days, and know you won’t be having it for days.
  • Categorize foods as “good foods” and “bad/forbidden foods”. When you define success as “not eating X/Y/Z food”, then eating even a little of these foods makes you feel like you failed, leading to an unhealthy relationship with that food.


  • Eat small, frequent meals, every 3-4 hours, and don’t eat in between. This keeps blood glucose levels from crashing, which reduces cravings.  Have a shake if not hungry, or out and about.
  • Include some protein at every meal and snack – this also prevents blood glucose levels from spiking and crashing, by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates, which reduces cravings. Remember the 3 craving busters – protein, fiber, and small amounts of fat at every meal and snack.
  • Include treats on a regular basis. If you give yourself a small amount of your favorite treats on a regular basis, its easier to tell yourself when you’re craving a second helping, “I can have some tomorrow, and the day after.”
  • Include your favorite treats in small amounts on a regular basis, along with some protein to keep the carbohydrates from causing cravings later in the day. For example – a 100 calorie bag of chips or cookies or pre-portioned ice-cream sandwich or bread, along with a piece of cheese, or some yogurt, or ¼ cup nuts.  You can have this sort of “balanced snack” everyday if you wish, as part of your 5 small meals a day.
  • Eat slowly and mindfully when treating yourself, and generally. Engaging all 5 senses helps you maximize satisfaction from every single bite.  Try to avoid multitasking when eating.
  • Stay hydrated. Thirst can get mistaken for hunger or cravings.  Especially make sure you’ve had a glass of water before you treat yourself
  • Engage in activities that you enjoy on a regular basis: Sweets and treats give us a dopamine rush and hence feel rewarding, but so do hobbies, socializing, exercise that you enjoy, meditation, and making a difference to others. The more circulating dopamine you have in your system, the less pleasurable food will feel.
  • Know the calories in your favorite treats. That way you can indulge in just the right amount, as often as you want, without any guilt.  And when you eat mindfully, just a few bites might be enough.

-Narmin Virani, RD, LDN

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by | November 21, 2016 · 8:02 pm

“Carbs” Clarfied by our own Anna Polucha, RD

Confused about carbs?

Check out this video by our own Anna Polucha, RD on carbohydrates.

If you still have questions, submit it in the comments section.

Keep Moving, Be Well,



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by | April 21, 2016 · 6:18 pm

Follow-up After Weight Loss Surgery

roadWeight loss is a journey. And bariatric surgery is a milestone in that journey. Surgery marks a whole new chapter, a beginning of a new journey within that weight loss journey. Sure, it’s a faster, smoother ride after, than before surgery. It’s like getting onto a highway after driving for miles on bumpy, traffic light-filled roads. The appetite restriction makes it much easier to feel full with smaller meals. The quick weight loss in the initial months after surgery opens up a whole new world of possibilities for exercise. With your joints carrying less weight than before, moving becomes much less painful, and the increase in physical activity leads to further weight loss.

But even highways can be fraught with traffic jams and lane closures at times. The journey after surgery may be easier than before, but no one said it would be perfect. The stomach is an elastic bag, after all. And everyone is different. Some people experience appetite restriction for a longer time than others. Different people experience different levels of “hunger” at different points during their journey.

• Not eating 6 small meals a day, and sometimes skipping a few of those small meals, is one factor that can slow down weight loss, as it can lead to intense hunger, which can lead to eating fast and too much, which, in turn, can lead to stretching of the stomach. Skipping meals can also slow down the metabolism and cause weight re-gain.
• Not getting enough protein can be another factor, as protein helps with feelings of fullness and with preserving muscle mass that boosts metabolism.
• Usually consuming too little protein can lead to consuming too many carbohydrates – starchy foods such as bread, crackers, rice, etc. – which can cause weight re-gain. Starches are not only higher in calories, they are also notorious for causing “cravings,” as they spike blood sugar levels, sending hunger signals to the brain.
• Sometimes people can get off track with exercise, especially during the winter months. And, after not moving for a few days or weeks, they lose all motivation to get back on track because they have feelings of guilt and “failure.”

None of these things are easy – eating 6 small meals, getting enough protein, watching the carbs, exercising regularly. They take a lot of planning, time and effort. And, it is only natural to get off track with them after surgery, just as it is pre-surgery. Yet, a lot of people mistakenly think that once they have had surgery, there are “no room for mistakes.” People think, “I have invested a lot in surgery, I better not get off track ever again.” But holding yourself to such high standards, putting that kind of pressure on yourself, can actually backfire because it is self-defeating and leads to discouragement. Humans are not perfect, and neither is life. Even after surgery, you will still have good days and bad days, holidays and sick days, stressful days and vacations.

If you start the journey thinking “I cannot afford to fail,” then if things do go wrong, you are bound to chalk it up to “your fault” instead of examining what led to it.
Sometimes we spend so much energy beating ourselves up that we don’t see the complete picture, we don’t focus on the things that led to the lapse – some of which could well be out of our control.

For example, overeating could be the result of not drinking enough liquids or skipping meals, but we get too caught up thinking, “oh no, I’m back to my old ways” instead of back-tracking to see what led to it. Not exercising for a week or two could lead to a loss of motivation – but only if you had assumed in the first place that you were supposed to be perfect and not miss a single day.

Moral of the story? Success with weight loss isn’t defined by how many weeks, months, or years you can go without breaking down and indulging, overeating or not exercising. Rather, it is defined by how soon you can get back on track after a day, week, month, or even year of being off track. It is never too late to get back on track – ever. And the secret to getting back on track as soon as possible is having a curious, compassionate, non-judgmental attitude towards yourself. “It’s okay.” “I’m only human.” “What led to that?” “What can I do differently next time?” “What’s the lesson here?” This is the right way to talk to yourself, instead of “I’m so lazy” or “I failed” or “I’m back to my old ways.” Don’t forget about all of the pounds you lost before you start focusing on the pounds you gained.

Of course, all this is easier said than done. We humans are hard-wired to be our own worst critics. It is so much easier to offer hope and empathy to our friends than to ourselves! That’s precisely why you need the objective, non-judgmental perspective of your provider. You could be unnecessarily scolding yourself when all you needed to do was make some small changes to your meal or exercise routine. You could be avoiding a follow-up visit with your doctor or dietitian because you are thinking, “How can I face them after having gained this weight?” when in reality, you are the only one judging yourself.

Here’s another reason to stay in touch with your surgeon, dietitian and exercise physiologist:
• Your nutritional needs – calories, vitamins, etc. can change through the years after surgery based on your medical conditions, deficiencies, and general health status.
• Your exercise plan, too, can need alterations based on your fitness level.

It is difficult to try guessing these changes yourself. Regular appointments and blood tests make it so much easier to always have an accurate sense of your needs and to make it possible to update your diet and exercise plan at regular intervals. So, regular check-ins with your healthcare providers are extremely important for permanent weight loss success after bariatric surgery.

Remember, no one said that weight loss is supposed to be easy after surgery forever, or that you are expected to be 100% prefect with eating healthy and with exercise. It is still a journey with traffic jams and bumps in the road. Support makes that journey easier, whether it is from your family and friends or from your professional and compassionate healthcare providers.

Special Thanks to Narmin Virani RD for writing, Kayla Scally NP for editing, and Robin Mason NP for reviewing this blog.  

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.


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Filed under Life After Weight Loss Surgery, Medical

New Series for Patients After Weight Loss Surgery

Please join us for our new series starting November 5th 2015:
“Fresh Meal Ideas To Help You Stay On Track”
• Food tasting sessions
• Quick, healthy recipes and snack ideas
• Smart shopping tips
• Tips for eating out
• Cooking demos
• Easy calorie-counting
• Healthy potlucks

*Reminder: this is for patients who have already had weight loss surgery.

1ST Thursday of every month, 4-5 pm
At the Lazare / Hiatt Auditorium (or other location on University Campus)
(Please call, or stop by the Weight Center to confirm: 774-443-3886)
• November 5 2015
• December 3 2015
• January 7 2016
• February 4 2016
• March 5 2016
• April 7 2016
• May 5 2016
• June 2 2016
• July 7 2016

1 Comment

by | September 17, 2015 · 6:03 pm