For some people, eating their way through the coronavirus crisis might be a way to feel good or respond to negative emotions and stress. But stress eating, as this behavior is more commonly known, can be detrimental to overall health. It can result in overeating, which can lead to serious issues such as obesity, hypertension and chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer. 

Overeating might be an effect of the social isolation and restriction many are experiencing right now, whether physical, (not being able to go out) or emotional (not being able to socialize). Mindless eating can then be a way to distract from the negativities. But there is a way to enjoy eating without going overboard. Think about your favorite restaurant: How do they execute the experience while making sure the food meets nutritional requirements?

PORTION CONTROL

Portion control is simply determining the amount of calories in each meal to moderate your diet. This includes limiting calorie consumption per meal to avoid overeating. 

Restaurants do this to track how much food goes on each plate. It’s a way to control the cost of ingredients and ensure quality and consistency. It also helps reduce food waste since it follows the standard size of a meal, which is around 667 calories according to US Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines.

But the recommendation for Filipino consumers is the Department of Health’s Pinggang Pinoy, a properly portioned food plate model that meets daily nutrient requirements. There’s a food guide designed for different age groups, from kids ages three to 12 all the way up to the elderly 60 years old and above. There is also a food guide for pregnant and lactating women. 

Restaurants implement portion control to track how much food goes on each plate. It’s a way to control the cost of ingredients, ensure quality and consistency, and help reduce food waste.

CHECK NUTRITION LABELS AND CONTENT

Some fast food chains in the US include calorie counts on their menu. McDonald’s, for one, even has an online nutrition calculator so customers can compute their meal’s total number of calories. This is in compliance with the US Food and Drug Administration’s mandate that menus should include calorie labels so customers can make informed choices.

In the Philippines, Senate Bill No. 854 or the “Nutritional Information Disclosure Act” is currently in the works. The bill aims to address health problems such as obesity and other dietary issues by requiring restaurants to incorporate nutritional information on their menu. 

While it’s still pending, a good habit to develop now is to check nutritional labels. According to the nutrition facts label found on most food packages, 2,000 calories per day per person is the standard caloric measure for a person’s consumption. Applying this rule to the Pinggang Pinoy guide, nutritionists recommend this sample meal:

  • Go – 160 grams  or one cup of rice 
  • Glow (vegetables) – 135 grams of guisadong monggo
  • Glow (fruits) – one lakatan banana
  • Grow – 60 grams pan fried galunggong
  • Beverage – one tall glass of water

*This is based on 2,000 calories per day and corresponds to one meal.

STRATEGIC FOOD STOCK

Restaurants ensure that they have enough stocks in order to keep serving customers. This should also be the case at home. In restocking the pantry, make sure there are healthy options. Include fresh fruits, vegetables and root crops in your meals, too, and practice clean eating at least once a day. 

Studies show that dining with company can influence meal decisions and can make you eat healthier. This is called social modeling, or mimicking other people’s behavior by observing them.

TRY SOCIAL (OR VIRTUAL) DINING 

While it’s true that eating with company makes you eat more, studies also show that eating alone can make your eating patterns “irregular, informal and individualized,” which can lead to health problems like obesity. According to a 2017 study in the journal Appetite, those who eat alone resort to less healthier food. 

An easy solution? Dine together with family as they play a vital role in, for example, a child’s growth and development. Children tend to eat healthier meals and grow into more responsible adults compared to families who eat separately. If you live alone, consider a virtual dinner with friends since studies show that “social modeling” (or imitating habits) can impact eating decisions. So, for example, one of your friends orders a healthy meal, you are more likely to be persuaded to eat meal, too. 

Knowing what you eat (and how you eat especially in tough times like this) can boost your immune system and help fight the virus from spreading. Your body will thank you for developing healthy habits that will be beneficial not only today but even after the pandemic ends.

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