A Nutritionist Explains How a Vegan Diet Can Help You Avoid the “Quarantine 15”

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As many across the country stay at home virtually 24/7 for weeks and counting, the phrase “Quarantine 15,” is growing in popularity (and admittedly, not as fun-sounding as a “quarantini”). Happily, a well-balanced, plant-based diet can help ensure you fuel your body with nourishment and avoid pound creepage to boot. During this time of uncertainty, a vegan diet may be more beneficial to both your body, mind, soul, and energy levels than ever.

“The lack of agency of over healthy food choices, plus the lack of structure around meals, decreased movement, low vitamin D levels, for some, no human touch as well as consistent emotional stress triggering inflammation, we are gaining weight as a means to soothe ourselves on a conscious and subconscious level,” explains Alana Kessler MS, RD, of the “quarantine 15.”

And it’s safe to say that Kessler knows a thing or two about wellness. In addition to being a registered dietitian, she is also a yoga and meditation teacher, Ayurveda specialist, and the founder of the NYC-based fully integrated mind, body, and spirit urban sanctuary, Be Well by AK.

What makes a whole foods-based, vegan diet so beneficial right now comes down to the power of plants: “Eating plant based foods are amazing for these times because they support the natural movement and pharmacy of the body in the best ways. Fiber from ancient grains helps with digestion and eliminating toxins while regulating blood sugar. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants, which impact the immune system and  inflammatory response,” says Kessler. “Plant-based proteins like legumes and nuts / seeds offer essential amino acids and omegas that regulate the nervous system and help to dispense the hormones needed to keep us calm, grounded, and receptive to the uncertainty of the times with more ease,” she adds.

So what can we do if we find ourselves overeating or straying from our healthy eating routine during these trying times? “[My first tip] is to feel into the experience and name the emotion that arises around weight gain,” she explains. “Making emotions conscious is actually the first and most important step to unburdening weight and letting the body know it is safe and does not need to hold on or regulate itself with food,” she continues.

Courtesy Alana Kessler MS, RD.

“My second tip is to forgive yourself and make one easy and available commitment towards your health at night for the next day. Do not set up goals for the week or task yourself with rules,” advises Kessler. “The idea is to find a genuine enthusiasm around the healthy commitment so that you feel excited to do it the next day. Maybe you will want to continue with that one the next day and maybe not, but you will begin to build a new resource that reinforces positive feedback around wellness.”

Another savvy piece of advice to keep in mind amidst quarantine life is the importance of still making sure you’re eating your greens right now. “As best as you can, try to get six-to-eight servings of dark green leafy vegetables in a day. They are magic. Have about two-thirds of them prepared warm—steamed or sautéed,” offers Kessler. Don’t sweat too much if they’re fresh or frozen, both are loaded with plenty of nutrition. On that note, we think this spinach and chickpea soup is just what the doctor, ahem, nutritionist called for. Bon Appétit!

Perri O. Blumberg