As a teenager, my friends called my house the “Snack House.” They could always depend on there being Fruit Gushers, Fruit Roll-Ups or various brands of chips in the pantry.
The older I’ve gotten, the less I’ve snacked, but during quarantine I realized that it isn’t because I’m older. It’s because I hadn’t been home as often.
I don’t really snack at work. If anything, I forget to eat half the time. While working at home, it’s a whole different story.
At the beginning of the stay-at-home order, I had the intention to eat foods that are better for my body and cook more meals.
Instead I turned into a snacking monster and ate more to-go food than ever before. I’ll defend the latter because it was mostly to support small, local restaurants.
Needless to say, all the Pilates I had been doing before COVID-19 hit went pretty much down the drain.
My eating habits didn’t change for the better through the last few months. The change I mostly noticed is that time of day didn’t much matter anymore for when I ate a meal. My normal dinner time is 6 p.m., which fluctuated just in the last week from between 5-10:30 p.m.
Full disclosure: If my household eats later than 8:30 p.m. it’s definitely because we’ve been spending hours deciding what we should eat. I live with a bunch of people who hate making decisions, myself included.
I thought a lot of people would have experienced the same food downfall, but after I put a question about food habits on a local Facebook group, the response was split. A few fell into my category of worse eating or cooking habits, and a few had taken the time at home to hone better eating habits.
“I ate a lot of takeout food since we were avoiding grocery stores and wanted to support our restaurants,” Oak Forest resident Rene Braud said. “Good food but bad on the waistline.”
Another local resident said that while many people took the opportunity at home to cook more interesting and complex dishes, she went the opposite direction, making less of a variety than she normally would have. Her one positive cooking change was her 11-year-old becoming responsible for dinner one night a week.
Oak Forest resident Brian Carl said his family had two pillars to live by during the last few months: eating in and eating less.
“Aside from our designated ‘support local restaurants’ night once a week, we have transitioned to two small meals during the day, usually consisting of a piece of toast and then a turkey sandwich with an apple, with a fuller home-cooked meal for dinner,” Carl said. “For essentially the first time in our five years of marriage, we plan our meals in advance, buy groceries based on that plan, instead of impulse, and nibble on the leftovers for lunches and snacks.”
While I realized the change of daytime environment made me reach for random snacks more, Carl realized that he’d been relying too much on restaurants for daily nutrition. The result of his environment change was eating less, eating healthier and losing 15 pounds.
After trying to switch to a vegetarian diet for months before the pandemic, area resident Susan Adkins said the lack of meat and junk food at grocery stores made the transition easier since there was always plenty of fresh vegetables to buy.
“My husband and I both lost weight and his blood pressure meds have been cut in half,” Adkins said.
For Amy Horne, being at home gave her energy to cook more. Now that she’s been back at work for a little over a week, she hasn’t cooked at all.
“Gotta find the energy,” Horne said, “and some easier meals to make.”
While I didn’t end up living out my intentions, it’s made me aware of what I need to change most about my eating habits. It’s not the eating, but the buying. I’ve got to give up my snacks.
And that recognition alone is some good that can come out of an awful situation.
Or as Carl put it: “I seldom view anything as all bad or all good and this is a good example of that. Is the coronavirus a scourge upon humanity? Well, yeah. But it’s also forced a reevaluation for us that will have benefits. Some good, some bad. Feels like progresses regardless of our perception and desires.”