Given the COVID-19 pandemic, our lifestyles and diet behaviors have changed. Particularly now, there is a chance to explore how dietary patterns evolved during the lockdown experience and further, and to use this situation as an opportunity to improve diets towards more sustainable and healthier in the post-COVID-19 era. During these time we have realized that the way and extent to which we consume meat have put human-animal interactions to the limit, allowing cross-species transmission of pathogens, even aggravated by the urban food system environments.
Apart from that, our activities, including food production, are more and more encroaching natural habitats and ecosystems, which is altering climate, landscapes, disrupting the natural cycles of the earth and contributing to biodiversity loss. The past one year has opened people’s eyes to the repercussions of our food habits and hence nutritionists and dieticians have started noticing a few noteworthy food pattern shifts in people amid the pandemic. Some of these food related behavioral changes have the potential to become new habits with long term benefits. Here are a few eating behaviors that may endure beyond the pandemic.
For the first time, some kids now have two parents home for weeknight dinners. In stark contrast, kids of front-line workers may eat more meals away from their parents. Each of these scenarios highlight the importance of eating together when you can. Research has found that eating as a family helps kids have a more healthy relationship with their parents.
Finding time for family meals isn’t always possible or easy, but hopefully people will continue to prioritize eating together whenever they’re able. And remember, it isn’t only dinner that counts. Even eating a quick snack together or family breakfast is valuable.
Youngsters Learning to Cook
Some families are making time to get kids involved in the kitchen. That’s good news, because research shows it leads to healthier eating as an adult. A long-term study found that adolescents who learned to cook in pandemic are aged 18 to 23. Learning to cook can be fascinating for kids but exhausting for overworked parents. Don’t lose heart if it seems every kid but yours can whisk and sauté. Ignite the basics by letting your child arrange simple snacks on a plate. It’s never too little, too early or too late to start giving kids some autonomy in the kitchen.
Eating Organic Food
Nutritionists have spent decades encouraging people to eat plant-based meals. Now suddenly everyone’s stocking up on all kinds of dried beans and lentils. They’re trying tofu and finding out that, with the right recipes, these foods can be delicious.
Alternatives to animal protein benefit the health. This doesn’t mean you need to become vegetarian, but you can start thinking about meat differently. Make it less of a main dish and more like a condiment. For example, instead of grilling a whole pack of chicken breasts for dinner try making vegetable kebabs using smaller or fewer pieces of chicken on the skewers. Or make a colorful dinner salad with grilled salmon crumbled on top. There is likely to be an increase in demand for organic food, vegan, vegetarian and other healthy foods as a result of the pandemic. Coronavirus poses a significant risk to those with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease as well as those who are overweight and obese. The value of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables in the management of these conditions is well documented.
Shift to Local Foods
In the early wave of COVID-19, some grocery shelves went bare while farmers plowed ripe crops into fields. Problems in the food supply chain that have been magnified by the pandemic that have prompted people to seek local sources of food. Sales of local foods has surged and it is hoped that this trend continues long after the pandemic ends and deepens our appreciation for who and what it takes to bring food to our table.
There is nothing like fresh and locally-sourced ingredients to get you started on your journey to a healthier diet. Fresh ingredients are key to keep your palettes off processed foods like canned goods, instant noodles and other unhealthy indulgences. Also, people are trying to stick with fruits and veggies that are grown in or around their immediate area. Not only are they fresher and cheaper but buying them also goes a long way in helping local farmers and vendors. It’s a total win-win situation where consumers get healthier food while getting to support the local economy. A heightened awareness around food safety and a desire for more nutritious food has also increased the demand for eating local.
Nutrition and Mental Health
Eating is one of the most basic ways we take care of ourselves, and disruptions in food and activity routines have people rethinking how they define wellness. Many people are starting to gently investigate their relationships with food and with their bodies during the pandemic. With proper support, they’re creating new plans for eating that include self-compassion as a daily practice.
One example is short daily meditations. People have come home to roost around food in these unprecedented times, discovering new habits and insights about what it means to truly nourish themselves and take pride in both big and small changes put into practice in this regard. One thing is for sure; that with the widespread acceptance that coronavirus originated in an exotic meat market, there has been a massive consumer rethink around food. This shift is impacting the type of food that is consumed, where it is obtained, how and where it is prepared, how it is produced and stored and how it impacts mental health.
Resurgence in Home Cooking
In these times, consumers want food with minimal human touch points. Reports confirm that a large percentage of adults plan to eat at restaurants less often due to COVID-19 concerns. With many restaurants closed and supermarket shelves bare, and with heightened concerns around food safety, home cooking is making a comeback.
This trend is likely to continue for some time, post pandemic, due to hesitation around public gathering. This transition to home cooking could also result in an increase in sales of cooking staples, meal kits and accompaniments to meals.
Ensuring Food Safety
There is currently no evidence that coronavirus is transmitted via food, yet this has not been reflected in consumers’ dining and shopping decisions. These days, grocery shoppers have changed their shopping habits due to fears of catching coronavirus from food. Reports indicate that they are buying less fresh produce in grocery stores and more canned foods due to fears around food safety and want food that is pre-packaged. Even among those who understand that they cannot catch coronavirus from food, there is an elevated fear around food safety that has even extended to home kitchens.
Reduced Demand for Exotic Foods
The seafood market, where coronavirus is thought to have originated was a popular center for wildlife such as snakes, porcupines, deer and raccoon dogs, many of which were slaughtered in front of customers, according to reports. Since the onset of the coronavirus, many wildlife farms have been shut down or quarantined and a strict ban is being implemented on the farming and consumption of exotic animals.
Although there is some disagreement around which animal transferred the virus to humans, it is an accepted fact that outbreaks are more likely when exotic animals from different environments, with viruses that are specific to those environments, are kept in close proximity. This will most certainly translate in decreased demand for exotic animals.
Online Food Delivery on the Rise
Consumers will also want to limit their exposure to crowds for quite some time, which will increase the demand for online purchasing of food, curb side pickups and take-outs. The demand for delivery has increased manifold with coronavirus.
With all these changes, it appears at least for the time being, that the biggest losers in the food business will be restaurants, food stands and vendors, unless they are able to pivot and offer meals with minimal human touch points. Business owners will have to make a conscious effort to meet the needs of the new pandemic mindset. With different levels of community quarantine still in place all over the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are spending more time than ever at home. To lessen the risk of exposure to COVID19, the pandemic has forced everyone to stay home and limit trips to essential errands only. People became inclined to stick to their comfort food and just order food delivery.
Better Meal Planning
There is nothing like good meal planning to ensure that people actually buy healthy ingredients and helps them prepare more nutritious meals. Now, before even people go grocery shopping, they make sure that they already have the meals for the next week or two in mind. They are making an active effort to properly plan meals for themselves and the family.
The internet is a treasure trove of healthy and delicious meals that are waiting to be discovered, so apart from planning their meals and practicing mindful eating, one of the practical ways people are whipping up their eating habits into better shape is to set their meal schedule. Eating at a consistent time each day not only helps them keep their digestive system in top shape but it also improves their overall diet, making them less prone to indulging in unhealthy food like sugary drinks and snacks.
Keeping It Simple
Even if people were one of those people who refused to cook their own meals and just ended up consuming all those instant food and drinks, they have started preparing healthy meals as it isn’t that difficult.
Just doing a quick search for ten minute meals on the internet is helping them discover hundreds, if not thousands of healthy meal ideas that they could prepare in no time. Sticking with simple dishes is easing people into the idea of preparing their own healthy meals which will eventually lead to more elaborate and complex dishes in the long run.
Those who had been eating constantly until they were overly full, or those finding themselves consuming food without really tasting it or those not paying attention to the foods they were eating were consuming food mindlessly. Mindful eating is now instigating people to do the opposite. In essence, mindful eating means being fully attentive to the food as you buy, prepare, serve, and consume it, and people have now started recognizing the same.
Exercise for Health
For those planning on keeping themselves in tip-top shape during the pandemic which everyone really should be doing, then it is best to pair up their diet and newly developed healthy eating habits with exercise.
Preventive healthcare measures like a healthy diet and proper exercise are more important to people now, than ever. People realize now that these can both have huge benefits on their overall health and can be some of the main factors in preventing and fighting disease while preventing other complications that may arise later in life.
In summary, it has been noted that during pandemic people are full of groceries right now and are spending considerably more on groceries. They are preparing their own meals at a much higher rate and are purchasing a wide array of groceries in greater volume, particularly meal-prep staples like eggs, milk, bread, meat, produce, pasta, and rice and other local foods. Individuals are now eating healthier, more than unhealthier junk food. People are consuming more organic food per day and are snacking more but eating less fast food. They are also drinking more water, rather than coffee, soda, and alcohol. People appear to be making both healthy and dietary decisions right now, and it will take time to understand whether this ultimately results in a net gain to personal diets, waistlines, and overall health. But the pandemic is clearly impacting our eating and drinking behavior for good.