The quarantine has given us unfettered, 24-hour access to the fridge and pantry—not to mention the liquor cabinet. While at-home workouts have been deemed an acceptable way to keep the quarantine gains off (and to ease ourselves of the anxieties brought about by the pandemic), the idea of dieting is suddenly fraught.
With basic necessities such as food getting harder to come by for a lot of Filipinos, dieting now almost feels like a privilege in the midst of a pandemic. This was a realization that hit me hard one Sunday over lunch.
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One of my personal goals for 2020 was to lose weight and to be in my best shape yet (#NipisKinis). When quarantine was announced last March, I was halfway through a diet plan and within arms reach of my target weight. Though Miss Rona’s entry into the picture was a curveball nobody expected, I was already knee-deep in my weight loss journey to let anything get in the way of my plans.
At the height of the ECQ, when access to the grocery and deliveries was nil, I found myself in the kitchen more often. Without falling into the trap of baking bread and sipping on Dalgona coffee, I spent my time finding ways to turn pantry staples into dishes that could fit my dietary restrictions. As someone who loves food and a challenge, these were definitely fun times, but the moment quarantine measures eased up, I found myself going back to old habits. Soon enough, I was back to shelling out close to PHP 400 for a carton of milk and PHP 300 for a 250ml jar peanut butter.
It all seemed pretty normal to me until someone from our household made a comment while I was prepping lunch: “Ang mahal naman ng kinakain mo. PHP 395 para sa maliit na pizza?”
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Pre-COVID, I would have just brushed off similar comments with responses that ranged from “it’s organic,” “it’s gluten free,” “it’s keto.” But when you’re able to make do with pantry staples and basic ingredients for the entirety of the lockdown and still manage to lose weight just as I did, it gets harder to defend food choices that you can obviously do without.
There’s no denying that a healthy lifestyle does come with a price, what with organic and alternative food choices being sold at higher price points than what a regular grocery would offer. While it’s easy enough to argue that this also comes hand in hand with preferences, tastes, and legitimate health concerns, expensive options are not the end-all and be-all of diets. It’s funny how it took a quarantine for me to realize this myself.
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Though it’s always best to consult with a licensed nutritionist or your doctor for diet and meal plans, my quarantine eating journey has helped me put together a simple checklist of things to consider when purchasing food and ingredients for my diet.
- Source produce form local farms. Instead of paying exorbitant prices for your organic greens, fruits, and even meats from big name groceries, consider purchasing directly from farms that have begun offering delivery services to keep their business afloat.
- Consider a diet that works for you. Unless it’s a legitimate health concern, there’s no reason to jump on the bandwagon of the latest superfood trend.
- Go homemade. You have all the time in the world so this would be a good time to experiment in the kitchen. Start small with things like homemade granola, sauces or dips—not only are they made with pantry essentials, making them at home is a great way to manage sugar and sodium levels.
- Don’t shop based on brand name. Find a happy medium between satisfying taste preferences and budget by trying out different brands of a particular product. Just because it’s trending on social media doesn’t mean it’s the best one for you.
- Eat mindfully. Don’t be afraid to give in to cravings from time to time. Sometimes you end up spending and eating more to satisfy a particular taste or food craving.
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Photo courtesy of Ria Gamboa