Whatever recovery looks like once the novel coronavirus pandemic eases and we begin to establish a new normal, we should all agree that things will be different. Our behaviors and rituals will have changed. Priorities will change as a nation, as they have in the aftermath of other major catastrophic events in our history. A new norm for public safety is sure to follow. In the aftermath of 9/11, the national focus shifted to counterterrorism. As others have expressed, my hope is that after COVID-19, there will be a new focus on public health. Not just on preventive treatments and measures but also on wellness — on the healing power of being in and maintaining good health.
We have been reminded repeatedly that the simple act of adopting a healthy lifestyle can stave off chronic disease. According to a Harvard University-led study published in January, when compared with those who didn’t follow any healthy lifestyle habits, those who followed four or five healthy habits bought themselves an additional decade of disease-free living. The study involved more than 30 years’ worth of health data from 111,000 people who were free of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease at age 50. The elements of their healthy lifestyle should not be surprising to anyone. They didn’t smoke, limited their alcohol intake, ate a healthy diet, maintained a healthy weight and exercised at least 30 minutes per day.
Consuming the best foods for your body can prolong your life and make you feel better. As our “busy lives” have moved into slow motion, surely there is now ample time to adopt at least a few of these healthy eating behaviors. If you are not doing this already, do it as a little experiment.
Picture how things were before the pandemic swept the globe. Americans (and others) just couldn’t get enough fast food. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a survey compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics shows that between 2013 and 2016, more than 1 in 3 adults on a given day consume fast food.
Here’s the thing about traditional fast food: It is known to affect your body in negative ways. As pointed out in a recent report by former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration David Kessler, fast food hurts your cardiovascular system because excess carbohydrates turn to sugar in your bloodstream. As a result, your blood sugar levels spike, which can lead to the development of diabetes. Fast food also contains excessive sodium and can cause kidney disease, heart failure and high blood pressure.
As noted in an article posted on the career advice website The Ladders, the average American consumes over 1,000 calories of unhealthy fast carbohydrates and sugars every day, plus an additional 500 from the fats and oils added to many franchise fast foods.
Food microbiologist at Rutgers University Donald Schaffner in a recent NPR interview said that in our new isolation, we now have the opportunity to institute these healthy habits. And please don’t reduce your consumption of fresh fruit or vegetables. “There’s just no evidence that these foods can transmit the virus or can cause COVID-19. Produce offers valuable nutrients that are especially important in these stressful times,” Schaffner says.
Here’s the rub to this cautionary advice: Though restaurants have been shut down and many driven out of business, it is very likely that your favorite fast-food chains have remained open during the pandemic. And, according to initial reports, business is booming. Fast-food restaurants have stayed open with drive-thru options because the Department of Homeland Security has deemed food service workers “essential”.
This directive also includes local restaurants that choose to remain open for delivery and takeout. If you haven’t explored this option already, my guess is that some of these local establishments might offer more healthy food than a fast food drive-thru.
A couple of weeks ago, I floated the idea of using the time we have to grow backyard or patio victory gardens as a healthy act of community resilience during troubling and challenging times, similar to homefront efforts during World War II. This idea seems to be taking hold and starting to grow.
As recently reported by News Center Maine, seed sales are going through the roof throughout the state. Seed supply companies like Johnny’s Selected Seeds of Portland, Maine, report a major spike in seed sales. Johnny’s Selected Seeds’ online orders are up 300%, and half of those orders, the company says, are from new customers. Garden centers are delivering or doing curbside pick-up to meet the demand.
“One of the positive spins of COVID-19 is the response from the community, and the need for folks to get out there and garden,” says Kenya Fredie, program supervisor of P-Patch community gardens in Seattle, tells nonprofit online news service Crosscut. Gabriel Maki, owner of Seattle’s Swanson’s Nursery, also has seen an unprecedented increase in home seed deliveries and drive-up purchases of edible plants — as much as 40% in the past few weeks.
Petitti’s Garden Center of Avon, Ohio, is offering resources for people to build a raised bed “victory garden” during the coronavirus pandemic, including garden ideas, guides and how-to videos.
“There are a lot of practical reasons to be involved with gardening right now,” Annie Dorsey, director of marketing for Petitti’s tells Cleveland.com, “and we are pleased to let the community know we are here for them.” As a specialty item for victory garden enthusiasts, Petitti’s is offering what it calls the “salad bowl.” It includes seeds, herbs and varieties of lettuce that can be grown in round bowls and harvested daily for dinner. A refreshing idea indeed.