What a Global Pandemic has Taught Us About Our Diets & Lifestyle

By: Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD

This article was originally published in PQ 44.

As we work our way through year two of the global pandemic, people are considering what our “new normal” might be, knowing that a lot has changed. The past 18+ months have helped us gain perspective on the things that matter most – family, friends and good health. Here are four pandemic habits worth keeping as we move forward.
Online Food Shopping 
Social distancing, a key characteristic of pandemic life, encouraged people to grocery shop online. Being able to save time in return for small delivery fees or tips, is a trade many consumers will gladly make over in-person shopping. According to the 2021 International Food Information Council 2021 Food & Health Survey, 42% of Americans now report shopping online at least monthly for groceries with 20% shopping at least once a week.
More Home Cooking 
People began cooking more dining out less often to avoid crowds or because restaurants were closed. In addition to regular meals, some consumers adopted more challenging culinary skills, such as bread baking, perfecting their peanut sauce or making pasta from scratch. Bonus: when we choose nutritious ingredients, homecooked meals tend to have less fat, sugar and salt, and may include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These also present the perfect opportunity to incorporate more plant-based proteins into meals like in the National Peanut Board’s build your own power bowl. All of this is a recipe for a healthier diet.
Supporting Local Restaurants & Small Businesses 
While online food shopping was a necessity, consumers also began turning to small businesses to help meet their needs with an eye toward supporting their local community by buying staples from smaller producers and getting takeout at their favorite restaurant. Dining out is part of our social experiences and helps full-time working parents keep their family fed, which became especially important when parents also became full-time home-schooling parents. The most prolific local shoppers tend to be millennials and Gen X consumers.
A Focus on Staying Well 
As people focused on staying well and out of medical facilities, telemedicine became THE way to connect with the doctor for routine and non-emergency care. However, many important preventative screens (e.g., colonoscopies and mammograms) were missed. Because early detection makes a difference, skipped services should be rescheduled ASAP.

Purchases of home gym equipment skyrocketed when gyms closed. Online fitness classes became a vital way for fitness studios to stay connected and the use of fitness apps rose in popularity. Sales of supplements and immune-boosting foods also surged during the pandemic. 
The Big Takeaways
All these things – strategic grocery shopping, cooking healthy meals and staying well – are powerful tools for good health. Regardless of the pandemic, eating a nutrient-rich diet and incorporating regular exercise can help protect us from the much more common causes of death in the U.S. – cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer. As we eagerly move toward “normal,” let’s take time to consider what changes in our diet and lifestyle are worth bringing with us into a better normal. 
Chiquoine, J. (2020, August 11). Staying Healthy at Home: How COVID-19 is Changing the Wellness Industry. https://www.uschamber.com/co/good-company/launch-pad/pandemic-is-changing-wellness-industry.
PR, H. (2021, January 14). America keeps on cooking. America Keeps On Cooking. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/america-keeps-on-cooking-301208005.html.
Martin, K., Kurowski, D., Given, P., Kennedy, K., & Clayton, E. (2021, April 16). The Impact of COVID-19 on the Use of Preventive Health Care. Health Care Cost Institute. https://healthcostinstitute.org/hcci-research/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-use-of-preventive-health-care.
International Food Information Council. 2021 Food & Health Survey. 19 May 2021.
Mint.com. (2021, January 11). Buying Local Statistics for 2021: Survey finds 70% of Americans
shop small. Retrieved from Mint.intuit.com: https://mint.intuit.com/blog/money-etiquette/buying-local-statistics-survey/

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