March 27, 2020

Tips on Navigating Nutrition during Lockdown + a Protein Power Ball recipe

by Lauren Hoover, MS RD

Are you worried about gaining weight or falling “off track” during this lockdown/social distancing period brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak? Many people are developing feelings of anxiety around food because they are fearful that eating the wrong thing or too much will cause a downward spiral, especially since many fitness routines have been altered in some capacity. There is no need to fear food! In a time when immune function is also a priority, the last thing we want to do is crash diet and/or restrict intake due to fear of gaining weight, instead,  let’s focus on nourishing and fueling your body with what it needs.

During this uncertain time, our Dietitians’ nutrition guidelines are not vastly different than any other time. In order to best fuel our bodies and minds, while also supporting immune function, we continue to focus on creating balanced, nutrient-dense meals that are consistent and timed according to hunger and fullness (our body’s way of telling us how much food we need). Instead of hyper focusing on stockpiling as many canned and boxed items as you can, remember to include all the food groups and options available at the grocery store. Stress can also wear down the immune system, so take away the stress of grocery shopping during these times by following these few basic principles on how to best “stock your pantry:”

  • Don’t forget about the perishable foods – fruits, vegetables, lean animal proteins, and dairy
    • Many groceries are very well stocked in these items while the canned goods aisles are looking sparse. While these items do tend to spoil quicker, you can always freeze vegetables and fruits that are going bad.
    • Alternatively, you can purchase frozen fruits and vegetables – they are just as nutritious as their fresh versions.
    • Lean animal proteins can be frozen as well.
    • If you need to return to the grocery store to replenish these items, try going at off-peak times to avoid crowds, or utilize the grocery delivery services that are available like Instacart or Amazon Fresh
  • When choosing non-perishable foods, aim for nutrient-density and variety.
    • Beans and lentils are a great source of fiber and plant-based protein
    • Canned tuna and chicken are easy sources of protein
    • Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal etc. provide you with fiber and many other micronutrients
    • Canned fruits and vegetables are also a fine alternative to fresh versions – choose low sodium for vegetables and canned fruits packed in water/fruit juice.
    • Protein powders and protein bars are also another easy way to meet your protein needs, especially if whole food sources start to run low.

Above all, remember that tuning into your hunger and fullness cues, is the best and most reliable strategy during these times of stress and uncertainty. As many of us are working from home, finding ourselves less busy, or feeling more distracted than we are used to, this change in routine can make it more difficult to eat in our typical pattern. Last week, SHIFT’s Instagram posted a few tips on how to navigate eating while working from home:

Navigating Healthy Eating

  • Try your best to stick to your typical eating pattern. It might be helpful to put a reminder on your calendar to check in with your hunger level during these times. It could also be helpful to loosely plan your meals out ahead of time, so you have a sense of routine as you head into the day. Giving your body the nutrition it needs by fueling consistently throughout the day can 1) prevent you from being too hungry heading into a meal, 2) make it easier to pay attention to your hunger/fullness cues, and 3) decrease cravings.
  • Separate work from food. When you bring work into your home, you are also bringing a distraction. During mealtimes, try to put your work aside and allow yourself to be fully present during the meal. Focus on eating slowly so that you can know when you reach your satiated point.
  • Inquire about emotional eating. Often when we are stressed and anxious, many of us turn to food as a source of comfort. If this is you, try to check in with your body before eating. Ask yourself, “Am I physically hungry? Or is this feeling actually stress, anxiety, fear, boredom, etc.?” If you find yourself grazing in response to these emotions, explore a non-food alternative as a coping method. Do a quick 5-minute workout burst, read a favorite book, listen to a podcast, go for a walk, call a friend, etc.

At SHIFT, we understand these times are stressful and can be difficult to navigate. We want you to keep your health goals in mind, but more importantly, we want you to prioritize your own health and safety. Your SHIFT family is working to provide you with resources to assist you in your fitness, nutrition, medical and recovery needs. We are in this together.

Included below is a SHIFT Team recipe favorite – Protein Power Balls. They take no more than 15 minutes to make and are made up of common items you likely already have in your pantry. Above all, they contain a generous dose of healthy fat, lean protein, and fiber. Perfect for an afternoon snack, quick breakfast, or post-workout fuel (pair with a fruit to complete the Refuel snack).


Protein Power Balls

Makes 24 protein balls

Ingredient List

5 scoops of protein powder

¼ cup flax meal

¾ cup natural peanut butter

1 cup rolled oats

4 T. honey

¼ cup chia seeds

1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

¼ cup+ liquid of choice (unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, 1% milk, etc.)


  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with hands. Scoop and roll into 24 golf-sized protein balls. Store in refrigerator.

Nutrition Breakdown*

Nutrient Amount per serving

(2 Protein Power Balls)


Energy 230 calories
Total Fat 12 grams
     (Saturated Fat) 2 grams
Total Carbohydrates 19 grams
     (Dietary Fiber) 4 grams
     (Sugar) 9 grams
Protein 14 grams

*Total calories and grams of protein will vary based on brand of protein powder used.


american heart month, heart health, Recipe of the month

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