Healthy Habits Formed During the Pandemic Provide Benefits Moving Forward, Experts Say


Stephanie Thieman, a busy professional and mom from Florida, started working from home at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the lockdowns, her family often went out to eat in the evenings, as an alternative to cooking. However, as restaurants shut down, and with more time on their hands, the Thiemans decided to create a new, healthier routine.

“My husband and I saw this as an opportunity to teach our son about the importance of adopting healthy lifestyle habits. We began growing food from our garden and cooking meals at home,” said Thieman. “We even purchased a subscription food box service for the whole family. We spent a lot of time cooking and eating plant-based meals together.”

The combination of home-grown vegetables from the garden and their meal subscription helped Stephanie’s husband lose nearly 50 pounds.

“Just working toward losing a little weight, a pound or two, starts to decrease inflammation and your risk of a bad reaction from COVID-19,” said George Guthrie, MD, author of Eat Plants Feel Whole and a board-certified physician at AdventHealth who specializes in lifestyle medicine.

The human body needs the right amount of nutrients and physical activity to fight off infection, which has never been more important than in the last year. Physical and mental health can improve when families cook and eat meals together, a practice not as common in homes before the pandemic, said Dr. Guthrie.

Cooking together wasn’t the only healthy change the Thiemans made. Like many families during the pandemic, they began spending more time outside being active. They started going on walks together around the neighborhood and even bought kayaks to enjoy active family time on the weekends.

In fact, a study from the Outdoor Foundation shows participation in outdoor activities increased significantly in 2020. Biking, day hiking, running, and other outdoor activities were considered some of the safest activities during the pandemic.

Over a year later, about 55 percent of the U.S. population over age 12 are fully vaccinated, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Restaurants have begun filling to capacity once again, and social gatherings are taking place, both outdoors and indoors.

While there are many reasons to celebrate newfound normalcy, intentionality around healthful living throughout the pandemic has transformed the ways families spend time together.

“Families are starting to realize the importance of eating meals together,” said Sherri Flynt, registered dietician and nutritional excellence manager at AdventHealth’s Center for Nutritional Excellence. “That is one thing I always talk about with my patients. Eating together as a family is beneficial for a child’s health.”

While Stephanie and her husband are now fully vaccinated, she believes her family will continue these healthier habits, even as life returns to normal. “We really changed our lifestyle for the better when we had extra time at home to cook and invest in our family time. I don’t anticipate that will change anytime soon.”

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