Can Coronavirus Restrictions Have a Silver Lining?
There is absolutely nothing good or positive about a world-wide outbreak of a serious disease, just to be clear. And having worked for 23 years in public health I can tell you that this is the most serious threat I have seen, primarily because it is something that, as far as we know, humans have not been exposed to before – it’s new, novel. That means there is essentially no residual immunity in the human population from either a vaccine or from people having been exposed previously and recovered.
Coronavirus and type 2 diabetes
That’s why the extreme measures we are seeing to minimize our contact with other people is necessary – at this point, it’s our only defense. And those of us with diabetes, in the “high risk” population, need to be especially cautious ourselves, and grateful that others are too.
The silver lining
You’ve probably seen articles about positive things that can come from “social distancing” – more time with family, time to read, time for self-reflection, less damage to the environment, etc. I have one for you that’s more practical to diabetes management – time to cook.
Cooking at home benefits
Restaurants are certainly the opposite of social distancing. A few jurisdictions have already ordered them closed or to operate at half-capacity, including where I live, to create more space between diners. I hate that it’s come to this because I love eating out. But I can tell you that if you are trying to manage weight, high blood pressure, or diabetes this is an opportunity to improve your management. And I don’t say this without evidence.
Restaurants aren't focused on healthy meals
There are studies showing that meals at restaurants are much more likely to be higher in calories, higher in sodium and less nutritious. But I can do one better than studies. About 5 years ago I worked on a book with a colleague where we reviewed the nutrition information of hundreds of restaurants to make specific menu recommendations making a full meal for people managing weight, blood pressure and/or diabetes – calories, sodium, and carbohydrates.
Eventually, the publisher decided that restaurant menus change too fast to make the book practical, but I can tell you without reservation that it is extremely hard to put together a full meal, at any restaurant, that would be suitable from a health perspective, to eat every day. I feel completely comfortable saying that if you want to improve your health, you must make eating out an occasional and special treat. It’s not impossible – we did it. But we love doing food math. If you don’t love food math I can promise you that you can’t put together a healthy meal by instinct alone.
A new healthy habit
Bottom line, now is the perfect time to start developing an “eating more at home” habit. If you’re used to eating out (including grabbing breakfast or lunch on the run) several times a week, it will take some adjustment. But it is a practical and tangible way to improve your long-term health, and that could be one positive thing coming out of this difficult time.
Note: This article was written on March 23, 2020. Further developments in what we know about the Coronavirus are continuously emerging.
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