Coronavirus lockdown stress causing weight gain? Exclusive weight loss diet tips from celebrity specialists

Hummus and Dr. Nicole Avena
Dr. Nicole Avena gave Monsters & Critics readers some exclusive tips as we all deal with the stress of coronavirus lockdowns. Pic credit: Pixabay/Nicole Avena

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in what Dr. Nicole Avena calls the “perfect storm for stress-induced eating.” In an exclusive interview, the celebrity nutritionist talked with Monsters and Critics about her tips for turning what some are calling the COVID-19 weight gain into weight loss success.

Get Dr. Nicole’s tips, along with others from an exclusive interview with celebrity chef Jen Biesty, in our article on how to stay healthy during this challenging time. (You might want to check out our interviews with celebrity nutritionist Cynthia Sass and Super Bowl champ Terrell Davis too)

Dr. Nicole Avena, Mount Sinai School of Medicine professor, suggests simple swaps for weight loss success

Dr. Nicole Avena, 41, is a nutrition expert, author, and Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NYC. She told Monsters & Critics that she recognizes “we are in a really stressful time, with so many unknowns.”

Add up stress from health, jobs, children, and uncertainties about the future, and you have what Dr. Avena calls “the perfect storm for stress-induced eating.” She suggests starting a food diary.

A food diary can help you track your last snack and consider if you’re really hungry or wanting to eat because of stress or boredom.

“If you are hungry for a snack, I would suggest making simple swaps to make the snack healthier,” said Dr. Avena. “If you want chips and dip, go for apples dipped in hummus. If you want cookies, limit the number you have, and if you can’t do that easily, then maybe have some pancakes with a few chocolate chips in them, instead. My go-to swap for bread and butter is to swap out the butter for Miyokos cashew butter.”

For those who want to boost their immune system during the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Avena cautions that “processed foods are bad for your immune system.” Instead, focus on eating foods that are good for the immune system, including “fruits, veggies, healthy fats and healthy proteins.”

And if you are longing for a bedtime snack, Dr. Avena suggests something light but satisfying, such as seaweed snacks, nuts, or a half of avocado with a pinch of salt on it.

Mom was right about eating your fruits and vegetables: Celebrity chef weighs in

Looks like Mom really does know best, at least when it comes to some elements of a healthy diet. If your mom constantly nagged you (in a loving way, of course) about eating your fruits and vegetables, put down that frosted brown sugar and cinnamon Pop-Tart.

Celebrity chef Jen Biesty, Chef & Co-Owner of  Shakewell Oakland and Real California Milk partner, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park who has worked in top restaurants around the world, including New York, New Orleans, London and San Francisco. Jen also competed on both Bravo TV’s Top Chef and Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay.  She recently was the winning chef on Food Network’s Chopped.

And although all the tasting required for her work might seem like a recipe for weight gain, Biesty told Monsters & Critics in an exclusive interview that she feels the Mediterranean food diet, which she cooks at Shakewell, helps to keep her weight in check.

“Eating lots of fresh vegetables and grains with some meat is ideal for me,” said Jen. “Keep tasty fruit around like grapes, tangerines, and apples to snack on.”

If you have a sweet tooth, Biesty recommends nibbling on dates, which “are so sweet and give you lots of energy too.” For an unusual snack, the chef suggests stuffing dates with blue cheese or Feta cheese.

“At my house we make hummus, or buy it to keep, for healthy snacking with cucumbers, peppers, carrots,” she said.

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