The Talk off Tenth

Maintaining Your Nutrition During Quarantine
Registered Licensed Dietitian Shares Tips on Achieving a  Balanced Diet on a Budget, Healthy Snacking, and Helping Local Restaurants without Packing on the Pounds
Last week, we presented the first in a multi-part series focused on overall health and wellness by exploring exercises and movements that can be performed with the convenience of an at-home gym.

Today, we take a look at the role nutrition plays in our physical and mental lives.

Ms. Dawn Johnson, a Registered Licensed Dietitian who has been practicing in Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland for over 20 years, was gracious enough to speak with Marquette regarding dietary recommendations. Johnson earned her Master's prepared from NYU.

MQTT: We're facing circumstances that are limiting our exercise options (fitness centers, workout classes, etc.) thus hindering that aspect of the wellness equation. How much more of an emphasis does that place on nutrition and diet?

Johnson: Bottom line is that weight gain results when energy intake exceeds energy used. If the amount, frequency or intensity of your exercise routine has been interrupted, you would need to decrease your calorie consumption in order to maintain your weight. The less calories we burn, the less calories we need to consume. When cutting back on calories, a good place to start is beverages. Drinking calories is not as satiating as eating calories. Choose non-caloric beverages like water, seltzer water, unsweetened tea or coffee instead of energy drinks, coffee drinks, sodas, lemonade, sweetened tea and alcoholic beverages.

MQTT: One of the biggest obstacles keeping Americans from a healthy, well-rounded diet is money. So many fast food operations advertise "full meals" for $5.00. Even if a head of household was to buy groceries and prepare the food at home, it'd be tough to compete with that price. What advice would you give to those on a fixed income?

Johnson: Eating right on a budget is possible. Plan meals and snacks before going to the grocery store (or shopping online). Look over your favorite recipes. See what ingredients you already have on hand and write down the ingredients you need. Making a grocery list will reduce impulse shopping. Doubling the recipe can provide extra portions that can be brown bagged for lunch the next day. Place single portions in left-over containers. You can eat these the next day or freeze and heat up later in the week. Some nutritious, low-cost foods are: beans, peas and lentils, sweet or white potatoes, eggs, peanut butter, canned salmon or tuna, oats, brown rice, quinoa, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.

MQTT: It seems as though inactivity triggers snacking. We don't necessarily have an appetite, but we're sitting at a table or desk for hours on end and it's "something to do." What are some healthy snacks to keep on hand that can satisfy that craving?

Johnson: Our mood can affect our food. When we are stressed, bored, happy or sad we may want to reach for some "comfort" food that may not be the healthiest like chips, vending machine snacks, cookies and candy. While managing our mood is one strategy, another way to prevent diet sabotage would be stocking up on healthy, crave-busting snacks like air-popped popcorn, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, baked vegetable chips, mashed avocado with salsa eaten with low-fat baked tortilla chips and tuna on whole grain crackers. Some tips for healthy snacking include limiting snack calories to 200-300 (when less active). Fix snacks ahead of time and pre-portion. Assess your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10. Eat when you rate your hunger at a 3 or 4 and stop eating when you are at a 6 or 7.

MQTT: Clinically speaking, what  is the relationship between diet and mental health?

Johnson: Not only is eating healthy good for our bodies, it's also good for our mind. The emerging field of Nutritional Psychiatry is using food and dietary supplements in the treatment of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Find a local registered dietitian with experience in behavioral health by visiting the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) website at

MQTT:  Many of us feel a social obligation to support local restaurants right now. From a nutrition standpoint, that's okay to do a couple of times per week, right?

Johnson: Many people find ordering out to be time-saving. Currently, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID 19. The CDC recommends if you are sick, stay home until you are better. When going out in public wear a face covering, practice social distancing and use wipes on handles or other surfaces. Healthy eating is possible when ordering carry out. Plan ahead. View menus online before ordering. Eat lighter the day of to prevent over eating. If possible, plan exercise before or after. Ask the staff for healthier options on the menu. Visualize a healthy plate including fruit, vegetables, lean meat/meat-alternative and whole grains. Recreate that healthy plate at home by ordering a balance meal.

Interested in speaking further with Ms. Johnson? Call (844) 990-0061 for a free 10-minute consultation.


We'll continue this multi-part series next week when we chat with a familiar face around campus regarding our  spiritual  health.