It’s not a question of if COVID-19 has changed our way of life, but how. This rings especially true when it comes to the food we consume and why we eat it. Is it for nutrition, health and wellness, comfort, to pass time?
While it’s a complex question that can’t be answered in a singular way, there are consumption patterns and habits that have emerged during this pandemic that may or may not have a long-term impact and lead us to ask if where we eat is more important to our health than we may have realized? Or, will the shift to eating more meals cooked at home have an affect our health over an extended period?
Our meals typically evolve around convenience, budget and the time we have to eat them. When we’re in a pinch, we often pick expediency over health, like grabbing for that easy frozen pizza, ordering take-out, or when we don’t feel like cooking, going to a favorite restaurant or fast food joint. But with restaurants still closed or operating at lower capacities, coupled with people’s desire to stay in, that option is less accessible.
While the restaurant industry has taken a devastating hit, it’s possible that cooking at home is allowing people to be more introspective about what they are consuming. While cooking at home does not equal healthy eating, it can cut down on portion sizes and intake of sodium, saturated fat and sugar, which are often linked to chronic diet-related illnesses. And because obesity can be linked to an increased risk of COVID-19, Type 2 diabetes, serious heart conditions and more, there’s potential for people to start becoming more aware of what they’re eating.
According to a survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation, 43% of people said they were eating healthier than they were before the pandemic. And according to Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science, eating at home is a large predictor of eating a healthy diet. So, the question is, will there be any positive long-term benefits to a reduction in eating out and cooking more meals at home?
These are not questions we have the answer to now. The impact of these consumption habits don’t represent the whole population since there are many factors to take into account such as socioeconomic background, income, food accessibility and much more. But it will be interesting to find out if in a post-COVID-19 world, we will see shifts due to sustained at-home eating.