Nutrition, fitness and mental health tips to add to your quarantine schedule

Grocery stores like Walmart may be a little short on healthy food right now, but small stores such as Lin’s and Smith’s still have plenty of options to choose from. YouTube also has plenty of workout videos you can watch to stay healthy and in shape, all from your house. Photo by Nickelle Blanton.

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Millions of people are home bound to do their part in flattening the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic; despite the limitations, now is the perfect time to look inward and use this as a chance for self care, reflection and growth.

“Give yourself time to make you the investment,” said Sara Fausett, part-time nutrition instructor. “You’ve been given this time. Use it wisely and see if you start feeling better. Most people will and it’s because you are giving your body a chance to heal, boost its own immunity and keep you out of your doctor’s office.”

A person’s overall health can be broken down by their nutrition, physical fitness and mental health. DSU nutrition professors shared advice that everyone should follow to treat their bodies well during this time.


With extra time at home, now is the perfect opportunity to learn some skills in the kitchen.

“Pull up YouTube and search for cooking recipes, cooking techniques, or cooking methods,” Fausett said.

Cooking can help bring those in your household together. If everyone has a job to do in the kitchen, not only does it present the opportunity for lasting memories, but the meal will also be done quicker. It’s a win-win!

Britta Brecheen, part-time nutrition instructor, said: “Aim for a balanced diet with at least five servings of fruits and veggies per day. Fruits and veggies are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, which are all needed for your body and immune system to function properly.”

It’s also important to ensure you are meeting your hydration needs. Make it a daily habit. DSU nutrition professor Debbie Mosher said one should aim to drink about half their body weight in ounces of water. Proper hydration should result in pale yellow urine.

“Foods that [reinforce proper immune system function include:] citrus fruits, strawberries, red bell peppers, spinach, kale, ginger, almonds, garlic, fish, oats and tomatoes,” Mosher said. “Shop for colorful fruits and veggies high in antioxidants. Eating them raw is better than cooked to get the most nutrients.”

Whether it be food blogs or YouTube videos, the internet is saturated with recipes from easy to advanced that will occupy a good chunk of your time in the day, and more importantly, allow you to have more control over what goes in your body.

“I would recommend people meal plan and create a grocery list with all of the ingredients [they] will need for a week of meals,” Brecheen said.  “This way you can minimize the amount of times you will need to go to the grocery store and exposure to germs.”

Fausett said fresh vegetables are the best option with frozen as a close second, then dried and last is canned produce for antioxidant content.

Mosher said foods with zinc, such as beef, lentils, oatmeal and low-fat yogurt, are also great immune supporters along with foods rich in B vitamins, such as whole grains, chicken and milk; however, she warned that your body burns through more B vitamins when you are stressed, which takes us to the next category.

Mental Health

It’s easy for anxiety, fear and worry to overwhelm your thoughts during this pandemic, but there are many measures you can take to prevent yourself from this dangerous state of mind.

“High levels of stress is another factor that will weaken your immune function,” said health science instructor Lorin Lillywhite. “This includes mental and significant physical stress. Take some time each day to lower your mental stress levels by relaxing, meditating or praying.”

Stop consuming an excessive amount of content that feeds fear, stress and anxiety. There is a fine line between staying informed and giving into your ego, which is entertained by reading a surplus of shocking headlines and stories; it’s like being unable to turn away from a horror movie. Disconnect from the noise, whether it’s the news, social media or emails.

“Give yourself time to be calm and do nothing on your device after 7 p.m.,” Fausett said. “It’s okay to be bored and to read an actual book –– like, a paper one. This helps calm the nervous system, and lets it heal. Be OK with not having to do things 100% of the time.”

Mosher said a very simple way to relieve stress is the “4x4x4 for four” technique. Inhale slowly for four seconds, hold it in for four seconds, exhale slowly for four seconds and repeat it all four times.

Studies show that cleaning helps with stress, anxiety and mental health. COVID-19 can live on surfaces ranging from a few hours to several days, so it’s especially important to keep your surroundings clean for both your mental health and physical health.

“Clean places in your home or car that might not always get attention,” Brecheen said. “Some culprits: phones, remote controls, door handles, mail boxes, fridge handles, the steering wheel of your car [and] other dials in your car. We go out and touch these things and forget to wipe them down.”

Brecheen said it’s also important to change your sheets and towels at least once a week and if you’ve been sick to change them right away to prevent reinfecting ourselves.

Picking up a new skill, crafting, playing games, doing puzzles and journaling your gratitude are a few activities that can be done for a healthy mind. College seniors and recent graduates can also use this extra time wisely by working on perfecting their resume and applying for careers. While the present is hectic, you still have a future to prepare for. Plus, career services is still available to help all DSU students remotely.


Although gyms are closed, there is an incredible amount of exercise that can be done in the safety and comfort of your own home.

Lillywhite said the first and most important thing to do is make sure you are sleeping well. This includes getting a proper 7-9 hours of sleep per night and maintaining a normal sleep/wake cycle.

“For those of us that are isolated indoors most of the day, it can be difficult to get good, restful sleep,” Lillywhite said. “Try to get up at the same time each day, spend as much of the morning hours as possible in sunlight, near windows if needed, and go to bed at the same time each night.”

She said sleeping a lot more is not going to supercharge your immune function, but not sleeping enough will hinder it.

The internet is flooded with fitness content; there are entire blogs and YouTube channels dedicated to workout tutorials. If you are experienced in fitness, this is a great way to gain inspiration and learn new exercises.

“Try some high-intensity interval training workouts, yoga, tai chi, weights [or] exercises for beginners,” Fausett said. “It might not be an in-person team effort right now, but we can do virtually anything.”

Lillywhite said this is not a good time to heavily tax your body through arduous fitness tasks.

“Overtraining or overreaching in your fitness training will lower your body’s ability to fight infection,” Lillywhite said. “Regular exercise is still very important, but budget time for recovery and manage your training load.”

Pushups, situps, lunges, squats, planks and calf raises are just a few examples of bodyweight exercises that do not require any equipment to perform.

“The best things you can do to improve your health with your extra time right now is to sleep enough, relax, meditate, pray regularly, spend time preparing healthy meals and exercising between 30-60 minutes per day,” Lillywhite said.

Do not be discouraged by the current state of the world, and focus on doing everything you can to be the best version of yourself during this moment. Fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods of all colors of the rainbow, aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily, keep anxiety at bay by stopping yourself from overindulging in the news, keep your surroundings clean, show gratitude for the good in your life and get some sleep. We’re all in this together and must do our best to be our best for ourselves and those around us.