This is why you are eating all the garbage food during a pandemic

Is your quarantine diet starting to worry you?

With much time and uncertainty on our hands, what we eat during the coronavirus pandemic is on many of our minds. There’s been a social media trend — #bakingquarantine – that has created a bread renaissance so popular it’s caused several shelves around the country to see a flour shortage. Don’t forget about the late-bloomers forced to think beyond tonight’s takeout, who are now churning out overexposed photos of their new culinary skills through trial and error.

While some good can come out of the kitchen through this weird time, there’s been a sudden surge in comfort foods like cookies and macaroni and cheese with people forced to quarantine during the pandemic. A Bloomberg report from March found that the sales of popcorn rose by nearly a half (48%) in the week that ended March 14. Other quick bites like pretzels (47%) and potato chips (30%) also saw unique rises in that same period.

The rise in our junk-food choosing likely has a lot to do with what is going on in our world, according to Cleveland Clinic psychologist Leslie Heinberg. In a blog post, Heinberg said our interrupted routines make it “hard to stick to your usual goals” which means you might have skipped on your healthy, preprepared work lunches due to being stuck at home lately. Increased access — or being around food all day — was also a trigger she pointed out. “If you’re working from home now, you’re working where the food is,” Heinberg said. “It’s harder to ignore the cravings when the kitchen is 10 feet away.”

Heinberg’s third point was emotional triggers. As anxiety and stress are at the top of most Americans’ worry list right now, eating as a way to calm yourself is very much a thing. Poor sleep patterns — currently a problem for many — also can be harmful to your appetite.

All this eating has created a snacking surge for Americans, according to one recent survey, which found that snacking is up by 27% due to the COVID-19 crisis. As the University of Pittsburgh instructor Carli Liguori pointed out, she’s noticed something common in our food selection lately: it’s kids’ food.

“At its core, the purpose of food is to nourish,” Liguori said. “Of course food provides us with the necessary energy and balance of vitamins and minerals to power and fuel the body. But anyone who’s reached for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s after a particularly stressful day will know that nourishment is about more than nutrition.”

She pointed out how the term “comfort foods” isn’t necessarily the most accurate representation of our food selection.

“Food is deeply personal. The foods that comfort people depend on their cultural background, taste preference, and personal experience,” she said. “We know, however, that food can induce feelings of nostalgia that transport us back to simpler times.

“So perhaps it’s no surprise that, during a period of uncertainty that has many of us desperate for some relief and comfort, the foods of our childhood can act as a salve. For some of us, that bowl of Lucky Charms isn’t just a sweet treat; it’s a reminder of days gone by, a time of safety and stability.”