During our Florida summer vacation 20 years ago, I remember myself along with my family stuffing ourselves on bread, crackers, and chips. The diet was the same regardless of the mealtime. We didn’t have too many options later when Hurricane Andrew stuck during our stay.
Seven years ago, I was a Florida resident experiencing the furies of Wilma. Only this time I was not caught off guard food-wise.
If you have had the terrible experience of going through a hurricane, you know what I mean. If you have power, you are glued to the TV, computer, and kitchen. Your anxiety and stress rises with the wind and rain, as does the boredom of being stuck inside. What’s the easiest way to “calm you down”? Chewing down on chips, cookies, and all the sugar and fatty food available.
When your body perceives a threat, it experiences a rush of adrenaline. In this endocrine response, cortisol stimulates fat breakdown and increases blood glucose to fuel muscular activity. If you use your muscles, you end up burning that new energy. But if you just sit and watch the latest storm reports, insulin goes into overdrive.
What you eat doesn’t help the situation either. Studies show a link between high-fat and high-sugar foods and the increase in the activation of reward pathways in the brain, particularly dopamine receptors, says Erin Macdonald, R.D.
The same way that eating too much sugar may lead to an insulin spike—in which the body struggles to lower blood sugar in spite of this over hormone production—some people may experience a dopamine high, where your body has to produce more of this neurotransmitter to create an energized feeling.
Stay Calm Pantry
If a hurricane hits, lost electricity can make healthy eating a challenge. If you’re lucky to have a gas stove or grill, you can still boil water and cook; however, you will have difficulty storing perishable foods, explains Erin Palinski, RD,CDE, LDN, CPT, nutritionist specializes in cardiovascular health.
Hopefully, you won’t face any serious home damage during a hurricane and can ride it out. But make sure you don’t add to your mood and stomach during this time. Here are some suggestions from Palinski on how you can make your pantry hurricane ready and diet friendly:
- Stock up on bottled water. You will need it for drinking, cleaning, and possibility cooking.
- Buy fruits/vegetables that will stay good for up to three days without refrigeration such as apples, oranges, bananas, and even carrots and cucumbers.
- Canned and powered foods can be your best friend when cooking isn’t possible, so stock up on the following: Canned fruit in 100% juice or light syrup; canned; vegetables (low sodium); natural peanut butter and/or nut butter; canned beans, lentils, and chickpeas; canned lean proteins like tuna in water; and dry powdered skim milk.
- Shelf-stable foods that are loaded with nutrients are also helpful for health meal preparation. These include: 100% whole grain cereals, whole grain crackers, and/or whole grain bread (look for the options that provide at least 3 g of fiber per serving).
- Dry roasted nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, and walnuts; soy nuts and/or dry roasted edamame; chia seeds and flaxseeds. Even prepare popcorn ahead of time to prepare a yummy trial mix with nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.
- Low sodium beef jerky; protein puddings, such as MHP Power Pak Pudding (which doesn’t require any refrigeration and have 30 g of protein per serving); and protein bars (You can make your own ahead of time—or as a family activity if you have the power! See “Homemade Balance Bar” below).
Remember that storm time is not a vacation! Keep up with your regular meals time, watch out the portion size, and drink lots of water to fight dehydration and quell cravings, and workout. You don’t need electricity to perform some squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks.
Homemade Balance Bar
Recipe provided by Chef Michelle Austin
1 c. quinoa flour
2 oz whey protein
1 oz apple pectin powder
½ c. sun-dried cranberries
2 oz of ground pistachios or sunflower seeds
2 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lemon juice
4 oz brown rice syrup
1 oz of ground flax
1 oz unsweetened applesauce
1 tbsp of soy nut butter
2 tbsp of egg whites
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine dry ingredients, dried fruit and ground pistachios in a bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients and stir well. Pour onto dry ingredients.
4. Spray 9” cake pan with non-stick cooking spray
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes
6. Cool and cut
Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website, martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.