When COVID-19 broke out in 2019, little was known about the virus’s transmission, handling, and treatment. The world health organization (WHO) decided to declare the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic in March 2020. The virus was highly publicized as a contact disease, and people were advised to reduce person-person contact. As a result, the United States government announced a lockdown that restricted the movement of people. The restriction of movement resulted in limited access to shops, supermarkets, stores, and recreational facilities. This, in turn, had a huge impact on the feeding habits of most Americans citizens. This paper discusses how the COVID-19 affected most American citizens’ dietary lifestyle. The lockdown necessitated by the coronavirus outbreak led to significant dietary and lifestyle changes in America, with the most notable change being the reduced uptake of fast foods and alcohol and increased uptake of fresh food.
According to Bennett et al. (53), a national survey on food and health conducted in 2020 concluded that about 85 percent of Americans had altered their feeding habits ever since the coronavirus outbreak began. Bennett’s findings correlate with several other studies undertaken between the outbreak of the coronavirus. Most of the changes in the way Americans feed are attributed to the government’s restriction of movement to control the spread of the virus. After virus was declared a global pandemic in March 2020, the American government moved with speed to restrict movement to curb the spread of the infection. By then, the virus was still unknown, and there was no vaccine. The restrictions on movement limited the access of the majority of Americans to hotels, food stores, supermarkets, bars, and other refreshment canters. As a result, American citizens’ normal way of life was disrupted in almost all realms. Schools were closed, and many companies and agencies asked their employees to take a break or work from home. With the lockdown, most Americans had to adapt to new feeding habits.
Eating behaviors are the food choices guided by personal preferences, consumption trends, calorie counting, and specific foods. After the pandemic outbreak, there was a significant change in food choices. One of the changes is that most Americans started consuming more food in a single day than before. The increased consumption of food resulted from quicker access to food, increased free time and increased stress levels. Some of the studies on the subject revealed that as food consumption increased in households, participants reported having increased number of snacks taken between meals (Di Renzo, 9). During the pandemic, the government had put strict regulatory measures for the catering industry to reduce the risk of contagion. As a result, many Americans ate home-cooked fresh food not only because they had enough time to cook but also because they were afraid of eating food being delivered to their homes due to the fear of infection.
There was also a change in the type of food that most Americans consumed. Before the pandemic, most people were used to consuming fast foods and foods being delivered to their homes, schools, and offices. However, restrictions ensued by the pandemic and the fear of infection altered the type of foods available to the people. There was increased consumption of fresh produce. Studies show that there was increased uptake of fruits and vegetables during the lockdown. In addition, most Americans reduced the uptake of readymade products and increased the consumption of food made at home. Food made at home included bread, homemade pizza, legumes, tubers, meats, and cereal. Increased home cooking was highly attributed to a reduction in available eat-outs, a source of killing boredom, increased family time, and safety concerns. The increased uptake of fresh produce is attributed to the campaign by the World Health Organisation on the importance of maintaining a healthy diet.
Another notable dietary change was the reduction in alcohol consumption. After introducing a restriction on movement, the largest dietary change was the reduction in the uptake of alcohol (Eftimov et al., 269). Most Americans, especially young people, reduced their drinking mostly because they had limited access to alcohol. The reduction in binge drinking may also be attributed to declined social incentives. These changes were further experienced post lockdown, with most people adhering to the trends they had gotten used to during the lockdown. There was also an increase in the association between body weight control, physical activities, and diet. During this period, those concerned about their weight significantly reduced the amount of food they took. On the other hand, those who were less involved in consuming a lot of food increased their body weight.
The dietary changes made by the American citizens during the pandemic, whether consciously or unconsciously, impacted each individual’s health. The reasons why these dietary changes were made differ from one individual to another. The increased consumption of food resulted from quicker access to food, increased free time and increased stress levels. Some of the studies on the subject revealed that as food consumption increased in households, participants reported having increased the number of snacks taken between meals. Other studies indicate that people ate from home either because they had nowhere else to turn to for ready food or were afraid of being infected with the virus. A year later, after the easing of regulations, most Americans have decided to stick to the new feeding habits. The concern Abbas and Kamel have, which is echoed by other help experts, is if the good habits that most people picked during the pandemic can be sustained to the extent that they surpass other poor eating habits.
The lockdown, necessitated by the coronavirus outbreak, resulted in significant dietary and lifestyle changes in America. The most notable change was the reduced uptake of fast foods and alcohol and increased uptake of fresh food. The entire American population had to adapt to the conditions of the lockdown period. As a result, different new feeding habits were recorded. The number of people eating fresh food and food cooked at home significantly increased. There was increased uptake of food, with snacking between meals rising tremendously. The uptake of alcohol was also considerably reduced. It remains to be seen if most people will stick to the good eating habits they picked during the pandemic.
Abbas, Ahmed M., and Mark Mohsen Kamel. “Dietary habits in adults during quarantine in the context of COVID-19 pandemic.” Obesity medicine 19 (2020): 100254.
Bennett, Grace, et al. “The impact of lockdown during the COVID-19 outbreak on dietary habits in various population groups: a scoping review.” Frontiers in Nutrition 8 (2021): 53.
Di Renzo, Laura, et al. “Eating habits and lifestyle changes during COVID-19 lockdown: an Italian survey.” Journal of translational medicine 18.1 (2020): 1-15.
Eftimov, Tome, et al. “COVID-19 pandemic changes the food consumption patterns.” Trends in food science & technology 104 (2020): 268-272.