Shoppers outside BJ's in Garden City observe social distancing while...

Shoppers outside BJ's in Garden City observe social distancing while wearing gloves and masks on Friday April 17, 2020. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

While quarantining at home is a luxury compared to the dangers first responders, health care personnel and other essential workers encounter every day during the pandemic, being trapped at home can easily lead to unhealthy habits that may prove tough to shed.

Here are some questions and answers on the strategies experts are recommending.

What is the “Quarantine 15?”

The new moniker refers to indulging in comfort foods to relieve stress during the outbreak — causing the scale to go up 15 pounds.

How do you avoid it when you’re primarily stuck inside?

Build in new routines — knee bends or lifting weights (use milk cartons in a pinch) — during commercial breaks or do 20 minutes of exercise between Netflix episodes are possible strategies, said Dr. David Buchin, director of bariatric surgery at Huntington Hospital.

Dr. Mary Graffagnino, chief dietitian, Mount Sinai South Nassau, also stressed the need to create new schedules while at home.

And active lifestyles can go hand and hand with mental health.

“Exercise not only helps control weight, it improves overall mood, helps you sleep better and can reduce overall stress and anxiety,” she said.

No matter how spacious your home, sometimes the refrigerator is just too close — a hazard magnified for anyone stuck indoors while battling anxiety and boredom.

And all manner of temptations can lurk in the kitchen cabinets.

Snack foods like Doritos are “long-lasting," Buchin said, meaning they don't quickly go stale. That's important for those limiting trips to grocers.

Fresh foods — proteins in meats, and vitamins and fiber in vegetables and fruits — are less likely to pad waistlines, but they're more perishable.

How can we ensure we’re getting the nutrition we need?

Limiting trips to buy groceries does not mean sacrificing nutrition. Instead, check out the aisles where canned goods are stacked and the freezers are full of fruits and vegetables.

“Do your best to eat three meals per day, snack on fresh or canned fruit and nuts, and avoid those easy-to-grab snacks we all have in excess,” Graffagnino said by email.

Eating the way nutritionists have advised for decades has another benefit, she said: “A healthy diet helps support the immune system, so do your best to eat healthy within the constraints of what is available from the supermarket."

What’s the biggest threat to our health? Is it being suddenly sedentary? Changes in diet?

Any rapid change in eating habits can upset almost everyone’s digestion, which is why doctors counsel transitioning gradually to new and, hopefully, healthier foods to help to boost the immune system.

The dangers of sedentary lifestyles have long been understood, especially with cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, global research studies show.

Before the outbreak, the National Institutes of Health reviewed a number of analyses and found one study showing Americans watched television an average of five hours a day.

The NIH research review also said: “Beyond altering energy expenditure by displacing time spent on physical activities, TV viewing is associated with unhealthy eating (eg, higher intake of fried foods, processed meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages and lower intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) in both children and adults.”

And it cautioned that television viewers may find advertisements for fast food and other unhealthy snacks tough to resist.