You may remember the "Freshman 15" that first-year college students typically gain. Well, after many months of spending more time at home, we now now have the "Quarantine 15."
A change in routine amid stay-at-home orders combined with feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety and boredom has left many Americans victim to unwanted weight gain.
In fact, a 2020 COVID-19 Wellness Survey conducted by Weight Watchers found that 36% of American adults have gained weight since the shutdown began. Of those who gained weight, the average increase was 12.5 pounds — 10.7 pounds for women and 15.1 pounds for men.
The start of the new year is always a good time for resolutions to get in shape. Healthy eating plays a key role in weight loss, and East Texas retailers offer a variety of products targeted at helping you live a healthier lifestyle.
Jack's Natural Foods and Drug Emporium have each been committed to serving East Texas in the areas of health foods, vitamins and supplements for decades.
When it opened in 1979, Jack's Natural Foods was the only health food focused store in Longview and one of few in greater East Texas.
Jennifer Moore, who co-owns the business with her husband Seanor, grew up in the store. Her father opened the business, originally on Judson Road across from Kimbrough Animal Hospital in Longview. Over time, the store grew and expanded. It's now located at 400 E. Loop 281.
While the store has been a Longview mainstay, Moore said its popularity has grown as more people gain knowledge of healthy eating habits.
"I think people are gaining more knowledge now in how to be healthy and what not to eat. In the past, people weren't as educated," she said, noting the internet has helped bring awareness to the subject. "I think people now know that you can change some things about your health just with your diet. If you just change the way you eat, you can fix some things that will help you feel better."
Drug Emporium opened shortly after Jack's. The store's first Texas location opened in Longview in 1985. The store since has grown to have 10 locations across Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. The corporate headquarters remain in Longview.
The Tyler location opened in 1995, bringing a health and wellness focus to Rose City. Drug Emporium sells a variety of products including groceries, health foods and cosmetics. It also has an in-house pharmacy and has a VitaminsPlus location inside that is focused on vitamins and supplements.
"We constantly try to keep up with health trends, and all of our vitamins and foods here are handpicked by our Drug Emporium and Vitamins Plus managers and assistant managers. We pick our products for their quality, which sets us apart from others," said Randy Romo, assistant manager of VitaminsPlus at Drug Emporium in Tyler.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, Romo said the store experienced an uptick of shoppers seeking vitamins and supplements, such as Vitamin C and Zinc, in efforts to stay well.
Drug Emporium and VitaminsPlus offer vitamins and supplements aimed at helping with health issues, such as supplements that can help lower blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure in natural ways.
At the New Year, he said, shoppers tend to seek health food items such as low-carb foods and Keto friendly products. Drug Emporium features selections of both low-carb and Keto items to tailor to different diets.
Like Drug Emporium, Jack's Natural Foods also offers a variety of healthy foods, vitamins and supplements. Jack's sells everything from organic bread and wine to locally crafted drinks such as from Oil Horse Brewing Co. of Longview and specialty foods.
As for its vitamins and supplements, Moore said Jack's researches what it sells before stocking it on the store's shelves.
"We don't sell anything with extra fillers or preservatives because those ingredients are not necessary," she said. A lot of times, a pharmaceutical company is just trying to fill up a capsule but not everything in that capsule is necessary. You need high quality supplements and you want to make sure you can trust what you are buying. We put a lot of work into making sure we carry the highest quality products."
While Jack's Natural Foods has a regular stream of customers visit the store, Moore said most of Jack's loyal fans visit for its in-house sandwich and juice bar.
"We prepare everything fresh every morning," Moore said. "We slice the turkey fresh every morning, we use organic bread, organic spinach. We try to make sure there are no preservatives in our ingredients."
Jack's menu features a variety of sandwiches, all of which can be made into salads or wraps. It can also turn most of its sandiwches into vegan options by substituting Daiya cheese, Veganaise and Tofutti cream cheese for traditional ingredients. Jack's traditionally serves its sandwiches on toasted organic Dave's Killer Good Seed Bread; however, gluten-free bread is available.
Of the sandwiches on Jack's menu, Moore said the Earthquake is the most popular. It's made with tuna salad, avocado, green onions, tomato, Monterey Jack cheese, spinach, mayonnaise and Spike seasoning. Sandwiches are served with organic tortilla chips.
At its drink bar, Jack's serves up smoothies, slushes, raw organic juices and herbal tea. Moore said as juicing has become a bigger trend, she's noticed more people visiting Jack's for its juice bar where they can get a healthy drink without the hassle of having to do it themselves at home and clean up a juicing machine.
The most popular juice is the Green Machine, made with organic cucumber, kale, green apple and celery. Moore said all of the store's juices are made with organic fruits and vegetables.
"We focus on organic products that are not genetically modified, or that haven't been sprayed with fertilizers or insecticides. It's important to not put those types of contaminants into your body," she said.
Going into the new year, in addition to making sure you are putting quality foods and supplements into your body, Romo encouraged people to become more familiar with reading food labels and to watch their calorie count.
"When you eat, be cautious of how many sugars, carbohydrates and bad fats you are consuming. It's important to learn about those things and how to decipher them on food labels," he said. "But one of the most important things when you diet is to stay within your calorie count. A lot of people think that if you diet, you have to starve yourself. That isn't true. You can eat all day, but just eat in small portions and stay in your calorie count."
Additionally, Romo said people should remember that weight loss comes slowly. If it takes three years to gain the weight, it isn't going to come off overnight, he said.
"I would encourage people not to give up. People often get discouraged when they make a New Year's resolution to diet or be healthier. A lot of times those resolutions will only last 20 days," he said. "Plan to stick it out for six months and then see where you are. Don't give up."