Top nutrition tips to help get you through the current 'Lockdown'
Tuesday 24th March 2020
The coronavirus epidemic has led to disruption on a global scale with unprecedented measures being put in place to try to slow the spread of Covid-19 and keep people safe.
The announcement this week that the UK will be on 'lockdown' for the next 3 weeks (possibly longer) has filled many people with fear and anxiety - for so many different reasons.
At a time when there is seemingly little control over our lives in terms of where we can go, who we can see, what we can do...one thing we can take control of is our diet.
However this is a tough one - and we all know it!
No longer able to rely on cafes, restaurants or coffee shops for our usual 'grab-on-the-go' convenient way of refuelling throughout the day, we are suddenly being forced to eat at home for not just some, but all our meals! For some people this won't be a problem, but for others this will be a challenging prospect. Short of using delivery services like Deliveroo and Uber Eats, or Drive Thru services for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day (which may seem like a great idea until we emerge with much bigger waistlines and much smaller bank balances a few weeks down the line...), we are going to have to start thinking about making some significant changes to the way we eat.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the delivery services that are currently enabling small local businesses to keep trading during these difficult times (and I will definitely be using them!) but at a time when we are restructuring every single part of our lives, our businesses, our finances, our social lives, our childcare and our exercise regimes, this seems like a perfect opportunity to also review our eating habits.
Whatever your situation, if you are single and living alone, living with a partner or suddenly finding yourself having to cater for an entire family for every single meal - challenges lie ahead.
With this in mind I have compiled a list of 'Top Tips' to help you through. You may not find all of them useful, but even if they help to give you a couple of ideas of how to spread the pennies and not the waistlines, then its worth a read!
1) Plan ahead.
One of the reasons we are currently allowed to leave the house (although of course the guidance is changing all the time) is to 'shop for basic necessities', i.e. food and medical supplies. We are being advised to visit the shops as infrequently as possible however, which poses a huge change to our usual shopping behaviour.
Try to plan your meals in advance for 7 days. This is also a useful planning strategy if you then need to completely self-isolate. Think about the amount of food you would need to cater for every breakfast, lunch and evening meal, plus snacks and drinks for you and whoever you are catering for in your household for a week. This is not about encouraging panic buying! There are only so many tins of tomatoes, tins of beans or packets of pasta you can get through in a week!!
However, now is a good time to look at the NHS Eatwell Guide or the BANT wellbeing guidelines to make sure you are planning your meals with good nutritional balance in mind (more on specific nutrients in my next blog).
Don't just buy ingredients, plan meals :)
2) Stick to meal times.
Having seen the food diaries of hundreds of clients, I can honestly say that nothing surprises me in terms of meal times/structure and eating habits. What is normal to one person is definitely not normal to another, but this is a time to really think about when and how you eat your meals and get a firm structure in place that works for you. Our bodies (like our minds) like routine so try using the time at home to establish new routines that your body will thank you for, both now and when this is over...
3) Eat mindfully.
Stop and think before you reach for the biscuit tin for the 10th time that day, or mindlessly peruse the fridge...how ever tempting that may be!
Plan your daily snacks, as well as your meals (especially important if you have children in the house) and don't go off-piste. Yes by all means have snacks, but choose healthy options where possible, e.g. fruit, crackers, carrot sticks, hummus. Plan the snacks and stick to them.
When it comes to meal times, sit down at the table together (if you have others in your household) and turn off the TV. Think about the food you are eating and remember to chew properly - your digestion will thank you :)
4) Increase diversity.
I know we're not always able to get the exact food we want when we go out shopping right now, but look around and see what is available. Try to include all food groups in each of your main meals and eat a range of fruit and vegetables. The greater the diversity of the wholefoods you consume, the greater the diversity of your gut microbiome - and given how important the health of the gut is to our immunity, this is a good rule to live by right now (this is of course depenedent on your ability to digest but more about this in my next blog too).
5) Avoid waste.
So your cupboards may be full and your freezers overflowing, but its amazing how quickly you can get through all that food, especially if you're not planning your meals properly (see Tip 1). Make sure you consume your fresh products before they go off. If you've got vegetables that are starting to look a bit limp, cook them into a soup or add them to a smoothie rather than throwing them away. If you've bought lots of fresh meat, chicken or fish, spend some time preparing meals with them and then freeze ready for when you need them, rather than realising they've gone past their use-by date and again having to chuck them out. Avoiding waste may seem challenging if you're trying to increase diversity (Tip 4), especially if you're living alone and will struggle to use lots of different ingredients up, but diversity can be achieved on a week-to-week basis rather than a day-to-day basis by planning your meals around 6-7 ingredients one week, and then choosing 6-7 different ingredients for your meals the next week, and so on...
6) Avoid the high sugar and high fat snacks...
It's really easy to stock up on biscuits, crisps and chocolate etc, telling ourselves that we need them to last us a few months...(what if the shops run out??!). However the reality is that if you know they're there, and if you're a bit of grazer (you know who you are!) you will end up consuming more of these foods much more quickly than you otherwise would. This means that you've got a much greater chance of piling on the pounds as energy requirements are much lower (being stuck in the house) and you don't have the same opportunity to burn the extra calories off. So, Tip 6; avoid having those high sugar, high fat snacks in the house!
So there you have it...not doable for everyone right now, but certainly worth thinking about.
In my next blog I will be focusing on immunity and how to optimise your health through nutrition during these troubling times. Until then, take care and stay healthy xx