How to eat well under lockdown

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is always important, but it seems especially so now during the COVID-19 pandemic. A nutritious diet helps to supports your immune system. It also fuels and nourishes your body, and benefits your mood and mental health. So how do we ensure we eat well under lockdown?

Since the new government guidelines were introduced to stay at home, in theory, following a healthy diet should be easier when you’re at home. However, the lack of structure, the pressure of home-schooling children, feeling isolated or stressed can throw your normal eating pattern out of the window. Added to that, the foods that you would usually buy may not be readily available in the supermarkets.

The following tips by registered nutritionist Saadia Noorani explain how to eat well under lockdown.

Enjoy family meals

The new guidelines for staying at home may means that you and your family are spending more time at home. This provides the opportunity to share meals together. Mealtimes are a great way to introduce structure to your day and to get the whole family around the table to eat together.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everyone. If you’re on your own, have a meal together virtually with family members or friends over Skype. It can be a great way to bring you all together.    

Staying at home may mean that you need to cook more, but this is the perfect time to experiment with ingredients you have. It’s also a great way to get the kids involved. There are many free resources available online, including Liz Earle Wellbeing, from simple recipes to cook-along videos to help create nutritious meals for the whole family.

Focus on variety and balance

You don’t need to have a special diet during this time. The government’s Eatwell Guide recommends that over a third of your diet consists of fruit and vegetables, a third is starchy carbohydrates (wholegrain varieties where possible), and the remainder is split between protein, dairy (or dairy alternatives) and a small amount of healthy fats.

Store cupboard staples

If you don’t have access to fresh foods remember that tinned, frozen and dried fruit and vegetables all count towards your five a day!

Frozen

All frozen fruits and vegetables are great options. They contain high levels of fibre and vitamins and are often cheaper than fresh versions. Frozen fruits can be added to smoothies, porridge or eaten with yoghurt as a snack. Frozen vegetables can be added to sauces, stir fires, soups or any meal.

Tinned

Tinned lentils and beans are a great source of plant protein, fibre and nutrients. Use them in sauces, soups, salads and dips. Tinned fruit and vegetables also count towards your five a day, just ensure you choose the no added sugar and salt versions.

Tinned fish is a good source of protein and healthy fats. Where possible, choose fish in water rather than oil or brine.

Dried foods

Dried fruit and nuts (choose unsalted and unsweetened versions) are great healthy snacks that can also be added to porridge, salads, dips and other meals. Nut butters or spreads are also good options, choose 100% nut butters with no added sugar or salt.

Wholegrain rice, pasta, oats, couscous and other unrefined whole grains are excellent sources of fibre. They are easy to prepare and have a long shelf life. You’ll probably find that wholegrain varieties are much easier to find at the supermarkets at the moment.

Vitamin D supplements

Vitamin D supplements are recommended for everyone in the UK during the autumn and winter months. While you can get vitamin D from some foods, most of our vitamin D is created by our body after exposure to sunlight. With most of us now spreading more time indoors, everyone should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms.

Stay hydrated

Drink water regularly. Aim for at least six to eight glasses of non-caffeinated drinks during the day. Even slight dehydration can affect your mood. Try to avoid drinking large amounts of tea or coffee or sugary soft and fizzy drinks.

Stay active

Exercise is excellent for both your physical and mental wellbeing.  It’s a great way to improve your mood, sleep quality and reduces your risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

If you’re not self-isolating, try to get outdoors for your one form of exercise a day. This can be a walk, run or bike ride. Just remember to keep to social distancing and follow the latest government advice.

If you are self-isolating at home and are well, then do a quick workout indoors in your living room or in your garden (if you have one). There are many free workouts videos available online which you can follow.

Author: Saadia Noorani is a registered nutritionist and founder of nutrition consultancy, Nutrisa. Follow Saadia on Instagram.

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