Lockdown has meant irregular schedules and changes in working routine, as well as when it comes to the diet. Some people have started becoming more diet-conscious while at home, avoiding heavy food that could impact health severely at times. Other people are guilty of overindulgence – reaching out for a snack more frequently.
Here are a few tips on how we can find the balance in terms of our diet :
1. Constructing meals
One simple approach could be to look at meals as consisting of three elements: Protein (red), carbohydrate/fibre (yellow) and fruit and/or vegetables (green). You could call this the ‘power of three’. These rules mean you can be totally flexible as to what foods will serve as these three elements, and allow you to adapt to what is available at home and/or in the shops.
- The protein element does not need to be chicken or eggs, but can be other lean meats, fish, beans/pulses, nuts/seeds or plant-based protein products (e.g. soy-based tofu). Try to limit the processed meats and vegetarian equivalents where possible.
- For the carb/fibre element, this can be pasta, rice, bread, corn/maize, potatoes or other root vegetables and other cereals. Try to choose some wholegrain varieties as well, especially as these tend to be more likely to be left on the shelves!
- For the fruit and veg element, this could be anything available, either fresh, frozen or tinned. The more variety the better! Fruit and veg also serve as excellent healthy snacks for adults and children alike.
2. Healthy Snacking
Habitual grazers will be glad to learn that you can still snack frequently and live a healthy life, so long as the snacks at hand are low calorie alternatives.
Try swapping your usual high sugar or high fat snacks for treats such as yoghurts, nuts and seeds, or fruit.
Additionally, you can always swap high calorie chocolate bars for the healthier option of dark chocolate with a reduced portion, such as two squares.
Incorporate dietary shakes in your diet, Like homemade protein shakes made with fresh milk, oats, peanut butter..etc Green shakes that include Spinach, Oats..etc. This could be also a healthy alternative to get a nutritional meal in to make you feel full and well energized during the day.
3. Plan Ahead
Thinking of meals to make at home can become a laborious task during lockdown. Now that restaurants and cafes have closed, we all have less inspiration than usual.
Instead of leaving thoughts of meal times to the last minute – which can leave you reaching for unhealthy snacks to solve the problem – try to plan ahead.
Make a menu for the week ahead before you go shopping, ensuring to include as many healthy meals and snacks as possible on your shopping list, while cutting the unhealthy options.
Before the start of the week, try to prepare the week’s upcoming meals in advance, or, at the very least, decide upon a meal you will cook for each upcoming night.
4. Consume oily fish
Canned oily fish in particular is a really handy item to have in your cupboard while on lockdown, Not only is it cheap and has a long shelf life, but it is rich in omega-3, which studies say can improve mental well being.
“Oily fish is also one of the few rich sources of vitamin D in the diet,” Benelam adds, “something we all need to consider if we’re staying at home and may not be getting much sun exposure, which is our main source of vitamin D.
“Vitamin D is also important for bone health and to support the immune system.”
5. Be Sure to Hydrate
“Drinking an adequate amount of fluid is essential in order for you to feel and function at your best,” says Ludlam-Raine.
But it doesn’t have to be just water, you can get your hydration via squash, tea, coffee and milk, she adds.
“It all counts towards the 8 glasses of fluid that we need, though you may need more if it’s hot or you have just exercised.
“Keep any caffeinated drinks to a minimum and try not to drink them from mid-afternoon so they don’t affect your sleep.”
Balance is key
While being healthy does require you to be responsible, and at times a little regimented in order to maintain a routine, it’s important to remember that you can always indulge every now and again.
Treating yourself will help give you a little mood boost when you need it, while also stopping you from breaking your healthy habits for good.
Lockdown has already restricted our lives, so occasionally throwing out the ‘rulebook’ will ensure you make it out of lockdown not only healthy, but happy, and ready to take on the world.