Whilst it might not be what we want to dwell on at the moment, taking some time now to consider your plan for eating well during self-isolation is a worthwhile activity. One of our Dietitians recently went into isolation after returning from an overseas holiday. She is now in her second week and shared with us some of her challenges. On the back of this, we thought it might be helpful to compile a guide for clients who find themselves in the same situation.
This is one behaviour that sets you up for balanced eating, isolation or not! However if you happen to find yourself confined to your house or apartment, with no capacity to “duck around the corner”, you will need to take 15 minutes to sit down and plan out your meals for the coming week. Doing this will not only help you to eat well and enjoy your food, but it will help to keep costs down, generate a shopping list and allocate time for cooking and meal preparation.
Food delivery services and/or seeking help from family and friends
Once you have your meal plan and shopping list, you can start to get to work in placing online orders. Remember to consider small businesses – many fish mongers, butchers and green grocers are now offering delivery services. There are also the ready prepared options and food-and-recipe box services that you can access to add variety and try out new recipes. As always, we advise considering how these readymade options align with your portion recommendations.
Bulk cooking while you are well
If you are planning on getting creative in the kitchen, we advocate for making hay while the sun shines – aka cook more than you need, while you are feeling healthy and able to. Then pop the extras in the freezer, labelling it clearly with the date you cooked it. Recipes that work well for batch cooking and freezing include soups, stews, curries, quiches, bolognaise sauce, legume patties and savoury-mince dishes. We have plenty of recipes in our archives to keep your freezer inspired.
Using legumes, wholegrains and starches smartly
Legumes, wholegrains and starches are incredibly nutritious! When you pay attention to consuming unprocessed options, they become an important source of dietary fibre, antioxidants, b-group vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron and iodine. A diet high in fibre and zinc helps support your immune system – not a bad idea during a time such as this! There has never been a better time to drain a tin of lentils and add it to your mince-dish, or to get creative and make some black-bean patties. Try tossing some chickpeas through your salad as an alternative to chicken or ham. Take a slice of multi-grain toast with your soup and don’t forget to slice up some sweet potato, season with salt and pepper and roast it in the oven for a nutritious alternative to processed wedges/chips. Remember to refer to Appendix B in your manual for a list of portion sizes.
Ensuring enough variety
This is a topic I chat endlessly about with clients. Variety truly is key to ensuing you meet your nutrient requirements. Current evidence suggests that we should all aim to consume 35 difference plant-based foods each week! Whilst this seems like a high number, when you focus on using wholefoods (i.e. eating from the five core food groups), set aside time to plan and eat intentionally, it is VERY achievable, even during isolation. Take advantage of using tinned, dried and frozen produce. Add herbs and spices in your cooking, opt for wholegrains like rolled oats at breakfast and try adding a sprinkle of seeds/nuts over salads. Don’t forget to plan in a couple of meals that use fish/seafood and eggs, and why not try your hand at using vegetarian alternatives like tofu and legumes?
Grow your own
If you have access to a vegetable patch, or you have the capacity to convert some of your garden into a vegetable patch – get planting! Not only is this a wonderful way to connect deeper with eating well, but it will give you something to do during isolation and increase your exposure to sunlight, thereby helping the body to maintain adequate Vitamin D (an important component of our immune system). Further to this, it will give you access to fresh produce when you need it the most! Herbs are great for growing on balconies in pots, and there are many companies that will deliver seeds/seedlings and other gardening supplies.
Many people report increase “snacking” when they are confined to home. This is not unsurprising, as our homes are often a source of what we call “Eating Cues”. We might find ourselves opening the pantry or checking the contents of the fridge because we are bored, lonely and looking to improve our mood. Often, we tend to reach for easy options that are too often processed and high in sugar, fat and salt. We recommend stocking the house with healthy snack options – like nuts, seeds, fruit, yoghurt, hummus and other vegetable-based dips instead. It could also help if you rearrange the pantry and fridge, so that the healthier options are within easy reach and line of sight. To help take the guess work out of healthy snacking at home, we’ve made our LifeShape LED range of bars, shakes and soup available online.
It goes without saying that anyone who has symptoms should be kept well clear of the kitchen! We recommend using soapy water to wipe down all new produce entering into your home. There may also arise a time when sitting down at the table together is to be avoided. We encourage everyone to remember to practise good personal hygiene, especially when handling food, refrain from sharing meals / utensils and clean surfaces frequently. All left-overs should be covered and chilled/frozen quickly.