How to eat responsibly and stay healthy during lockdown
While in self-quarantine or lockdown during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there’s never been a more important time to consider what you are eating.
Observing public health measures and minimising exposure to the virus are required to slow the spread of this disease. No one knows how long these virus safety measures will need to stay in place, but one thing is for certain - making health and nutrition is priority.
As the world continues to battle the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, nutritionist experts are calling for people to consider what they’re consuming to help maintain and strengthen the immune system.
Mega Interesting turned to Beatriz Robles, a food technologist and dietitian-nutritionist, for some advice on how to make healthy food choices during these challenging times.
"There are a number of factors that must be considered as we continue to live through the coronavirus pandemic. It’s highly likely people will be contending with a heightened level of stress. Anxiety, stress or even simply boredom can lead to ‘emotional eating’.
“Along with this, it’s also highly likely that energy exertion will be reduced as people spend considerably more time at home. This means it’s never been more important to eat a balanced diet,” explains Robles.
She recommends avoiding unhealthy temptation by simply not buying an abundance of sweets, crisps or biscuits.
"It’s not necessary to eliminate absolutely everything that’s not a vegetable or fruit. If there’s treats that you’re particularly fond of - like chocolate for example - try swapping milk chocolate for a dark option, which is full of antioxidants and still ticks the sweet box.”
For nutritionist Roberto Vidal, better known as The Nutritional Coach, the focus for your food shop should be on "products that have two key properties: a long shelf life and high nutritional value."
To help make sure you can maintain a balanced diet during lockdown, here’s a few suggestions on how to create a healthy ‘pandemic pantry’...
Start your lockdown list with hardy veggies, like broccoli, courgette, peppers and cauliflower. Keep them uncut and they’ll stay fresh for several days. Carrots (kept in the fridge) and potatoes (kept in a paper bag in a cool dry place) last even longer.
If you find you’re struggling for space in the fridge - you could put these fruit and veggies out on your balcony, in the garage or garden. Store them in a wooden or cardboard box and make sure you remove any plastic.
Robles suggests it’s a good idea to keep a small stock of canned veggies, legumes and beans on hand for everyday eats. Canned pumpkin, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, tomatoes and olives are some top picks.
These picks can be added to salads or soups, plus canned kidney beans are a staple for hearty dishes such as chilli.
Not all tinned fish was created equally - there’s a few types that you should most definitely try to avoid.
Try to take a close look at the ingredients list before purchasing. Make sure if the fish is described as in “olive oil” that the ingredient list states extra virgin olive oil, because sometimes you will find the package says “olive oil,” but inside actually contains only little olive oil mixed with some canola or soybean oil.
Be very cautious about choosing fish canned in mustard or tomato sauce or anything else like that – sometimes it’s OK, but often you’ll find a whole pile of junk ingredients mixed in. If you like your fish in tomato sauce or with mustard - the best option is to add it yourself.
Beatriz Robles suggests buying frozen vegetables, fish and meat. Generally, frozen foods retain their vitamins and minerals and there is no change to the carbohydrate, protein or fat content.
Eggs are a good source of protein and have a long shelf life - they can be kept in the fridge for up to three weeks. Protein is a key building block for immune cells and antibodies and plays a crucial role in helping our immune system do its job.
Vegetarian? Vegan? Or simply looking for a meat alternative? The Beatriz Nobles recommends textured soya for its high protein content, low fat content and long shelf life.
In general, nuts are good sources of fat, fibre and protein.
Most of the fat in nuts is monounsaturated fat, as well as omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fat, though they do contain some saturated fat - so be careful with portion sizes.
They also pack a number of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and vitamin E.
Nuts will stay fresh for months if you keep them in an airtight container, so an ideal snack to keep in the cupboard during lockdown period.
For the healthiest options - select unsalted, roasted or raw nuts.
If you eat cheese,the best option is to buy cured or “hard” cheese. The pasteurisation process that this cheese goes through helps it to stay fresh and edible for longer.
Beatriz Robles suggests it’s a good idea to have some healthy condiments in your cupboard, to help keep your food tasting good. She recommends extra virgin olive oil and vinegar are your staples.
If you’re planning to buy rice, pasta or bread - always choose wholemeal or brown options when you can. Also consider your quantities - there is no need to stockpile these, or any other products.
If you drink milk, it’s worth buying UHT during lockdown - due to its long shelf life.
Powdered milk could also be a decent option - especially for use in hot drinks such as coffee or hot chocolate. One packet of powdered milk offers you around 7 litres of liquid milk.
When choosing a milk alternative such as oat, soya, almond or coconut milk - always opt for those with no added sugar.
When it comes to bread, try to continue to support independent bakeries where possible. You can buy fresh bread that’s baked on the day and you could add an extra loaf to your order and freeze it. Fresh bread is ideal for freezing and by doing this, you’ll reduce your number of times you’ll need to go out and purchase.
It’s always handy to have some healthy snacks nearby, to avoid reaching for that packet of crisps or biscuits when those hunger niggles arise - often mid-morning or afternoon.
Good options include fruit, corn to make popcorn, unsalted and in-shell seeds, edamame, in-shell and unsalted peanuts, lupins, pickles or dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) - for when you’re craving something sweet.