Balanced diet How to eat well in quarantine June 11 2020
Joel Feren Joel leans against kitchen bench next to fresh vegetables Dietitian

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives including how and what we eat. But don’t despair. You can eat well and even learn some new kitchen hacks in quarantine.

We’re in the middle of something we’ve never seen or experienced before. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we’ve approached our work, social lives and most probably our diets, too.

It is certainly encouraging that many of us have chosen to top up our supplies of key staples such as grains and canned goods, as well as frozen fruit and veggies. Yet, you’re probably asking yourselves: what on earth am I supposed to eat during this period of self-isolation?

Well, the options are endless. And it’s OK to enjoy foods that don’t normally feature in your diet. These are, after all, unprecedented times. Survival for many of us is the order of the day. Nevertheless, there are some strategies to help you eat well when you’re in quarantine.

Plan ahead

I don’t live by the motto, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, however, exercising some foresight will hold you in good stead during this time. Planning a menu for the week ahead will also make shopping a little easier – especially if your shopping habits have recently changed. That is not to say that you have to create a hard and fast meal plan for the week, but give yourself a range of options to include at mealtimes.

Don’t forget your veggies

Many of us don’t eat enough veggies at the best of times. In fact, a staggering 93 per cent of us don’t meet our vegetable requirements each day. So, with that in mind, aim to fill half your plate with colourful non-starchy vegetables. Making use of tinned and frozen varieties is an easy, delicious and cost-effective way of getting more veggies into your diet. Eating vegetables plays a big part in supporting a healthy and robust immune system, which is even more critical at the moment.

Be more intuitive

Temptation abounds. The fridge is only a stone’s throw away. But don’t despair. Now is the perfect time to learn to be more in tune with your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Let these signals be your guide. Are you feeling light-headed? Is your tummy rumbling? Are your energy levels waning? Or are you bored, emotional, stressed, tired and just looking for a pick-me-up? Getting better at recognising your body’s signals will guide you in your decision-making.

Get into the kitchen and cook!

There has never been a better time to cook. Dust off the recipe books and start baking, roasting, stewing, steaming, poaching, grilling or whatever takes your fancy. Make sure you have some fun too, and you can include other members of the family. Honing your culinary skills now will hold you in good stead once the threat of coronavirus passes. Studies show that we consume fewer calories when dining in compared to when dining out. This is most likely due to eating smaller portions, using lower-energy ingredients and cooking methods, and not including extra courses such as dessert.

Cut yourself some slack

Sure, it’s important to be focused on your nutritional health, but don’t beat yourself up over making the odd poor dietary choice. In years to come, you’re not going to remember eating extra chocolate or snack foods or even gaining some extra kilos. However, you will remember that you survived the COVID-19 pandemic even if you did raid the cookie jar more than once. The scales might have shifted in the wrong direction, but you will have survived to tell the tale.

Aside from maintaining a healthy diet, it is also key to prioritise sunshine, exercise, mindfulness and sleep. Ticking each of these boxes, as well as eating right, will promote good mental health, overall wellbeing and help to prime your immune system to fight off any potential nasties.

Here’s to the end of our isolation with all of us coming out the other side happy, healthy and wiser.

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Joel Feren Joel leans against kitchen bench next to fresh vegetables Dietitian Joel Feren is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with a background in the biomedical sciences. Joel’s main areas of interest include men’s health, food trends and the link between food and mood.