If you’re struggling to stay healthy during self-isolation, perhaps because you’re relying too much on convenience foods or stress eating, then we’ve rounded up some expert advice on how you can shop healthily and eat healthily during a lockdown period.
Stock your cupboards with healthy foods to resist temptation
Sabina Valentine, a nutrition expert at the University of Alberta in Canada, advises stocking up your cupboards with healthy foods to avoid reaching for temptation when you want a snack. “Keeping those more gluttonous foods out of your cupboards means that when you do want a snack, you’re choosing something healthy rather than unhealthy.”
Choose your snacks more wisely
Snacks are not completely off the menu, but Valentine says if you do want to buy snacks, try and find a healthier version, such as buying popcorn instead of potato chips.
Fruit and vegetables don’t have to be fresh
Fresh fruit and vegetables are great if you can get them, but if the supermarkets have sold out then don’t worry, there are other alternatives to make sure you get your five-a-day. The American Heart Association says that frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables, frozen meat (if you eat it) and dried grains are shelf-stable options that can also be used to cook up healthy meals. Zach Conrad, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology & Health Sciences at William & Mary, agrees that there are some great alternatives out there if you can’t find fresh produce, but adds that we should be checking labels, particularly when buying canned, as they can be high in sugar and salt.
Valentine advises planning your meals, not only so you can reduce the amount of trips to the grocery store you need to make when we’re supposed to be at home, but also to help you stick to a healthy eating plan as well as use up items that you already have on-hand. “Before you go out to buy, take stock of what you already have. This is a good time to make use of meals you’ve previously made and frozen,” she says.
Keep a mealtime routine
Professor Greg Murray at Swinburne University of Technology, Australia, says that sticking to a regular routine during lockdown can help you to stay healthy, and that includes a routine with meal times. He advises eating your meals at the same time every day and if you’re not hungry for a full meal, at least eat a small snack.
Dr. Elizabeth Cozine, a Mayo Clinic family medicine physician, says that as we now have more time on your hands to cook, this is an opportunity to try out some healthy diet changes. “You might think about doing some things like eating more whole foods, thinking about fewer meat (dishes), reducing your processed foods, and thinking about moving toward eating as many plants as you can,” she says. Zach Conrad at William & Mary in the US, agrees. “For people who have time, the interest and the right kitchen resources, this is a really unique opportunity to expand the types of ingredients we typically use for our recipes in our foods.”
Keep a food diary
If you’re still struggling to follow a healthy diet, Valentine suggests keeping a food diary. “Recording what you’re eating for one to four days can really increase your awareness of what you’re doing, because you can look at it and go, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so different from how I usually eat,’” she says. The next step is to identify why you are eating what you are eating. “If you’re bored, make a list of 10 activities you can do besides eating,” said Valentine. “If you’re stressed, talk to someone about it. We are all connected by coronavirus, so it can help to talk to family members or friends about how we’re feeling,” she said.