Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were all made aware of the importance of staying at home and limiting our trips out – which included trips to the grocery store. How can we maintain good eating habits while following these guidelines? Good nutrition is crucial for your health – especially during the winter, and times when your immune system may need to fight back. You may realize that you are getting limited access to fresh food and an increased intake of processed foods which are high in fats, sugars, and salt. However, even with a few limited ingredients and remaining physically active, you can continue to maintain good health.
Of course, fresh ingredients tend to have a shorter shelf life than canned or non perishable foods. Prioritize fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables, and reduced fat dairy products, when cooking. Frozen fruits and vegetables can also conveniently be used over longer periods of time, be a great way to have fresh produce on hand at all times, and often have a similar nutrient profile to fresh foods.
Food safety is not just for restaurants and pubs. It is a prerequisite for safe eating and a healthy diet in our homes too! When preparing food, remember to follow good food hygiene to avoid contamination. Some key recommendations include:
Easier said than done right? While we've definitely been relying more on canned, frozen, or processed foods, many of these contain high levels of salt, sugar, and fat. Try to prioritize foods with reduced or no added salt. Experiment with fresh or dried herbs and spices for added flavour instead of salt or sugar. If you crave something sweet, try fresh fruits. For limiting fat, try changing your cooking methods to steaming, grilling, or sauteeing instead of frying foods. If oil is needed, use a smaller amount of unsaturated oils such as olive or sunflower oils to cook food. To limit saturated fats, trim the excess fat from meat or choose a skinless options.
Although home cooked meals are the priority, many businesses are now offering delivery systems for ingredients and ready meals. The majority of them have a contact-less option and support the self-isolation measures.
When you’re cooking from scratch, be aware of the portion sizes. Being at home, people tend to overeat since they are without company or have limited activities. It’s important to consult the national food guide on what healthy portions are.
Fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system and offers a prolonged feeling of fullness; which prevents overeating. To ensure an adequate fiber intake, aim to include vegetables, fruits and whole grain foods in all meals. Some examples of whole grain foods are brown pasta and rice, oats, quinoa, and whole wheat breads, rather than refined grain foods such as white paste and rice and white bread.
Being hydrated is essential for good health. Drinking water instead of sugar –sweetened beverages is a simple way to limit your intake of sugar and excess calories. To enhance its taste, add fresh or frozen fruits like berries or slices of citrus fruits, as well as cucumber or herbs (such as mint, lavender, and rosemary). Try not to drink large amounts of strong coffee, tea, and especially caffeinated soft drinks and energy drinks. These can lead to dehydration and can impact your sleeping patterns in a negative way.
Since we are spending longer periods of time at home, it opens up the possibilities to make those recipes we previously didn’t have time for. You can also find many healthy and nutritious recipes online and experiment making a new one. With being at home so much, it has also opened up new opportunities for families to share meals together. Family meals are an important opportunity for parents to be a role model for healthy eating, and to strengthen the family relationships. Increased time at home may also present new opportunities for the children to get involved in cooking healthy meals. Letting younger children choose what vegetables to include in your meal may encourage them to eat them at the table. Also, when involving children in cooking, it is important to keep meals simple and to teach them about proper food safety.
There's a lot you can do in this free time of lockdown, and one of the things to start with is healthy eating habits. As long as we are locked down, it is crucial you take care of yourself. Stay home and stay safe.
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