Looking After Your Health During Lockdown
While there are many choices out of your control at the moment, thankfully, you can take the reins with your food choices and home habits. Follow a few of my lockdown tips below and give your health your best shot, never a more important time to prioritise than now.
Tip 1: Routine
Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, routine is vital during this time. Easier said than done but try to mimic your previous schedule, get out of the cot at your usual alarm time, take frequent work/study breaks (but not too many) and hit the hay at a reasonable hour. Routine might just be our sanity saviour. If you used to snack or meal prep at the weekend for the busy week ahead, continue to do so or perhaps you never managed to nail down a consistent routine, now is the perfect time to start practising new skills and habits.
Tip 2: Shop Smart
stay fuelled and filled but also to make sure what’s placed in your trolley will stretch and last. You may be used to numerous small food shops weekly so limited grocery access may be overwhelming. Don’t be a stockpile serpent. Planning and being prepared in advance will help you to buy what you need and prevent impulse buying, as you all have once been told, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. Design a meal planner for the week ahead along with a corresponding shopping list, being prepared and shopping smart will save your pocket, reduce waste and save you time at home.
Before a product reaches your trolley, take a sneak peek at what it is made of. A useful guide is using the traffic light label system which is now on majority of food & beverage products.
Below is a sample traffic light label: red = high, amber = medium, green = low.
This product is:
Low in sugar
High in salt
Medium amount of total fat, however, it is low in saturated fat. The reason why the total fat is amber is due to the presence of unsaturated healthy fat.
When comparing product labels, you must compare like with like, therefore, it is often easiest to compare nutritional values per 100g as nutritional information per serving size is not always present and serving sizes can differ between products.
Use the shopping card below to identify what quantities are considered high, medium and low for the following nutrients per 100g of food (memorise the low values so you can opt for these foods when shopping).
Tip 3: Frozen – Friends or Foe?
It is common belief that fresh food is more nutritious than frozen, leaving many consumers sceptical about buying frozen fruit and vegetables. However, need not fear, frozen foods are often more nutrient-dense than their fresh counterparts. Nutrients in frozen food are preserved close to the time of harvesting when the food is at peak ripeness, therefore, all the goodness including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are sealed in. Make use of frozen food and non-perishables with extended shelf lives such as tinned sweetcorn, beans, legumes, frozen fruit and veg, tinned fish, tinned fruit and veg with no added sugar or salt (check the food labels). Nutritious, delicious and convenient.
Tip 4: Be Snack Savvy
The fridge and press doors will soon fall off their hinges from the frequent snack trips and empty gazing into fridge space. It is important to consider your daily energy needs and how active you are: fuel for the work required. On a day where you are less active, less energy is needed and therefore, less energy dense snacks are required.
Use the time at home wisely, practice new skills and give these 4 ingredient no-bake snacks a go. Putting 10 minutes aside to prepare a batch of snacks for the week ahead could save your endless snack cravings.
Tip 5: Protein Up!
While you may not be as active during lockdown, protein is still an important nutrient to include in your diet. Protein plays a vital role in muscle maintenance and health, while also curbing appetite, helping you to stay fuller for longer. You should aim for ~20g of protein with each main meal as well as including protein in snacks.
Examples of what 20g of protein looks like:
1 chicken breast
1 salmon fillet
6 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 pint of milk
1 large tin of baked beans
Small tin of fish
1 small tub of cottage cheese
½ block of tofu
Tip 6: Will an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away?
Now more than ever, the well recited 5-a day mantra is important. While eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily won’t stop you catching the coronavirus, practicing this habit will help maintain a healthy immune system. Fruit and vegetables are rich in minerals and vitamins, including antioxidants such as vitamin C as well as being a great source of fibre, helping you to stay fuller for longer. Soups and smoothies are a great way of helping hit your 5 a day as well as packing in plenty of anti-inflammatory ingredients, particularly important when injured, sick or post-exercise recovery.
Craving a pint with the pubs being closed? Try out my pint of power below and you’ll be onto a winner!
Add 1 banana, 1 kiwi, 3/4 courgette, 1 ready-to-eat beetroot, 1 handful of walnuts, 3/4 cup frozen berries and 1 tsp honey to a blender, add water to blend to your desired consistency and pint away!
Tip 7: Vitamin D & Covid-19
I want to stress that the only main protective factor against Covid-19 is self-isolation, washing hands, social distancing and practicing good hygiene. However, recent research has suggested that supplementing with 20 to 50 micrograms/ug (800 to 2000 international units/IU) of vitamin D per day over the coming 3 to 6 months may help protect against Covid-19.
Researchers have specifically recommended such supplementation for vulnerable groups such as older individuals, hospital inpatients, nursing home residents, individuals with compromised immune function or diabetes mellitus as well as for healthcare workers, those with darker skin, limited sun exposure (i.e. in Ireland), vegans, vegetarians and those who are overweight or obese.
Sunshine is the main source of vitamin D, therefore, in Ireland, we are vulnerable to inadequacy and deficiency from November to March, however, cocooning and less outdoor hours during lockdown extends this vulnerable period. Vitamin D plays an important role in bone and muscle health, mental health, immune health and may help to reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections – one for the next shopping list!
Tip 8: Be Caffeine Clever
Try to resist the temptation of the all-you-can-drink coffee availability. While caffeine can light a fire under your focus, caffeine overload may cause heart racing and heightened anxiety in some individuals, something none of us need at the moment! Have a caffeine cut off time; caffeine has a half-life of approximately 5 hours, meaning only half of the caffeine will be gone from your system after 5 hours. Coffee and tea (a cup of tea contains approximately half the caffeine content of a cup of coffee) consumed after lunch can disrupt sleep routine, not ideal for work or study performance.
Tip 9: The Balancing Act
One easy win to better health & improved nutrition is to build a balanced plate at each meal.
The 3 pillars of a balanced plate:
High protein foods, such as: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, Greek yoghurt, tofu
Carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain options including potatoes, pasta, rice, porridge oats, bread
Fruit/veg – all fruit and veg is good fruit and veg.
Fats, ideally unsaturated fats such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, plant oils should also be included throughout the day.
Examples of a balanced plate:
Bowl of porridge made with milk + fruit + handful of nuts
Scrambled eggs on 2 slices of wholemeal toast + sliced tomato + spinach.
Fillet of fish or ½ tin of fish + potato/sweet potato + 2-3 handfuls of vegetables or salad.
Tofu and mixed vegetable stir-fry made with soy sauce + lemon juice, served with brown rice, quinoa or whole-wheat noodles.
Chicken and/or chickpea curry made with coconut milk or tinned chopped tomatoes + spices + mixed vegetables served with brown rice, quinoa or couscous.
Tip 10: Move
Just because gyms are closed and you are confined to your 2km bubble, does not mean you cannot or should not exercise. Try to avoid the all or nothing attitude. Make space in your routine for some form of movement, whether that be a walk, jog, stretch, dance, hoover the stairs, water the flowers or home workout. Motivation might be low at the moment but when possible, try to aim for at least 30 minutes of activity daily with some form of strength exercise on at least 2 days per week.
Last but Not Least: Have Realistic Expectations
With all of the above said, it is important to avoid setting sky high expectations during this period, whether that be exercise personal bests, body physique goals, work deadlines or an over-ambitious study schedule. Remember, this is a difficult time for all adjusting to a new routine and fighting the doom and gloom of the daily updates, be kind to yourself and others. Don’t beat yourself up over a day of unproductivity or boredom, look after your health, mind and body and remember be sensible and stay at home.
For more nutrition tips and recipe ideas, visit @clarefarrellnutrition on Instagram.
About The Author :
Clare Farrell , Performance Nutritionist
B.S, Human Nutrition
Clare is currently studying an MSc in Performance Nutrition
Clare Farrell is a Performance Nutrition Intern currently working with the English Institute of Sport. Clare is currently studying an MSc in Performance Nutrition at Loughborough University. Clare now combines her passion for sport with her knowledge of nutrition, working with elite level sportspeople.
Contact Clare on firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Instagram @clarefarrellnutrition