As we are now in lockdown, the worry is how to eat healthily. When you’re suddenly thrown out of your normal routine and trapped in the house all day with cupboards full of food, it’s very easy to overeat and snack! Add into the mix, the stress of being on lock down, not being able to see friends and relatives, losing motivation, wanting to stay in your pyjamas all day and watch tv, along with the worry of the coronavirus and its implications, it’s no surprise that we turn to stress eating.
Here are some tips to help prevent you from slipping into bad eating habits which could affect your physical and mental wellbeing.
- Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan! We can’t stress this enough. We all have the time now to plan meals for the week and shop accordingly. Make the most of your freezer and batch cook things like chillis, stews and curries with lots of healthy vegetables. Fruit can also be frozen and used to make healthy smoothies.
- Make sure that you are having a wide variety of food including dairy, fruit and vegetables, oily fish (one of the few rich sources of Vitamin D), wholemeal pasta and rice, eggs, fish and lean meats (unless you have allergies to any of these of course)
- It’s easy to lose mealtimes when the day stretches ahead of you, and to just eat as and when you want but that’s when you lose track of the amounts that you are eating, therefore it’s important to have set times to eat throughout the day. This doesn’t have to be rigid, but, for example, breakfast could be sometime between 7.30am and 9am, lunch could be sometime between 12.30pm and 2pm and dinner could be sometime between 5pm and 7pm. The times don’t matter as long as it’s nicely spaced out. You are less likely to feel that the day is stretching out in front of you with nothing to do, as this is when you’ll reach for that packet of crisps or that bar of chocolate. It’s much easier to control if you know what and when your next meal is. Elli and I eat breakfast at 10.30am after our morning class at 10am. I can’t tell you how giddy we get when it’s nearly time to eat ???? We then have our lunch about 2.30pm -3pm and dinner about 7.30pm -8pm. This fits in well for us with our classes, exercise, working and our daily walk!
- Make sure that you are eating enough at each meal so that you are less inclined to snack. It’s easy to think about saving calories for your evening meal and a glass of wine, but if you’re cutting them throughout the day, you’ll be so hungry that you’ll eat the evening meal, the glass of wine and probably many other snacks too. As a guide, I try to stick to around 1600 calories a day (this will be different for everyone depending on your goals and whether you are trying to lose weight or maintain as well as the amount of exercise that you are doing) and I break this down into 300 calories for breakfast, 450 calories for lunch, 600 calories for dinner and either a glass of wine or a couple of snacks totalling 250 calories. I space my calories so that I am not skipping breakfast, having a light lunch and trying to eat all my calories at once in the evening. If I did this, not only would I be hungry throughout the day, but I would be snacking on anything convenient that I could get my hands on. Eating regularly will keep your body fuelled throughout the day lowering the risk of your blood sugar levels spiking and keeping hunger pangs at bay too. Obviously, there are days when we all fancy a little something else or we are just hungrier, or we have a special meal planned and there’s nothing wrong with having a little extra now and again. Go ahead and enjoy. The problems begin when we eat like that all the time.
- Make sure that you’re choosing healthy meals. Processed foods might be more convenient but it’s very easy to overeat and, as we’re all spending more time at home at the moment, there’s no excuse not to make meals from scratch, using healthy ingredients. Try different types of fish or lean meats with big bowls of salad, omelettes with different ingredients, Vegan bean dishes, different wholemeal pasta recipes, vegetarian curries (we have a really nice chickpea curry) to name a few. The world is your oyster so get creative. It will also help to fill part of your day if you’re struggling to find things to do. Who knows, there may be some Michelin starred chefs amongst us! ????
- It’s so easy to snack when we are bored, so try to keep yourself busy. Plan a range of little and big jobs that need doing around the house and garden. If your hands are busy it’s hard to snack and it’s surprising how engrossed you can become in what you are doing. I went out to trim some shrubs and do some weeding and 2 ½ hours passed in a flash!
- Make some healthy snacks so that if you do fancy something, you’re choosing healthy foods and not heading to the biscuit tin. Try things like apple slices and nut butter, Greek yogurt and berries, wholegrain crackers and cheese or nut butter, kale crisps (just pop pieces of kale on a baking tray and pop in the oven with a little spray of olive oil) or bananas or strawberries dipped in melted dark chocolate.
- Try to keep the area where you eat and the area where you relax and sleep separate to avoid associating eating and snacking with watching television or sleeping.
- Try to reduce your stress by sorting or decluttering things in the house, tidying the garden, doing a home exercise class or chatting with friends and family via Facetime, WhatsApp etc. It’s important to stay connected to other people at this time so maybe as well as chatting you could play games, watch tv together or get a few of you together and have a couple of drinks.
- Make sure that you are drinking enough water or liquids. This can be squash, tea, coffee and milk. Our brains can’t tell the difference between hunger and thirst so always have a drink first before snacking, as the chances are you might just be thirsty. You need to stay hydrated in order to function properly, so try to drink 8 glasses a day, or more if you have exercised. Try to avoid too much caffeine, and don’t have any from about 3pm, as this interrupts sleep patterns.
The above is a guide to keeping you on track with healthy eating and using fresh ingredients to create meals that you actually have time to make at the moment, and creating mealtimes to keep the amounts that you are eating in check.
Having said all this, in these uncertain and strange times, a little indulgence is absolutely fine and necessary to boost your mood. It’s not a time to withdraw everything that you find comforting as you will just end up craving all the foods you’ve told yourself you can’t have, so if you fancy something, you should go ahead and have it. It’s all about balance, what you want, what you need and what is best for you.
Stay happy, healthy, fit, active and above all stay safe.
Caroline & Hannah xx