Nourishing your body during lockdown

September 14, 2020

As we enter another week of lockdown, many of us are likely to be getting used to the new routines and rhythms that make up our day.

For some, being stuck at home means that you are eating more and moving less than normal. Whilst for others it means relying on takeaways a lot less and having more time to cook meals from scratch.

We caught up with two ZOE's nutritionists, Louisa and Kirstin, to learn more about how lockdown has influenced their eating habits and some practical tips for nourishing yourself during this uncertain time.

You can watch the full Q&A session with our nutritionists over on our Facebook page

How has being at home for most of the day influenced your eating habits?

Being at home all day means that we may not have the same external cues that we are used to that remind us when to eat. For example, when we're in the office we might be reminded that it's lunch time when our co-workers start to heat up their food.

Louisa shares how this has been one of the main things that has been affected during lockdown:

"Without those external cues I can often get so focused on work that I forget to eat, even though I get hungry! Although I usually try and tune into my body's hunger and fullness cues, I’m finding that I need to be even more aware of what my body needs than I thought I did!"

When we find ourself getting busy with work, childcare, or other tasks at home we may end up snacking less than normal. This can leave us feeling ravenous by the time we're able to sit down for our next meal, and can result in us eating past the point of comfortable fullness.

For others the opposite may be true. You may find that being at home all day leads to more snacking and grazing out of boredom, or perhaps you even find yourself turning to food for comfort in this stressful environment.

"I know for a lot of people, working from home can present the challenge of being near food all day", says Louisa. "Once again, tuning into and respecting your hunger and fullness cues is a great place to start"

What healthy meals have you been been cooking at home?

Is it even possible to have a healthy diet when stuck in isolation? Of course it is! It may be more difficult than normal to get ingredients that you'd normally use. However there are plenty of nourishing meals and snacks that can be prepared with non-perishable pantry items and food that can be stored in the freezer. So, what are the best foods to buy when you know you're going to be stuck at home?

"Like many people, I’ve been spacing out my grocery shopping a lot more than I normally do, so I’ve really been finding frozen fruits and vegetables to be extremely useful right now", Louisa shares.
"I’ve been roasting frozen broccoli or other mixed veggies to always have a quick and easy vegetable side on hand, and I’ve been using frozen berries in smoothies."

The great news is that frozen fruits and veggies are just as nutritious than fresh alternatives. This is because they're often frozen within hours of picking, which seals in nutrients that are normally lost over time in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Don't underestimate the value of canned goods either. Canned fish like tuna and salmon are highly nutritious, offering heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Tinned (or dried) legumes are an amazing source of fibre, plant-based protein, and plenty of other nutrients. They can easily be mixed into salads, pasta dishes, soups and stews.

"We have been eating roasted veggies on repeat in our house. Roast whatever veggies you have available along with tinned cannelini beans, with plenty of herbs and spices, and serve them with salad greens and hummus", Kirstin shares.

There are many really nutritious meals that can be made using basic non-perishable items like:

  • Grains and grain-based products like oats, rice, whole wheat pasta, millet, quinoa and spelt -these can all provide a great base for meals
  • Olive oil, spices, tahini, salt, and pepper - these can help make meals a lot more exciting
  • Nuts, nut butters, and seeds - these are all a great source of protein, fibre and healthy fats
  • Long-life milk / milk alternatives
  • ...and don't forget tea and coffee!

Nourishment involves far more than just nutrition

We know that nutrition makes up just one part of our overall wellbeing - mental health, sleep, and physical activity are important too. The COVID pandemic has understandably had a huge impact on our mental health, which gives us all the more reason to actively look after it during this stressful time.

However, self-care can be difficult to prioritise depending on your individual circumstances. Those who are working from home, caring for kids or the elderly, and homeschooling are definitely are short on time. Even if you aren't juggling all of these things, you will most likely have a lot of other things to do that will take priority over self-care. Self-care shouldn’t feel like a chore or an extra thing on the to-do list, but it doesn't need to be complicated either.

Louisa shares her three top tips for self-care during lockdown:

"My biggest tip would be to start with getting enough sleep - it's key to good mental and physical wellbeing. Without enough sleep, you won’t have the bandwidth to be making choices throughout your day that support your health"
"Secondly, I also think everyone is also just feeling a bit more lost and possibly more sad than usual. So it's important to allow yourself to feel what you're feeling and talk to someone if you need to", says Louisa.

It’s so important to seek out support. This blog post has a list of resources that you can refer to if you aren't sure where to start. Finally, try to do something each day or each week that brings you joy.

"This is usually important for our wellbeing, but is even more so at high-stress times like this. It can hard to find the time, but even if it’s only 30 minutes per week, it can really nourish the soul"

Want to eat the right foods for your body, but aren't sure where to begin?

At ZOE, we are working together with leading scientists and thousands of volunteers, combining large-scale data and machine learning to predict personal nutritional responses to any meal so we can eat with confidence. Food can be confusing, but we're on a mission to make nutrition clearer for everyone.

Join our scientists at the American Society of Nutrition's live online conference to learn more about how we are pioneering the latest science on the microbiome, inflammation and how genes impact our metabolic health.

You can register for this free event here, which will be held on June 2nd, and tune into any part of the session.

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