By Jeanann Doyle
While the government is planning for us all to return to life as normal as possible, disruptions to work routines and school scheduling can still create anxiety at home and throw plans for healthy eating out the window. It is even more important now to eat well and stay hydrated to strengthen our immune systems so we can stay well.
It is important to think about having a balance in your diet such as having enough fruit and vegetables, wholegrain carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats. Accessing healthy food may still be a challenge, therefore we need to get a bit more creative in how we achieve this. Read ahead for some inspiration and top tips.
What’s in the store cupboard?
I’m pretty sure many of us have a few long-lost tins of beans and pulses “living” in the back of the cupboard. Tinned foods are a great fallback, for example, combining tinned soups with any meat, fish or vegetables you have are great for cooking up stews and casseroles. Lentils are a fantastic source of protein. Tinned oily fish such as sardines and mackerel are full of Omega 3’s, last ages and make a delicious snack or lunch on wholegrain toast with salad.
Your Freezer Essentials
A bag of frozen vegetables can be a nice break from chopping veg every day and makes a fast veggie curry or veggie burgers using a food processor! Did you know that frozen vegetables and fruit can retain nutrients and last a long time in the freezer?
Top Tip: Label and individually bag up marinated chicken fillets. Experiment and try making different types at home e.g. smoked chilli chicken or lemon and herby chicken. Make sure to defrost fully in fridge overnight or in the microwave on the defrost setting before cooking. It is also quite useful to have a loaf of sliced bread in the freezer.
Get Supermarket Savvy
It’s a good idea to plan your meals ahead and make a list before heading out to do your food shopping. This will save money, reduce stress and avoids buying unnecessary purchases. If you are shielding and avoiding going out; ask a neighbour, friend or the council to assist with food shopping. Many shops and charities have made special arrangements for vulnerable people and people who are shielding who cannot get to the shops.
For further support visit the council website: https://www.westminster.gov.uk/westminster-connects
Top Tip: Fruit and vegetable stalls sometimes have bowls of fruit for £1. To avoid spoilage, you can freeze these. Wash and dry first, make small bags of chopped fruit or vegetables (or a mix for healthy smoothies). Store in the freezer for those busier days with kids or if running low on fresh sources. For vegetables, it is necessary to blanch them first before freezing in order to retain the nutrients, flavour and texture. Try to buy less processed food where possible.
While we continue to spend more time at home, it might be tempting to fall into the habit of eating and snacking more often. In turn, we may end up having more sugar, fat and salt than our bodies need. Snacking can still be part of a healthy diet if we choose wisely, it is a great way to pack in additional vitamins and minerals to boost your immune system. It is good to be thinking of healthy snacks for kids too. Dried fruits and raw nuts last ages and are good choices, just remember to keep portions in check. Raw nuts provide a great source of healthy fats and protein. Two healthy snacks in between three regular meals will help you to build lasting healthy behaviours. If you are finding it difficult to cut down on snacking, try planning your meals and snacks; take 5 minutes in the morning to make your snacks for the day ahead and change around your cupboard stores so that unhealthy snacks aren’t too easy to access while healthier snacks are near the front
Food Prep like a boss
Meal prepping in bulk not only saves time but also gives you a break from cooking too. You could make a large pot of soup for 3-4 days then freeze any leftover soup in individual labelled bags. This allows more room in your freezer too. For breakfast you could make overnight oats. For lunches you could prepare salad jars and make them colourful to get a mix of nutrients (great fun with kids). Fancy a healthy treat after dinner? Why not try an easy homemade frozen yoghurt. Mash up any fruit left over with plain yoghurt and freeze while cooking the dinner. Make pizza bases in bulk and batches of homemade tomato sauce in separate bags to take out when you need a quick healthy dinner. Prepare a large lasagne or fish pie and divide up into boxes for the freezer.
Top tip: Take away cartons fit nicely on top of each other so you can get lots into the freezer.
Taste your food, don’t waste it
This is a perfect time to get better at reducing food waste, experimenting in the kitchen and saving money at all the same time. Wondering what to do with stale bread? Turn it into breadcrumbs to make tasty breaded chicken or fish with a colourful salad for dinner. Are your over ripe bananas starting to stink out the kitchen? Why not bake a simple banana loaf or breakfast muffins with the kids without adding in extra sugar in. Bananas are an easy way of getting a good source of potassium in our diet which helps regulate our fluids to transports nutrients around the body and remove waste.
It can be stressful trying to keep your family healthy whilst everyone continues to stay at home. Let’s put a positive spin on this and look at the opportunities to nurture your healthy eaters. Show kids how to grow seedlings for vegetables and what nutrition comes from them. If space is an issue, they can grow herbs on the windowsill. It can be a time to teach younger ones about where our food comes from and how to keep their bodies healthy and strong in a fun way. At dinner time, smaller kids can have little “jobs” washing and sorting of vegetables, this will create good habits early on while also empowering them.
Why not try making homemade pizzas together and let kids choose their own toppings. Encourage a rainbow of colours with vegetables for a variety of nutrients. It is important to keep a routine at home around eating well together by having fixed mealtimes. This can a be a creative family activity some evening after dinner using markers and a wall chart. For little ones, use star stickers as a reward for when they have their 5-A-Day. Set mealtimes will help create a structure for whole family especially for children. This will help reduce anxiety in a time of uncertainty for everyone while also strengthening family bonds.
We need to have 6-8 glasses of water a day to keep hydrated. Why? So that we can prevent infections and have nutrients delivered to all our cells. Don’t like drinking plain water? Add some mint, frozen fruit, cucumber slices or fresh lemon or lime for a flavour boost. Try to have less caffeine and sneaky biscuits now that you’re closer to the kettle in your home comforts. It is best to avoid too many sugary drinks and alcohol as this can lead to consuming extra calories potentially causing weight gain.