Is your diet supporting your health and wellbeing?

By Nicky Gilbert

As we start adapting to the new world in which we find ourselves, and try to find new ways to pursue our goals, our eating habits and food choices may seem a bit trivial.

However, it’s probably more important now than ever before that we are mindful about eating and drinking so we can keep fit and well, mentally and physically.

So, think about how you will plan to adapt what you eat and drink to suit your new lifestyle.

How has your activity and energy expenditure changed and how will this influence your daily energy requirements?

If you’re not rushing around at work, attending lots of meetings and enjoying a busy social life, you may decide that you need to consume fewer calories each day.

Perhaps you are working from home and sitting down a lot more than you would usually.

Simple ways to reduce your calorie intake is by eating more filling foods, which are lower-calorie but still nutritious. Typically these are high fibre, slow-release (low GI) foods such as pasta, sweet potato, oatmeal, wholewheat bread, beans and pulses.

You should also think about keeping fatty and sugary foods for an occasional treat, rather than reaching for the cake and biscuit tin regularly if you are working from home. Be aware of hidden sugars in soft drinks.

How are you managing your shopping and cooking?

Now that we’re urged to visit supermarkets less frequently, and we still face queues, social distancing rules and some shortages, it may be difficult to find all your favourite and familiar food stuffs. The unfamiliar shopping experience can also make you feel anxious and forgetful. It is very likely that you will need to be more flexible in your shopping habits by using different shops and buying what is available.

Warning! Avoid being tempted to BUY too many fatty and sugary snacks and drinks. Just buy enough for the short term. If those treats are not in the house you can’t eat them!

Perhaps you can see these circumstances as a challenge. Try to keep focused and shop with a plan to buy enough foods from each of the four food groups needed for a balanced diet.

See what you can source from each of the four food groups.

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES All types of fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables all count
STARCHY FOODS (CARBOHYDRATE) Breakfast cereals, porridge, oats, muesli

All types of breads, bagels, crispbreads

Potatoes, pasta, rice, bulgur wheat, couscous, Quinoa

PROTEIN SOURCES Meat, poultry, eggs, fish (tinned, fresh, frozen)

Nuts, beans, peas, lentils (tinned, frozen, dried or vacuum packed)

 

DAIRY PRODUCTS AND ALTERNATIVES Milk, cheese, yoghurt and fortified dairy alternatives

 

Once you have bought a selection of foods from each of the groups you can plan your meals in a ‘Ready Steady Cook’ style! How about having a competition at home – or challenge friends and family in other households online or by Facetime, WhatsApp or Zoom. For example, you could see who comes up with the most creative and balanced meals for the next few days with the foods you have available.

Are the changes around you affecting your eating habits and choices?

Let’s be honest, in times of difficulty, change and uncertainty, many of us experience a change in appetite and eating behaviours. For some, less activity and feeling stressed might mean loss of appetite and disinterest in eating and cooking. For others, food may serve as a source of comfort. Recognising which way you are inclined to go and acting mindfully may help motivate you to eat healthily.

Try to enjoy any extra time you now have to try out different foods and meals, search for tasty recipes and develop your cooking skills.

Should I be taking any supplements?

The recommendation is to eat a well-balanced diet and extra vitamin and mineral supplements are not advised. Those that claim to ‘boost the immunity’ are rarely effective but healthy eating and good sleep habits with minimal alcohol intake are advisable.

NOTE that no dietary product or supplement will prevent you from catching COVID-19 – we have no immunity to this virus. Follow Government guidance on good hygiene practices and social distancing.

The only exception to this is that all adults are advised to consider taking a supplement of 10 micrograms daily of Vitamin D – especially if they are spending more time than usual indoors.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

Ramen noodle soup

This versatile dish is ideal for a filling lunch or an easy dinner or supper and you can vary it to suit the ingredients you have available

Ingredients to serve four

700ml chicken or vegetable stock

3 cloves of garlic (halved)

4 tbsp of light / reduced salt soy sauce

1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce

Chopped ginger, ginger puree or ‘lazy ginger’ – approximately 1/3 tsp

½ tsp of five spice or a pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of chilli powder

375g dried noodles

400g sliced cooked pork, chicken, tofu or prawns

2 tsp sesame oil or olive or rapeseed oil

For garnish

100g spinach or pak choi

4 tbsp sweetcorn (tinned or frozen) or mange tout, sugar snap peas or sliced green beans

Finely-chopped spring onions/sesame seeds (optional)

Method

Mix the stock, garlic, sauces, ginger and spices with 300ml of water in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.

Taste the stock and add a little fruit juice, if you prefer it sweeter, or other spices, sauces and seasoning to taste.

Cook noodles according to the pack instructions then drain and set aside.

With minimal oil in a non-stick pan, lightly fry your choice of protein – lean, sliced cooked pork, chicken, tofu or prawns –  until just brown and set aside.

Divide the noodles between four bowls. Top each with your choice of protein, spinach and sweetcorn.

Strain the stock and bring to the boil. Pour the stock over noodles, protein and vegetables and garnish with spring onions and sesame seeds.

 

Useful websites for further information

For all manner of evidence-based facts on nutrition

https://www.bda.uk.com/food-health/food-facts.html

For some interesting and attractive recipes

https://ais.gov.au/nutrition/recipes

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/collection/healthy-cooking

https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/recipes

 

Nicky Gilbert is a freelance dietitian, lecturer and Registered Sport and Exercise Nutritionist with 30 years experience in the field. For many years she worked with the players at Nottingham Forest Football Club as well as supporting other national teams and Olympians. As well as working with DIS athletes, she also works with industry to support health and wellbeing in the workplace as an accredited BDA Work Ready Dietitian.

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