Has lockdown changed how you think about food?

As we gently ease our way out of lockdown, I wonder if your diet has changed over the last few months.

One of my clients commented that she thinks we will all be eating better the other side of lockdown, as we get used to cooking from scratch and home baking, rather than convenience foods and quick fixes. I hope she is right.

Taking time to cook and nourish ourselves is the very best thing any of us can do for the good of our health. It is well documented that people who cook are healthier than those who don’t. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When we cook from scratch, we know what is in our food and we are unlikely to use fillers, E numbers and weird sounding chemicals, often listed as ‘ingredients’ on food labels of processed foods.

After 15 weeks in lockdown (can you believe it?), and as restrictions gently relax to some level of normality, I have been taking a look back at some of the changes I, my clients, family and friends have made to our diets.

Bread baking

At the start of lockdown banana bread was a firm favourite on social media. It felt like everyone was making it – and some versions healthier than others – but as we got a few weeks down the line and waistbands started to expand, I think the home baking became a treat rather than an everyday occurrence in most households.

Sourdough has been hot news too. Some of our small local artisan bakers have been teaching us a lesson in bread baking. Ursa Minor, Bara Bakehouse and Joe the Baker are worth checking out.

Grow your own

Have you taken to gardening in lockdown? From salad leaves to peas and beans, plenty of people have been digging a little plot in their gardens to grow something they can eat. This is fantastic. Not only is there a smug sense of satisfaction form growing your own, it is so good for you too.

Imagine how nutrient packed your plate will be with home produce, compared to vegetables that have travelled halfway across the globe and been shrink wrapped to within an inch of their lives. From plot to plate, the less food miles the better – for us and our planet.

Growing something we can eat also reminds us that food has seasons – we should be eating strawberries and tomatoes right now, not in the depths of winter when they are out of season and tasteless.

Take time for lunches

Whether you have been furloughed, or are working from home, I wonder if you, like me, have been enjoying a more relaxed pace at lunchtime. When we slow down a little and take time to enjoy the flavours and textures of what we eat, we switch into our ‘parasympathetic’ nervous system, also known as ‘rest-and-digest’, which, as its name suggests, is much more conducive to good digestion and better absorption of the nutrients for the food on our plate.

Trying new recipes

Have you dusted off some cookbooks, or spent the extra time in your day experimenting with new flavours? One of the hits in our house has been these homemade flatbreads – they are fantastic topped with houmous, falafels and salad, or with spicy chicken and different salads.

QUICK AND EASY FLATBREADS

150g wheaten/soda bread flour

150g natural yoghurt

Put the ingredients in you food processor and mix together.

Turn out onto a lightly floured worktop and split into four.

Make each quarter into a ball, flatten with your hand and then roll out with a rolling pin to about 1cm thick.

Heat a non-stick pan over a medium heat.

Cook the flatbreads for about two minutes in each side and serve up with a selection of healthy toppings.

This blog post first appeared as my column in The Irish News on Saturday 27 June 2020.