It can be easy to slip into the routine of grabbing quick snacks and junk food as a treat when confined to the four walls of your own home, so being prepared and stocking up with healthy food is the key wellness in lockdown.
We are being advised to food shop once a week only, so this will take some careful planning. I would suggest working off a 7-day menu plan, and use this to make your shopping list.
Check what you already have in your fridge and cupboard and plan your meals around this – for example if you have a can of chickpeas and some tinned tomatoes, then chickpea curry could be on the menu. That way you will not buy stuff you are not going to eat, and you will have all the ingredients you need for the recipes you are planning without unnecessarily having to nip out to get food.
Stock Up (but don’t overbuy!)
This is not a time for dieting, cutting back or food restrictions. Instead, with more time on our hands, this new routine of social distancing and self-isolation can provide us with a unique opportunity to eat more healthily and keep ourselves well-nourished.
Buy healthy ingredients to stock up your cupboards for the week so that you can throw together something quick and easy for lunches.
Be careful not to buy too much. There is enough food for everyone if we are careful and don’t stockpile food we are not going to eat.
Here are some hot tips to help keep you healthy:
- Eggs can make a quick lunchtime omelette or be added to brown rice and veg for a healthy egg-fried rice.
- Tinned fish can be used to fill wholemeal pittas (which can be frozen and popped straight into the toaster) at lunchtime or with made into fishcakes for dinner.
- Wholegrains like wholemeal pasta and brown rice are a lot more nutritious and filling than the white versions.
- Buy fresh and frozen vegetables – keep an eye out for veg that can be used for stir-fries, roasting or steamed.
- Make a big batch of roasted Mediterranean vegetables – have some with fish and potatoes for dinner, and eat the rest cold as a salad with feta for lunch tomorrow.
Get creative in the kitchen
Use your cooking time as a chance to switch off from what’s going on in the world outside. Switch off the news and put on a podcast or music instead. Make your kitchen your sanctuary.
Don’t just cook the same old things as normal. Embrace the opportunity to try some new ideas. Dust off your recipe books or check out some more recipes online or ask family and friends to share their favourite dishes. Then get into the kitchen, stick some tunes on and get creative.
Keep your mealtimes regular
For most of us, our daily routine has changed beyond recognition, so sticking with regular mealtimes is one way to maintain a daily routine.
Skipping meals can trigger the stress hormone adrenaline, and we have enough of that coursing through our bodies right now without adding to it, so please do not skip meals.
Make your mealtimes an event
With cafes and restaurants closed, it’s time to transform your kitchen into the best little restaurant around – even if it’s just spaghetti bolognese for tea! Make your dining space a nice place to be. Eating when we feel relaxed helps aid digestion and means we are more likely to absorb as many nutrients as possible from the food we eat.
Share your food with family and friends (especially if you live alone!)
How about arranging a virtual coffee break or lunch date with the people you love by video messaging. Then sit down at your respective tables and catch up over a cuppa or some good food.
Get kids into the kitchen
Cooking is an essential life skill, and this is the perfect opportunity to get the kids into the kitchen. If you have tweens, or teens, why not set a family cooking challenge. Get them to choose their recipe and have a family cook-off!
Grow something you can eat
Use the extra time we have to grow something – it’s a good idea start with salad leaves. They grow really quickly, you can just pick what you need and they taste so much better (and are a lot healthier) than the bagged salads we get in the supermarket.
This blog post first appeared as my column in The Irish News on Saturday 11 April 2020.