Lockdown. Let’s be honest, it can be hard to find the positives when you’re stuck at home. But, it may just be the perfect time to pick up some new healthy eating habits.
With time to plan your shop and hop into the kitchen, you may find yourself eating better than ever!
Try these 5 nutrition tips for a tasty household or zoom dinner party. It might be the highlight of the lockdown social calendar.
1. Plan ahead & start with veg
With a little pre-meal planning, gone will be the day you get to dinner time and have no idea what you are going to have.
Surrounding yourself with the foods you want to eat makes it much more likely to happen. Here's how you can do it.
- Choose your vegetables first. At least three or four different vegetables per meal.
The Australian Guide To Healthy Eating recommends five serves of vegetables a day and traditionally we start planning around the protein (e.g. meat, chicken, fish) and then fall short on our veg.
- Add a wholegrain or legume for carbohydrate that will release energy slowly e.g. brown rice, kidney beans, lentils, wholegrain bread.
- Finally some protein e.g. lean meat, poultry, duck, eggs, tofu, legumes.
- What is already in your fridge, freezer and pantry? No need to panic buy, start with what you have.
Make a shopping list
- What ingredients will you need to buy to add with what you have?
- It is OK to use ingredients that will make meal prep quick and easy such as frozen vegetables, canned tomatoes and legumes, wraps and 1 minute brown rice and grains.
- Make it interesting. You are more likely to eat foods you like. Favourite foods on the list - tasty in season fruit, roasted (unsalted) nuts. New foods can be fun or a new recipe for the family to try.
- Order online or visit the shop with a list in hand. Sticking to the list has you bringing home the foods you want to be eating.
Get the whole family involved in lockdown home cooking. Confidence in the kitchen is a great tool for kids.
2. Get cooking
Looking for something to do in lockdown? Perfecting a few healthy recipes is a great use of time. These will be in your kit bag forever.
Half the battle of cooking nutritious meals is the time it takes. If you are confident with your cooking skills you can whip up a meal in no time.
Get the whole family involved. One of the best tools you can give your children is confidence in the kitchen.
Start with a simple recipe and build up skills. If you are already a good cook, try adding in some new flavours, with new vegetables, grains, herbs, and spices. Who will be the winner of your household Masterchef?
If you're stuck for inspiration check out Woolworths Healthier Easier Recipes and Dietitians Australia’s Smart Eating recipe collection.
3. Take a break & prepare ahead
If you are working from home it can be easy to keep on going and not take a break. Or you may be going the other way and using the pantry and fridge as a distraction for a lot of breaks!
Planning is always the secret to success. Here are a few tips to be prepared:
- Cut up a plate of fresh fruit and vegetables in the morning, to be shared for snacks during the day.
- Have a handful of nuts (~30g) in a container ready to go.
- Cook extra at night time for lunch the next day.
- Prepare a big pot of porridge to last a few days.
- Cook a pot of soup for lunches during the week.
- Cut up extra vegetables one night to be cooked the next.
Edamame a source of fibre, vitamin C and iron and perfect for a healthy snack swap.
4. Healthy snacks
To make the most of snacks and fuel you better these are some suggestions:
- Swap traditional snacks for mini-meals (as meals are usually more nutritious than snack foods e.g. bowl of soup, ½ a sandwich, baked beans).
- Replace snacks with more meals. How about two smaller lunches, one at 11 am, one at 2 pm.
- Choose snack foods from whole foods e.g. fruit, yoghurt, cheese, nuts, hard-boiled egg, edamame, corn on the cob.
5. Mood food
Food impacts our mood and diet is now recognised as an important part of mental wellbeing.
There are a whole lot of ways food influences mood particularly via the immune system and our gut.
Eating patterns that have plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds such as the Mediterranean diet seems to be beneficial for our mental and physical wellbeing.
On the flip side, eating lots of high added sugar, high added saturated fat foods (ultra-processed foods) is not.
That brings us back to tip number one; plan your meals and shopping around plenty of plant foods - fresh fruit and vegetables!
For specific dietary advice, make an appointment with an Accredited Practising Dietitian
Simone Austin is an accredited practicing dietitian and advanced sports dietitian with over 25 years of experience helping people achieve a healthier life.
As the Chief Health Officer at healthylife, Simone is sharing her expertise to provide practical, simple tips that make it easy to improve our health.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board August 2021