The news is currently overwhelmed with stories of empty supermarket shelves and people stocking up in preparation for social distancing and self isolation during the COVID-19 crisis.
We are frequently being asked for advice on the best way to plan meals and foods for a potential lockdown scenario. With optimising immune health being on the forefront of people’s minds, it is extremely important to ensure that diets remain nutritionally adequate as well as balanced. Our main concern as a practice is that people are going to be increasing their intake of more processed foods and reducing their intake of fresh foods. This will contribute towards a weakened immune system and increased susceptibility to infections.
Here are some things to consider;
- Try to only keep two weeks of food in the house. Even in the height of lockdown people will be able to go out to stock up as required. Retail outlets selling food and groceries will still be open.
- Maintain your normal routine of meals and snacks. Eat according to the clock. Avoid graze and emotional related eating during the day due to boredom and uncertainty. This is a particularly important discipline for children.
- Aim to eat meals and foods that you normally would do with slight alterations.
- Aim to include at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily. Aim to base your meals around plants. Both fruits and vegetables provide valuable nutrients that contribute towards enhanced immune functioning.
- Use fresh vegetables as the base to cook meals in large quantities and freeze portions for a single meal. For example; soups, casseroles, stews, curries.
- Freeze fresh fruit like berries, mango and bananas to add to smoothies, overnight oats and desserts.
- Liquidise and freeze fresh fruit as ice lollies for snacks.
- Certain fruit, salad and root vegetables, if stored correctly, have a long shelf life. These include oranges, apples, carrots, butternut, peppers, tomatoes, onions, sweet potatoes and cabbage. They can be used to make delicious slaws, salads and side dishes.
- Frozen vegetables are also good options and healthier than canned vegetables.
- Make your own pickles from onions, cucumber or peppers using a vinegar. These are preferable to store bought ones as you can control the sugar and salt content.
- Ensure you have a supply of dry staples and grains to provide energy as well as valuable nutrients like fibre and B vitamins, for example; wild rice, brown rice, lentils, beans, pulses, quinoa, barley, popcorn, rolled oats, wholewheat pasta, wholewheat couscous and rice cakes.
- Keep packets of flours at home as well as instant yeast. Opt for wholegrain flours like, brown wheat flour, chickpea flour, gluten free and brown bread flour. These can be used to make your own breads using a wide variety of flours now available that all store and keep well. With a number of simple bread recipes available online, you can hone your baking skills and keep yourself busy baking during lockdown. Avoid the more refined flours like white rice and tapioca flours. Alternatively you can add psyllium husk to these to improve their fibre content.
- Stock up on nuts and seeds. They store well and are an important part of your daily diet as they provide co-factors for anti-oxidant enzymes like zinc, selenium and magnesium. Use these as snacks or add them to smoothies, smoothie bowls and salads.
- Protein is important to consider for our immune cell functioning. Depending on whether you follow a mixed diet or vegan diet here are some ideas to use; dairy milk, soya milk, eggs, tinned fish in brine, nut butters, cheese, nuts, edamame beans, frozen fresh meats (fish, ostrich, beef, pork, chicken), tofu, tempeh, biltong, cottage cheese and nutritional yeast.
- Frozen fresh fruit
- Ice lollies made from frozen fresh fruit
- Freshly popped popcorn
- Cottage cheese or nut butter on rice cakes
- Hummus and raw vegetables
- Raw nuts
Things to avoid;
- Relying on canned foods
- Microwave meals
- Packet sauces
- Packet snacks; chips, biscuits, crackers
- Box cereals high in sugar
- Processed meats; viennas, sausages, polony, fish fingers, chicken nuggets, sandwich ham.
- Chemical additives found in most boxed and jarred foods. For example; preservatives, colourants, enhancers and flavourants.
Make use of our small local businesses and restaurants. Buy frozen juices, soups and broths from places like the Juice Kitchen, Naked Bones, We Are Food or Home Grown. Ray’s Kitchen, Roots café, Kauai, Leaf, Delish Sisters and other local restaurants are offering fresh and frozen meals as take-aways. These providers all use fresh ingredients as opposed to refined and processed ingredients like other larger franchise take away providers. Get ideas for meals from talents like Salt Free Saffa. *Refer to Instagram pages for the providers.
We hope that this is a helpful start. Keep an eye on our website and social media pages for more tips and ideas and feel free to message us if there is specific information you may require.
Article Credit: Claire McHugh and Kerryn Wuth.
Dietitian in private practice in Ballito and Umhlanga for Nutrition innovated www.nutritioninnovated.co.za