Anything that creates added stress and pressure to our life will always have an impact on our mental well being. This then results in us turning to comfort and making us feel inclined to reach for the feel-good foods. But as we all know, these foods are not what result in us feeling good in the long run. Coronavirus is most definitely one of those situations: Everybody’s lives have been turned upside down, with normal routines completely going out of the window and an element of our control being lost, so we hope to share some key tips around nutrition during Coronavirus and how you can keep it on track.
If we allow our nutrition habits to get out of control it can start us on a huge vicious cycle that becomes difficult to break: We end up over-eating, or eating all the foods that aren’t good for us. It leads to us feeling lethargic, meaning that any exercise do gets pushed to one side because we “don’t feel like it” or “can’t be bothered”. For many of us, exercise is what makes us feel good about ourselves, so by skipping it, results in our confidence diminishing and feeling like we are failures. Because of this, what do we end up reaching for…. you’ve got it! The stuff that gives us the immediate pick me up, and there the cycle starts again.
But it doesn’t have to be like that!
In addition to this, we really don’t want to end up at the doctors or in hospital at the moment: They are stretched enough, and it is not the type of place we want/need to be hanging around. Keeping your nutrition in check will help you fight off anything horrible, and will keep your immune system strong by fuelling the body with the nutrients it needs.
Get the basics right
The good news is that you don’t need to come up with some ingenious plan that completely transforms your nutrition. All you need to do is stick to the basics, and make sure you focus on getting them right.
- Plan: There is a well-known saying by Benjamin Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” We know that we want to minimise the risks we are putting ourselves in, so going to the supermarket weekly for example is definitely better than us popping in every few days. A good habit is to plan ahead and prepare a meal plan for each day. We have personally found that we plan our evening meals and have done that for as long as we have lived together, but at the moment we can see some bad habits creeping in at lunchtime where they wouldn’t normally. So we have now resulted to preparing our lunchtime meals as well to prevent this. By creating a plan, everybody in the house is clear what it is throughout the week, and it makes shopping easier as you can create a list and go with some focus instead of getting lured in to what looks good or is on offer (mostly the foods that aren’t good for us). It also means there is very little food going to waste at the end of each week too.
- Eat little and often: People often get this totally wrong, and think that if they eat less then they will be looking after themselves. As we have said several times, our bodies are like cars: They need fuel. The key is eating the right things, and if you eat little and often it helps to stabilise your blood sugar levels so you avoid the peaks and troughs and the subsequent emotions and hunger that goes with that. Snacking is not bad, but bad snacks are. Make sure that you have some healthy snacks to hand to help with this. We often go for the Graze snacks as they are prepared to the correct portions and are focused on being healthy. By eating snacks you will stop yourself from getting too hungry, meaning you don’t end up going for a bigger portion size than needed at meal times. A good routine would be breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, evening meal (possibly a small snack after this depending on bed time etc)
- Get the balance right: This is a potential game changer. Very often we are top-heavy on the Carbohydrates, but if we can get the balance across each meal we will find we will feel satisfied for longer and not feel the need to reach for the naughty stuff after. Ensure each meal consists of some protein, some carbohydrates (this can be fruit and veg, it doesn’t have to be just potatoes, rice, bread etc), and some healthy fats. Yup… That’s right, we are saying eat fat! Just eat the right type: Unsaturated.
- Stay hydrated: It is recommended by WHO (World Health Organisation) that “The general recommendation for adults is to drink at least 2 litres of water per day. However, for those with physical jobs, exercising or living in hot climates, more is needed – up to 4 litres or more” We would suggest that you focus on getting this from water alone. A lot of people try to include their tea, coffee, or squash within this but ideally keep it clean and keep it coming from water. You can of course have your tea etc, but aim to minimise this where possible.
Take the pressure off
Now is not a time for the “new year, new me” approach! This time is generally about getting through and coming out the other side. Despite what social media and fitness enthusiasts may be throwing all over the internet that now is the perfect time to start a new challenge! Ignore all of that! Those things are exactly that… challenges! Do you really think that is what is needed right now when everyday life is challenging enough? Now don’t get us wrong, there will be people out there that want to throw themselves in to something like that because that matches their behaviour and survival techniques, but for the majority, these things are only going to end up being a hindrance, and definitely not a help. So take the pressure off, keep it simple, and keep it something that doesn’t add to the stress you may already be feeling.
Make it work for you
If you really aren’t a cook, then don’t think that you “should” start making all of these meals from scratch just because you have more time. That is not going to do your mental health any good (unless of course you give it a go and realise you actually quite enjoy it). Instead, try to focus on an approach that works well for you based on what you enjoy, what is realistic given your commitments and what you can stick to.
Listen to your body
A lot of the time we tend to eat out of boredom, or perhaps because we are feeling a little low. So whenever you find yourself routing through the goody draw, or sticking your head in the fridge to see what you can have next just ask yourself the questions “Why am I wanting to eat, what am I feeling right now?” There could be a number of reasons for this. Let’s look at some as well as some suggestions to overcome them:
- I am feeling a little low. If you recognise this, try to do something that you know will pick you up. Perhaps you could have a ready-made list for these sorts of occasions. It could be listening to some music, having a dance around the kitchen, getting outside for some fresh air, connecting with friends or family over the phone or listening to something uplifting such as a positive podcast just to name a few.
- I am bored. This is such a typical reason why we may go on the hunt for food. Have some bits that are easily accessible for when this kicks in. Maybe you have a craft project you could get stuck in to, or a good book you’re enjoying reading. Maybe connecting with others could help. The main thing is go for something that you enjoy and distracts you.
- Ask yourself “Am I thirsty?”, most of the time when we think we are hungry we are actually thirsty, so grab yourself a glass of water first and see if the feeling subsides.
- Maybe you are just hungry…. fair enough! We all get that at times. This is where your prep comes in perfectly, make sure there’s some cut up fruit, or snacks such as the Graze ones for example that you can easily pick up instead of going for the biscuit tin.
It’s not all bad
So yes, nobody can dispute that we are in strange, worrying and stressful times at the moment. But we certainly don’t need to let that take over and end up spiralling in to even more anxiety inducing times. Take the bits from above that resonate with you the most and seem reasonable for you to include in your life, and aim to follow it through for the duration that we are dealing with Coronavirus.
We would love to hear if you have been implementing anything with your nutrition that is really helping you, so please feel free to share these below.
Most importantly, stay safe.