Eating well and staying active during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is important for our physical and mental wellbeing.
Our daily routines have been altered and our eating habits may have changed but making a plan and being prepared can help.
The extra time spent at home is a good chance to try new foods and recipes or get other family members involved in preparing and cooking meals.
It can be an enjoyable way to pass the time, try something new and, for some, learn a new skill.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet , with a variety of different foods, will ensure you get all the essential nutrients and energy you need through the day.
It is important we maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D.
While physical distancing measures remain in place you may still find yourself indoors more than usual.
Since our main source of vitamin D is sunlight, this advice is especially important for people who are indoors much or all of the time.
Everyone, including children, should consider taking a daily 10 microgram supplement of vitamin D.
It's specifically recommended that groups at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency take a supplement. This includes:
- all pregnant and breastfeeding women
- infants and children under 5 years old
- people who have low or no exposure to the sun, for example those who cover their skin for cultural reasons, are housebound, confined indoors for long periods or live in an institution such as a care home
- people from minority ethnic groups with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, who require more sun exposure to make as much vitamin D
Boosting your vitamin D
Vitamin D supplements (including vitamin drops containing vitamin D for under 5s) can be purchased from most supermarkets and pharmacies.
Please don’t buy more than you need.
If you’re not able to get it, don’t worry. Keep looking and take it as soon as you can.
While it's difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, it can be found in foods such as oily fish and eggs.
Some breakfast cereals, margarines and yoghurts are fortified with vitamin D.
Make a plan, feel prepared
For many of us, shopping routines have changed and you may still be experiencing changes in the way you buy or get access to food right now.
Planning meals and snacks and writing a shopping list is a good way to make sure you get everything you need and will also help limit your time at the shops.
You must wear a face covering when shopping as a precautionary measure to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
Making sure you only buy what you need helps avoid food going to waste. Remember you can often freeze leftovers for another meal.
Eating out and takeaway food
As lockdown restrictions are eased, you may find yourself looking for something different to eat or alternatives to cooking at home.
If you choose to eat out or order a takeaway, try to avoid overdoing it and make healthier choices where possible.
You could go for:
- a lower fat topping on a pizza, such as vegetables
- steamed or plain rice instead of fried rice
- a tomato or vegetable-based sauce, rather than cream-based.
Planning to eat out or have a takeaway in advance can help you make better food choices during the rest of the week.
Eat to feel fuller for longer
Eating breakfast will give you the energy you need for your morning activities and also help avoid unnecessary snacking.
Cereals which are high in fibre and low in sugar are a good choice and are quick and easy to prepare. Add fruit to cereal for one of your five a day.
Basing our meals around other starchy foods such as pasta, rice and potatoes is a good way to keep us feeling fuller for longer.
Eating fruit, vegetables and pulses, such as beans and lentils, is good for your health and is another good way to keep satisfied throughout the day.
Soups can be a quick and easy lunch solution. They can be made with whatever vegetables and pulses you have available and be a good way to use up leftovers.
Pulses, including beans and lentils, can also be a good substitute for meat and can be added to soups and stews to make them go a little further.
You may find yourself reaching for the fridge or cupboard to look for snacks more frequently at the moment, especially if you’re feeling bored or stressed.
Try having a variety of healthy snacks to hand such as chopped fruits and vegetables, breadsticks, rice cakes and crackers.
Fruit and vegetables are usually cheaper if they're in season. If you can’t get your hands on your usual fresh varieties right now, remember tinned or frozen fruit and vegetables are just as good.
Be alcohol aware
Like snacking, you might find that you may be drinking alcohol more often just now, particularly when you feel stressed.
Try to be aware of how much you’re drinking and when you do keep within the recommended limits of 14 units per week.
Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day, aiming for at least 6-8 glasses, will help keep your body hydrated.
Water, milk and sugar free drinks, including tea and coffee all count. Fruit juice and smoothies can be high in sugar so try to limit these to one small glass (around 150ml) each day.
Sometimes it’s easy to confuse hunger for thirst.
Drinking often and through the day will help prevent this.
Tap water is free and is a healthy choice for quenching your thirst at any time.
It produces no waste, has no calories and contains no sugars that can damage teeth. Having a water bottle with you throughout the day is a good idea and can help you drink more water.
You can get more tips about food and nutrition during self quarantine from the World Health Organisation.