Overview

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.

Eat well

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.

Vitamin D

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.

Healthy foods

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.

Snack smart

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.

Stay hydrated

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.

Further information

You can get more tips about food and nutrition during self quarantine from the World Health Organisation.

Parents and carers with children and young people

Having children and young people at home more can often lead to cries of ‘I’m hungry’ and having to come up with meal and snack ideas day-in, day-out can be difficult.

But there are ways to help deal with this.

Get together in the kitchen

Planning mealtimes and snacks together with children as part of your daily routine could be one way to keep them busy.

Making it fun and enjoyable will not only help pass the time but can encourage children to learn about food and cooking and try new foods.

It's a great time to let young people loose in the kitchen and develop the skills they need for the future.

You could ask them to:

  • plan and prepare healthy meals
  • find new recipes for the family to enjoy
  • help with shopping lists or online shopping.

It will help them feel involved, can be a way to destress and keep them occupied.

For younger children, ParentClub have helpful suggestions on how to involve children in planning and making food.

Key workers and vulnerable groups

It’s especially important for key workers and those who have been shielding from coronavirus to look after their health and wellbeing at this time.

Eating well, keeping hydrated and making a meal and shopping plan will help.

Rest, refuel and rehydrate if you are a key worker

Try to take regular breaks, where possible, away from your workplace or caring responsibilities. Frequent shorter breaks are better for reducing fatigue and stress.

Drinking water often throughout the day will help to keep you hydrated, which is especially important for people wearing PPE for long periods of time.

Eating well and as healthily as you can, will help your body cope better with the demands placed on you during busy shifts.

Focussing your meals and snacks around starchy food such as pasta, rice and potatoes and filling up on fruit and vegetables will help keep your energy levels maintained.

Where possible, set aside some time to plan your meals and shopping to help you eat healthily when you are busy.

Shielded groups

If you've been been shielding, you can now choose to visit supermarkets and shops.

You'll need to wear a face covering, unless you're exempt and follow physical distancing advice.

If you've been buying online, or having someone get food and household items for you, you can carry on getting things in this way.

Some retailers are still offering gift card schemes to allow others to shop for you.

Making a list of the things you need will help someone to shop swiftly and efficiently for you and limit the time they are at the shops.

It might also be an idea to give them alternatives just in case what you would like is not available.

Home deliveries

If you'd rather get deliveries to your home, you can carry on getting priority access to online supermarket delivery slots after 1 August, providing you have already signed up for this service.

This means you should still be able to book an online delivery slot even if it gets busy.

More information on this is available in the letter you received, through NHS Inform and via the SMS service.

Because you can buy the things you need either by going into shops or by ordering online, deliveries of weekly grocery boxes will stop when shielding is paused and it will no longer be possible to sign up for these.

People who have been shielding can still contact their Local Authority directly or via the free national helpline on 0800 111 4000 for urgent support with food.

Breastfeeding

This can be a worrying time for mums who are breastfeeding or those who are pregnant and considering their options.

Breastfeeding supports your baby’s immune system and protects them from many common illnesses.

There is currently no evidence the virus can be transmitted through breast milk, so you should continue to do so.